Republican Georgia government supporter Brian Kemp is fighting back against Donald Trump and leaders of his own party, angered by a rally last month in which the former president again attacked the state’s chief executive.
Supporters of Kemp have warned that the state narrowly divided in 2022 by his total embrace of Trump, his false claims about electoral fraud and his retaliation against the governor for not trying to reverse Trump’s defeat in Georgia last year. Republican prospects may be doomed.
“Right now we’re joined by Donald Trump, who doesn’t share the same interests,” said James Hall, a member of the Savannah state Republican Party committee. “He wants to torpedo Brian Kemp.”
Georgia is one of several states seeing a Trump-driven infighting. The former president has also continued the party’s internal politics in Arizona, where he has targeted Republican Governor Doug Ducey, and Wyoming, where he is attempting to oust the state’s lone US House member, Liz Cheney. Trump has been endorsing primary candidates across the country, with a campaign continuing to remake the Republican Party in his image.
The moment that crystallized the discontent of Kemp supporters, when Trump repeatedly called Kemp “a disaster,” twice suggesting he would prefer Democrat Stacey Abrams as Georgia’s governor. Abrams became a national Democratic superstar, even though Kemp ousted him in 2018. Georgia Democrats vehemently want him to run for governor’s office again in 2022.
“Stacey, would you like to take her place? That’s fine with me,” Trump said at a rally in Perry, Georgia.
Hall and others fear a replay of the 2021 US Senate runoff. Democrats John Osoff and Raphael Warnock defeated Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to give their party control of the US Senate. Turnout in that election fell more in Republican areas than in Democratic areas, and Hall blamed Trump’s false fraud narrative, saying it “scares people away from the election.”
Buzz Brockway, a former Republican state representative who lost the primary bid for secretary of state in 2018, agrees. “It’s a suicide cult. That’s what’s happening,” he said. “It’s not harming the Democrats.”
Others think harnessing the energy of right-wing voters “really dissatisfied” with President Joe Biden will be more important for the Republican Party than to distance itself from Trump’s damaging rhetoric in 2022.
“When President Trump says something about Brian Kemp, I don’t think anyone really cares,” said Marcy McCarthy, who chairs the GOP in the Democrat-dominated Atlanta suburb of DeKalb County. “I think more people are concerned about their daily lives.”
Kemp supporters are particularly angry at state Republican Party President David Schaefer, who started the rally. Critics say Shaffer violated party bylaws that required him not to take sides in the primaries by attending an event during which Trump reiterated his support of several candidates. The state party also raised money for itself by selling VIP tickets for the rally.
Shaffer, who continues to echo Trump’s false fraud claims and calls for additional audits of Georgia’s results, said Monday that it was Trump’s event, not the party’s.
“When we accept a contribution or sponsorship from a Republican candidate to speak at an event, it does not mean that we are endorsing the candidate or agreeing with everything the politician says,” Schafer told Hall and others. After the complaint was written in a letter to the members of the state committee. .
His critics say it was predictable that Trump would attack Kemp. But Schaefer said he is focusing on recruiting volunteers and raising funds to support a unified party after the primary.
“My job is to emphasize areas of agreement, not areas of disagreement with other Republicans,” Shaffer said. “We cannot win divided. We have to get everyone back together, and that’s what I’m going to do.”
With Trump loyalists flooding the grassroots and increasingly taking control of the party machinery, many of Kemp’s supporters are out of power, and it is unclear whether their complaints will gain any traction. Days after the rally, the local Republican Party in Cobb County — a lifelong GOP stronghold that has increasingly gravitated toward Democrats in recent years — denounced Kemp for not doing enough to stop illegal immigration.
Former Cobb GOP chairman Jason Shepherd resigned from the county party committee after the resolution was passed.
“The Cobb Republican Party, when it should prepare to challenge the Democrats, is fighting Republicans,” said Shepherd, who lost a bid against Shaffer this summer to lead the state party.
More than a dozen county Republican parties have condemned Kemp on some grounds this year, as did the 7th Congressional District GOP.
Cobb County Young Republicans issued a statement condemning the move by their county party, saying the group would support Kemp.
Although Trump has endorsed Herschelle Walker for the US Senate, Burt Jones of State for lieutenant governor, and US Representative Jody Haise for secretary of state, he has not been able to field a candidate for governor. Democrat-turned-Republican Vernon Jones spoke at Trump’s rally, but the former president did not approve of Jones, despite Jones building his campaign around claims that Trump betrayed him in the 2020 election and Trump-aligned figures, including the former New York mayor, were presented. Rudy Giuliani and former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerrick.
Over the summer Trump supporters talked about a possible candidacy for an obscure mayor of a small Georgia town. Trump’s PAC later commissioned a poll showing that Perdue could defeat Kemp in the Republican primary if Trump supported Perdue. The former president added fuel to the fire at his Georgia rally when he pointed to Perdue among a group of Republican…
Credit: www.independent.co.uk / Brian Kemp