Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp will win the state’s GOP gubernatorial nomination, CNN projects, defeating Trump-backed candidate David Perdue.
The governor moves on to a rematch with Democrat Stacey Abrams, the former state legislative leader whom he narrowly defeated in 2018 and who was unopposed in her primary Tuesday.
The outcome represents a blow for Trump, who had made Kemp his top target for more than a year after the governor rejected Trump’s lies about widespread election fraud in 2020 and refused to overturn the presidential result in his state.
Trump had urged Perdue to run and supported him throughout the race. But Kemp — who was broadly backed by other prominent Republicans and campaigned on the eve of the election with Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence — managed to maintain the support of many Trump supporters in Georgia despite the former President’s efforts.
In backing Kemp, Georgia Republican primary voters demonstrated that while Trump remains the dominant figure within the GOP, there are limits to his influence.
Trump’s endorsements have shaped open-seat races this cycle, catapulting venture capitalist and author J.D. Vance to a win in Ohio’s Senate primary. But Trump-backed candidates have lost a series of races in recent weeks as well: North Carolina voters ousted US Rep. Madison Cawthorn despite Trump’s pleas to give him a “second chance,” while in Nebraska, it was outgoing Gov. Pete Ricketts’ support that carried more weight, with his endorsed candidate besting Trump’s pick in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
Kemp, aside from his clash with Trump, has a record that makes him popular with GOP voters in Georgia. He reopened the state early during the coronavirus pandemic – a move that even then-President Trump said was “too soon.” He signed into law a restrictive new voting measure that placed limits on mail-in voting. He helped impose a gas tax holiday. He also took conservatives’ side in brewing cultural battles over schools.
Kemp is also a proven winner, having defeated Abrams in one of the nation’s most closely watched governor’s races in 2018. Perdue, meanwhile, lost his Senate seat in a runoff to Democrat Jon Ossoff last year.