Heavyweight Georgia Primary is a National Bellwether
Former U.S Senator David Perdue launched a Republican primary campaign against incumbent Georgia Governor Brian Kemp in a Twitter video earlier this morning. Perdue directly targeted Governor Kemp’s record, in an unusual move for a campaign announcement.
“Unfortunately, today, we’re divided, and Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensburger are to blame. Look, I like Brian. This isn’t personal. It’s simple. He’s failed all of us and cannot win in November. Instead of protecting our elections, he caved to (Stacey) Abrams and cost us two Senate seats, the Senate majority, and gave Joe Biden free reign.”
It’s clear from the campaign announcement that the upcoming Georgia gubernatorial primary is likely to be a political bloodbath for the state’s GOP. Already reeling from the stunning statewide losses in the 2020 election and subsequent Senate runoffs, Republicans in Georgia are struggling to find leadership capable of battling Stacey Abrams’ nationally financed assault on Georgia’s long-standing conservative reign.
Perdue, encouraged by Former President Donald Trump, is seeking to unite the party. His message of election integrity and electability is likely to resonate with Georgia’s conservative base, a base frustrated by an intense assault on Georgia’s state right to set the parameters of its own elections.
The 2020 election in Georgia was marred by repeated failures to count ballots in a timely manner, including long delays in Atlanta’s Fulton County. Concerns regarding Mark Zuckerberg’s funding of elections in Georgia, colloquially known as Zuckerbucks, have also fueled speculation about the degree to which Georgia’s elections have been subject to outside influence.
Georgia accepted $31 million in election funding from Mark Zuckerberg’s wife Priscilla Chan’s Center for Technology and Civic Life. Reporting indicates that heavily Democratic areas of Georgia received nearly six times more funding from Zuckerberg than heavily Republican areas. The funding was allocated primarily to increase mail-in turnout and provide Democratic precincts with laptops, salaries, and a host of other operations tools.
This unprecedented electoral intervention by tech oligarchs fueled Georgia Freedom Caucus Congressman Jody Hice to launch a primary bid against Brad Raffensburger in March. Just south of Georgia, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis helped push through legislation to ban Zuckerbucks and other pernicious forms of private electoral interference, a step available to Perdue should he be elected governor of Georgia.
There are other indications Perdue could be able to outmaneuver Governor Kemp from the right. Kemp, whose 2018 gubernatorial campaign garnered national attention with an explosive ad promising to “round up criminal illegals” in a “big truck,” has been largely ineffective in dealing with Georgia’s criminal alien crisis. A 2018 estimate from the Department of Homeland Security pegged Georgia with the seventh-highest illegal immigrant population in the U.S., a problem that has only intensified since the Biden Administration opened the U.S-Mexico Border.
On this issue of critical importance to the conservative base, Perdue’s Senate credibility as an immigration hardliner seems sure to help him. Perdue can point to his record of co-sponsoring Tom Cotton’s RAISE Act, his efforts to quash a Kushner-backed DACA Amnesty, and a strong report card from immigration restriction think tank NumbersUSA.
It remains to be seen how the Georgia primary will unfold, of course. But Governor Kemp’s approval ratings continue to hover in the mid-40s statewide, with his approval rating among conservatives at just 63 percent. Polling indicates Perdue has early strength in the heavyweight match-up. Should Perdue win, it would send a message to the national GOP that election security and immigration are the voters’ top priorities—priorities that, if ignored long enough, can form the foundations of successful primaries to topple even sitting governors. Republicans across the country should pay keen attention to the next few months of this primary; it could serve as a national bellwether.