ATLANTA (AP) – Less than a year after losing the presidency, Donald Trump set out to reshape the Republican Party’s image on the country’s main political battlefields, sparking fierce primary battles that will force candidates and voters to decide how much to support Trump. and his grievances.
But nowhere is his search more significant than Georgia.
Trump has inspired a number of supporters to seek an office in the South Waver state, and as of Monday, the group included former Republican Senator David Purdue, who has formally challenged Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. The move heralded a rare, serious major threat to the incumbent governor, countering the wishes of the GOP leaders in Washington and securing months of Republican struggles in the state where the party is trying to reassert its dominance.
“There will be a political civil war here in Georgia,” incumbent Governor Jeff Duncan, a Republican and frequent critic of Trump who is not running for re-election, told The Associated Press. “All of this can be avoided if we act like adults and move on. But at the moment this is not the case. “
This is not only Georgia.
Tensions between Trump and what is left of the Republican establishment are shaping the primaries for the Senate and governor in dozens of states, including Arizona, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, months before the first ballots are cast next spring and summer. of the year. As endorsements by President Joe Biden plummet, political headwinds from Washington suggest Republicans could make major political gains in 2022 – if the GOP can get out of their way.
Trump’s interest in a third presidential bid in 2024 ensures that he will become the face of the Republican Party for the foreseeable future.
Look for no more cautionary tale than Georgia, an emerging wavering state where demographic shifts in recent years have given Democrats a path to power. Biden narrowly defeated Trump last fall, and after Trump falsely claimed widespread election fraud, Democrats won the last two Senate elections in January that gave them control of the Senate.
Since then, the former president has lashed out at the government officials certifying the election results, including the Kemp leader, with a fierce stream of political attacks.
Trump’s main problem with Kemp has nothing to do with real politics; he is working to topple the governor simply because he refused to support Trump’s fight to cancel the 2020 election.
The former president called Kemp “a very weak governor” in a statement endorsing Purdue on Monday night, without specifying anything specific about his disagreement with the current governor, other than his stance on “fairness.”
“Most importantly,” Trump said of Kemp, “he can’t win because the MAGA base – and it’s huge – will never vote for him.”
Trump also backed former Republican soccer star Herschel Walker in a GOP push to oust Democratic Senator Rafael Warnock, betting on an unverified and unverified professional athlete in the Republican primaries against State Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. He also supports like-minded candidates for the Republican primaries for the positions of lieutenant governor and secretary of state, where incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is struggling for his political survival.
Across the country, Trump has supported more than 60 interim candidates so far, including several running against incumbent Republicans.
Trump’s meddling in Georgia’s governor’s race is a nightmare for some Republican strategists who were already preparing for a challenging general election campaign against former state lawmaker and Democratic activist Stacey Abrams, who barely lost to Kemp in 2018. Abrams officially announced her candidacy last week.
In his video ad, Purdue said he fled in the first place to stop Abrams and “an unprecedented attack from the awakened left.” He also echoed Trump’s unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 elections.
“We just have to band together,” said Purdue, who barely lost his Senate seat in January. “Unfortunately, today we are divided and Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger are to blame.”
Meanwhile, an enraged Kemp promised to start a fight. Kemp spokesman Cody Hall called Purdue “the man who lost Republicans in the United States Senate” and blamed the ousted senator on a list of complaints including inflation, high government spending, and cultural abolition.
Georgia’s First Leadership Committee, a group affiliated with Kemp that can collect unlimited donations, also attacked Purdue just hours after his announcement in a fundraising email, hijacking the former senator’s business track record and his stock deal during his tenure. in the position. Democratic Senator John Ossoff used similar criticism to defeat Purdue in the January Senate competition.
“This dishonest insider and loser of The Last America is FARE to return to political prominence,” the committee wrote in a fundraising email.
Republicans in Washington and beyond have braced for vile and costly GOP primaries that could end up costing tens of millions of dollars and dragging Kemp to the right into a state that has moved downtown. So far, Abrams has no major contenders.
“While David Purdue and Brian Kemp fight each other, Stacey Abrams will fight for the people of Georgia,” Abrams’ chief assistant Lauren Gro-Vargo tweeted.
The governor’s race reflects the division of the Republican Party that has played out in the Republican communities this year.
In Georgia, Trump supporters, outraged by his defeat, have flooded local GOP meetings, seized control of the party apparatus, and toppled some Atlanta County officials deemed insufficiently supportive of Trump.
David Schafer, chairman of the state party, is on the pro-Trump line.
Criticized for speaking at Trump’s September rally where Trump joined his list of approved candidates, Schafer told The Associated Press on Sunday that the party would be neutral in contested primaries and expressed hope that Republican candidates “will focus on their strengths and how how they can get together. winning coalition ”.
Republican leaders remain loyal to Kemp.
Anticipating a Trump-backed challenge from Purdue, the Republican Governors Association has pledged to support the incumbent governor of Georgia in addition to other incumbent Republican governors who have drawn Trump’s ire, including Idaho Governor Brad Little. However, while helping incumbent Republicans, RGA Chairman Doug Ducy, Governor of Arizona, said his organization would not attack Trump’s candidate list.
“The RGA is following the 11th Commandment,” Ducy said at a recent group meeting in his state. “We’re not talking bad about another Republican.”
But the Republicans in Georgia are unlikely to play so well.
Georgia GOP spokesman Randy Evans, who served as Trump’s ambassador to Luxembourg, argued that Kemp might be so unpopular with Trump that he would lose to Abrams even if he survived the primaries.
“If the party gets together, Purdue will be a candidate and then he will become governor,” Evans said. “And if the party falls apart, what if the bitterness and divisions continue with that kind of rhetoric, then Kemp will be the candidate and Stacey will be the governor.”
This was reported in New York.