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Former Senator David Perdue announces primary challenge against Georgia Governor Brian Kemp

Perdue enters Georgia governor's race
Perdue enters Georgia governor's race 05:56

Former Georgia Republican Senator David Perdue launched his bid for governor of Georgia on Monday, setting up a high-stakes primary challenge against incumbent Republican Governor Brian Kemp. 

Perdue's decision comes just days after Democrat Stacey Abrams announced her campaign for governor, her second effort, after she lost to Kemp in 2018.

Perdue's website went live late Sunday night and encouraged supporters to "join our team to stop Stacey Abrams." In his announcement video on Monday, Perdue attacked Abrams and accused Kemp and Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of dividing the GOP in Georgia. 

"To fight back we simply have to be united," Perdue said. "Look, I like Brian. This isn't personal. It's simple. He has failed all of us and cannot win in November. Instead of protecting our elections, he caved to Abrams and cost us the Senate majority and gave Joe Biden free reign."

The GOP gubernatorial primary is likely to be incredibly divisive in the key swing state. Former President Donald Trump railed against Kemp after Joe Biden won Georgia in the 2020 presidential election. Trump called for a strong primary challenger to enter the race and floated Perdue's name at a Georgia rally in September. 

Ivanka Trump Campaigns For GOP Candidates Sen. Perdue and Sen. Loeffler In Georgia
 Ivanka Trump and Senators Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and David Perdue (R-GA) wave to the crowd at a campaign event on December 21, 2020 in Milton, Georgia. The two Georgia U.S. Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5 will decide control of the Senate. Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images

"Are you going to run for governor David Perdue?" Trump said at the rally. "He's a great guy and he loves this state."

Trump said Monday in a statement that Kemp can't win the election, unless it "is rigged, of course." 

"I can't imagine that Brian Kemp, who has hurt election integrity in Georgia so badly, can do well at the ballot box," Trump said. "He cost us two Senate seats and a Presidential victory in the Great State of Georgia."

Later Monday, Trump issued an official endorsement of Perdue, saying it was "great to see" that Perdue had entered the race. Trump called Kemp a "very weak governor" and said "he can't win because the MAGA base — which is enormous — will never vote for him."

Kemp was widely praised by Republicans for signing a law that made sweeping changes to Georgia's election system earlier this year. 

Perdue is a wealthy businessman and a close ally of Trump. Perdue won his 2014 Senate race by pitching himself as an outsider, but lost his bid for reelection against Democrat Jon Ossoff in a runoff in January. He decided against making another run for the Senate earlier this year.

"I'm concerned about the state of our state," Perdue told a talk radio show in Georgia last month. "We have a divided party in Georgia right now. Forget about me. It's divided. And a lot of people feel like the people in power haven't fought for them and caved in to a lot of things back in 2020 that didn't have to be done."

The primary campaign will likely divide many Georgia Republicans ahead of the high-profile gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races in the state next year. Republicans are hoping for big wins in 2022 after Biden's victory in 2020 and Democrats flipped two U.S. Senate seats to gain control of the chamber. 

Former Georgia state representative Vernon Jones, who used to be a Democrat but switched parties, and educator Kandiss Taylor are also challenging Kemp. 

Kemp last week addressed the reports that Perdue was considering challenging him after initially planning to support the governor's reelection bid.

"All I know is what Senator Perdue has told me. I hope he'll be a man of his word, but again that's not anything I can control," Kemp said.

In a statement on Sunday, Kemp campaign communications director Cody Hall said, "Perdue's only reason for running is to soothe his own bruised ego."

"The man who lost Republicans the United States Senate and brought the last year of skyrocketing inflation, open borders, runaway government spending, and woke cancel culture upon the American people now wants to lose the Georgia governor's office to the national face of the radical left movement," Hall said. "Governor Kemp has a proven track record of fighting the radical left to put hardworking Georgians first, while Perdue is best known for ducking debates, padding his stock portfolio during a pandemic, and losing winnable races." 

At a conference in Arizona last month, Republican Governors Association Chair Doug Ducey was asked about the potential Perdue primary challenge and said, "the RGA is in the business, of course, of supporting our incumbents and ultimately electing Republican governors." Ducey added that decisions will be made "race by race" for how to use resources, but said that the RGA won't attack other Republicans. 

"We don't fund losers. We don't fund landslides," Ducey said. "The RGA follows the 11th commandment. We do not speak ill of another Republican."

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