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Georgia Gov. Kemp poised for a big win Tuesday, but Trump's shadow looms large

Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Political News

Kemp plans to mobilize the Trump First voters by invoking a conservative record that includes signing anti-abortion legislation, rolling back gun restrictions and a raft of new school policies designed to energize Republican voters.

The core of his case to wavering Republicans, however, is that he's beaten Abrams before and he's the only candidate who can defeat her again.

Bryan Walker, a Carrollton mechanic, is a die-hard Trump supporter who said his endorsement makes him far likelier to support a candidate. But he's willing to swallow his misgivings about Kemp and support the governor because he believes he's more electable in November.

"I'd do anything to stop Abrams," said Walker. "She's such a bleeding-heart liberal and so socialist-leaning you can't help but to hate her."

Perdue's campaign has scaled back its efforts. He hasn't been on the air with his own TV ads in nearly a month and has refused to significantly self-finance his own campaign. His only chance at unseating Kemp is to keep him under 50% to force a runoff, though polls show the governor well above that mark.

While Kemp has avoided slamming Trump, many of his supporters have been forthright. Lumpkin County Commission chair Chris Dockery pointedly told a crowd of hundreds at a Dahlonega campaign stop that Trump's hold on the state GOP had its limits.

 

"I'm an independent thinker and I don't need a politician who's been defeated telling me who I need to vote for the next governor of the state of Georgia."

Some Trump loyalists predict the former president's most ardent followers won't rally behind Kemp even if it means an Abrams victory. At a sparsely attended Perdue event in Gainesville, GOP activist Debbie Dooley said some will see him as a "betrayer of the base."

"They think both Stacey and Brian are evil — and there is no lesser of two evils," she said. "You're rewarding betrayal."

The governor is used to shrugging off those predictions. At a stop that drew hundreds to a brewery in Canton, he downplayed concerns about the longer-term fallout of Trump's opposition.

"I know Republicans get into tough fights. I've been in those before," he said. "But it will be time to unite after that to beat Stacey Abrams and that's exactly what I think everyone will do."

(c)2022 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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