Georgia debates: Perdue runs for office, Kemp breaks record

After three Republican primary debates in the Georgia governor race, some things are clear: Former U.S. Senator David Perdue wants the May 24 primary to be about the 2020 election, incumbent Governor Brian Kemp wants the election to be about his record, and when in doubt, any Republican should say he was the one who beat Democrat Stacey Abrams in the fall.

Sunday’s debate sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club was a bit different, with candidates Kandiss Taylor, Catherine Davis and Tom Williams included after the previous two debates only featured Kemp and Perdue.

Polls show Perdue well behind Kemp, raising the odds that the incumbent could clear 50% in May and avoid a possible runoff on June 21. While Perdue landed a few licks on Kemp, particularly during the April 24 debate, it’s unclear if the clashes changed voters’ minds.

The debates come as voting begins in the May 24 primary. Some counties are already sending mail-in ballots, and in-person early voting begins Monday.

Here is an overview of some of the themes of the debates:


At times, the other candidates ganged up with Perdue on Sunday to attack Kemp in the election and blame him for paving the way for Democratic control in Washington, a theme Perdue hammered home.

“Brian Kemp gave us Joe Biden. He gave us the problems we see in Georgia,” Williams said, even though Biden would have been elected president without winning Georgia.

Kemp continued to push back, saying he followed the law requiring him to certify the election. He sought to reassure Republican voters that he had resolved the issues with the restrictive election law passed by Georgia and signed by Kemp in 2021.

“I was as frustrated as anyone with the 2020 election results,” Kemp said. “And I actually did something to work with the Georgia General Assembly to address these issues.”

Federal and state election officials and Donald Trump’s own attorney general said there was no credible evidence the election was tainted. The former president’s fraud allegations have also been flatly dismissed by the courts, including by Trump-appointed judges.


Kemp highlights his accomplishments, including raising salaries for teachers and state employees, lowering taxes and quickly lifting restrictions after Georgia’s brief COVID-19 lockdown.

“I did everything I said I would do when I was campaigning in 2018,” Kemp said.

Perdue mounted a stronger defense of his Senate case on Sunday, saying Kemp took credit for the federally funded projects that Perdue helped secure.

“We deepened the port after 20 years of career politicians trying to deepen it,” Perdue said of Savannah. “We brought the Army Cyber ​​Warfare Headquarters to Fort Gordon. We secured disaster relief for farmers in southern Georgia.


When asked if they would support the Republican nominee on Sunday, even if it is not them, several of the candidates turned the question into a speech against Abrams.

Kemp and Perdue mentioned Abrams 19 times during the second debate, leading Abrams to tweet “Obviously I’m living in their heads without rent.”

Invoking fear of Abrams was a constant throughout the debates, using fear of his election to motivate Republicans, and it continued on Sunday.

“You better win this race now because if Stacey Abrams wins this race, we won’t win a majority in the Senate this year and we won’t win the presidency in 2024,” Perdue said Sunday.

But Davis said the constant discussion of Abrams takes away from an honest look at Republicans.

“Stacey Abrams is not the standard by which voters should evaluate the next governor,” Davis said. “You turned her into a bogeyman. The way you get rid of a bogeyman is to turn on the lights.


Education had been mentioned only in passing in the first two debates, although on Sunday the candidates answered multiple questions about public schools.

Kemp was asked whether bills he signed that seek to prevent the teaching of “dividing concepts” would deter people from becoming teachers.

“That’s what people want…” Kemp said. “They worry about their children and what they are taught in class.

He also touted the $5,000 pay rise he pushed through for teachers in two stages.

But other candidates focused on doing more to prevent ideology from seeping into the classroom.

“The number one thing we can do for our teachers, our parents, and most of our kids is just get the woke crowd out of our schools in Georgia,” Perdue said.


Perdue and Kemp showed a real dislike for each other, repeatedly calling each other liars in the first two contests.

“I’m just telling you, the worst mistake I ever made was getting Donald Trump’s endorsement for this man,” Perdue told WTOC-TV in Savannah on Thursday.

Kemp has repeatedly countered that Perdue is attacking him because he has no personal records, saying it was Perdue’s fault he lost his re-election bid to Democrat Jon Ossoff in the second round of 2021.

“The reason everyone here tonight is looking in the rear view mirror is because they don’t have a record to win going forward,” Kemp said Sunday.


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