Two months after scarcely earning enough votes to survive a crowded GOP primary race to secure the nomination for governor of Georgia, the Peach State’s Brian Kemp easily overcame Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in a runoff election Tuesday to win the right to face Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams in November.
After placing second to Cagle with 25 percent in the May 22 primary, Kemp, who currently serves as Georgia’s secretary of state, collected 69.45 percent of the primary vote.
A dramatic turn of events, Kemp’s 43-point gain from the primary to the runoff gave him the largest turnaround him Georgia state electoral history.
Boosted by Cagle suffering from a series of gaffes, including the release of a private recording capturing Cagle admitting he supported a bill for political gain, Kemp’s campaign was boosted by a late endorsement from President Trump.
Describing Trump’s July 18 backing the Kemp campaign as the tweet “heard around Georgia,” Kemp effusively praised Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in his victory speech:
“We had the momentum in this race, but those endorsements by the president and the vice president poured gasoline on the fire. Hillary Clinton, George Soros and Nancy Pelosi all have Georgia on their mind. For months, they’ve been campaigning for Stacey Abrams, the out-of-touch radical liberal who cares more for her billionaire backers than for you all.”
Closely identifying himself with Trump and against the Washington establishment, Kemp raised eyebrows with a pair of television advertisements in which he used his pickup to round up illegal immigrants, and held a firearm at a young man portrayed as potential suitor for his daughter.
Following his primary loss, Cagle thanked supporters, but stopped short of encouraging voters to support Kemp:
“Obviously, tonight did not turn out quite the way that we had anticipated, but this journey does not go unanswered. We ran a phenomenal campaign.”
With $33 million spent by candidates on both sides of the political divide, the 2018 Georgia governor’s race is expected the become the most expensive in the state’s history.
Following Kemp’s win, Trump on Friday endorsed a trio of Republican congressional candidates in Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, all of whom face challenges from other GOP primary contenders.
[Atlanta Journal Constitution] [Washington Post] [Photo courtesy Curt Yeomans/Gwinnett Daily Post]