‘Still A Republican-Leaning State’: Kemp On The GOP Convention And His Reelection Campaign

At the Georgia Republican Party convention last weekend, Gov. Brian Kemp faced boos and cheers from the crowd. Since refusing to overturn the state’s 2020 election results, Kemp has been attacked from the right wing of his party by some of his constituents and former president Donald Trump.

But in an interview with WABE News, Kemp said he is not swayed by “an orchestrated course of boos from political operatives and other folks,” and thinks the convention went “as good as it could go.”

“This state is, I think, still a Republican-leaning state,” Kemp said, pointing to Republican 2020 victories in the Georgia General Assembly and the Public Service Commissioner races. “But we’ve got to stay focused and united to be able to continue to make that happen. We saw in the [Senate] runoff when people get distracted. It is not a good formula for Republicans. And I think we can all learn from that.”

Kemp formally launched his reelection campaign staff a few weeks ago, as he gears up to take on Republican challenger, former Democratic State Rep. and Trump supporter Vernon Jones in next year’s primary.

While Trump vowed to campaign against Kemp in 2022, the former president has not endorsed anyone in the race, and Kemp declined to answer a question about it.

“I can’t control what other people are doing in politics. I learned that a long time ago,” Kemp said. “I’m staying focused on what I need to be doing, obviously serving as the governor in the greatest state in the country.”

Kemp said he relished the opportunity to take hours at the convention talking to people who have been influenced by Trump’s criticism directly.

“It gave me an opportunity to push back on some of the lies they’ve been told, quite honestly, in some of the things that they see floating around,” he said.

“A lot of the folks, especially the newer ones to the convention, they just don’t understand that they’re seeing a biased opinion or political narrative on some website or some email they’re getting. So it was refreshing in a lot of ways to be able to talk to people about that.”

“I think they appreciated, quite honestly, that I was willing to show up when others wouldn’t,” Kemp said.

More from the interview:

On how this campaign will differ from 2018:

“I was a big underdog quite honestly [in 2018]. I don’t think a lot of people took my candidacy seriously. I had a really crowded, hard-fought Republican primary with a lot of good candidates, had a very tough runoff. And then you go into general election against a well-funded Democrat…that did not have a very hard campaign, did not have a runoff, and was able to define me before I could define myself. And my record has defined myself now. I think Georgians know that I’m a governor for all the people.”

On the attempted review of some of Fulton County’s ballots, working its way through the court system:

“After you have an election that happens in Georgia, at that point, you really have to go to the courts, to order signature audits or make some sort of change to redo an election, which has been done before…. Judge [Brian] Amero ruled the way he has based on things that he’s heard in the court of law, and I support that process because that’s what the law says.”

On the governor’s role in appointing a chairman to the State Election Board after the passage of SB 202 removed Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger from the post. The law appears to delegate that job to the governor if the legislature is not in session:

“The law actually says the General Assembly, if they’re in session, should appoint the chairman. When the law went into effect, the General Assembly was still in session, and they didn’t make the appointment. So we’re looking at the legalities of where that leaves the decision-making process now. We’re still digging into that.”

On Georgia’s vaccination rate, which remains among the lowest in the country:

“We have done everything that we can from a government standpoint, to make the vaccine readily available, and very been very consistent and spend a lot of resources to do that. So Georgians have the opportunity to get vaccinated…. And I think people should take the vaccine, but also understand, for a lot of reasons they don’t want to do that.”