Former President Donald Trump held a rally for former U.S. Sen. David Perdue last month. Trump put his money where his mouth is Wednesday with a $500,000 donation from his political action committee aimed at defeating Gov. Brian Kemp. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder (file photo)
Former President Donald Trump has opened up his wallet – or at least his political action committee – in the hopes of thwarting Gov. Brian Kemp’s bid for a second term.
Trump’s Save America PAC has donated $500,000 to Get Georgia Right, a Virginia-based anti-Kemp super PAC.
As Politico first reported, the check is Trump’s first big donation in this year’s midterm elections nationally, and it may also be just the beginning of Trump’s spending in the Georgia governor’s race. Trump has socked away more than $110 million in his Save America PAC.
The donation comes as former U.S. Sen. David Perdue lags behind Kemp in the polls and in fundraising, and it is yet another sign of the important role Georgia continues to play in national politics.
Following the March 25 donation, Get Georgia Right began sponsoring TV ads featuring unsubstantiated claims tying Gov. Brian Kemp to supposed “illegal ballot harvesting” in 2020.
Relitigating the last presidential election has become standard for Trump, said Georgia State University political science professor Amy Steigerwalt. Once political allies, Trump and Kemp fell out after the 2020 election in which Trump lost Georgia and accused Kemp of not doing enough to illegally overturn the results.
“It really is the one thing that he focuses on and that he has devoted a lot of energy to, and in many ways, his dislike of Kemp is also very personal,” Steigerwalt said Wednesday. “And I think you really see that in that it’s sort of continuing, that it’s not just about what happened in the election, but really, that he doesn’t want Kemp to be there and sort of anyone but Kemp would be preferable.”
Trump’s criticism of Kemp has been unrelenting ever since the governor refused to help overturn the presidential election results nearly two years ago, and the former president has vowed to foil Kemp’s plans for a second term in the governor’s mansion.
Perdue publicly announced his candidacy in December, immediately complicating the GOP primary in Georgia, and he received Trump’s official endorsement the same day.
Trump has since endorsed a slate of statewide candidates in the Republican primary in Georgia, even wading into lower ballot races like the insurance commissioner’s contest. The Republican incumbent commissioner, John King, was appointed by Kemp.
Since Trump has ventured so far into Georgia politics this year, the May 24 primary is widely seen as a test of Trump’s hold on Republican voters.
“He very clearly has a lot of sway still over elected members of the Republican Party,” Steigerwalt said. “What we don’t entirely know is whether or not the voters are going to respond to that. And really, indications are that they’re not. Really, it doesn’t appear to be helping, for example, David Perdue, now that people know that Trump has endorsed him. We’re not seeing his numbers going up. In fact, in anything, it seems to have somewhat led to an increase, actually, in how Kemp is doing.”
Trump has seemed to lower expectations in more recent interviews, telling a conservative radio host this month “it’s always hard to beat a sitting governor. Just remember that.”
Kemp’s campaign shrugged off Trump’s $500,000 donation to Perdue.
“David Perdue is going to need a lot more than $500,000 to distract from his unhinged rant attacking the Georgia State Patrol,” said Cody Hall, spokesman for the Kemp campaign.
Perdue lamented the condition of the Georgia State Patrol under Kemp, telling reporters Tuesday the agency had been allowed to “deteriorate” and was no longer functioning at an “elite level.” Perdue’s press conference was held the same day Kemp signed into law a bill ending a permit requirement and fee to carry a concealed firearm, which is a change Perdue has argued his primary challenge helped spur.
But even if Trump is not able to propel Perdue past the primary, he could still remain a thorn in Kemp’s side as he tries to focus on defeating presumed Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams. The 2018 challenge between the two was famously close, and if 2022 sees the same dynamic, a small number of Trump loyalists sitting the election out could boost Abrams across the finish line.
Georgia Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff likely benefited from Trump supporters sitting out the 2020 runoffs.
Georgia Recorder Deputy Editor Jill Nolin contributed to this report.
This story was published earlier by the Georgia Recorder, an affiliate of the nonprofit States Newsroom, which includes the Florida Phoenix.
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