Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp drew jeers and boos at his state party’s annual convention on Saturday, a reminder of the bitterness that remains among Republicans over his role in certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential race.
Kemp’s supporters tried to drown out the taunts and he pleaded for party harmony. Heading into his 2022 re-election campaign, the governor emphasized his accomplishments, especially an election integrity bill pushed by GOP state lawmakers.
“We must be strong and courageous,” Kemp said.
He said of Democrats: “They’ve got Hollywood. They’ve got billionaires in New York and California. … That is why we have to be united as well and move forward together.”
Kemp maintained enough support to easily beat back a resolution condemning his handling of the election.
At least 15 local party conventions out of 159 counties and two congressional district conventions out of 14 adopted such resolutions. But the state party shelved the matter, and Kemp’s opponents were unable to force a full convention vote.
But delegates censured Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, another Republican, for his more direct part in administering the 2020 elections. Raffensperger, like Kemp, is seeking re-election. Unlike Kemp, he did not attend the convention.
Former President Donald Trump, who has promised to campaign against Kemp, taped a video message for the convention in which he praised Georgia Republicans generally but never mentioned Kemp. Trump also promised he’d return to Georgia for a rally “in the very near future.”
James Hall, a delegate from Savannah, said such divisiveness would ensure a repeat of Georgia’s Senate runoff elections, in which Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeated Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.
“If we keep playing these stupid games saying Kemp is not pure enough, we’re going to hand it over to the Democrats again,” Hall said. “It’s just so counterproductive. He’s the only Republican that can win in November.”
The governor’s critics insist he’s earned the opposition.
“If you don’t support Trump, you don’t get to play,” said Barbara Cunningham of Savannah, who’s been involved with the state party for more than 50 years.
Kemp challenger Vernon Jones echoed that sentiment.
A former Democrat who backed Trump and switched parties to take on Kemp, Jones slapped the governor with the “Republican in Name Only” moniker. “The RINO leadership of this state sat on the sidelines” as Trump lost, Jones said.
He dubbed Biden “Jim Crow Joe” and called Stacey Abrams, Democrats’ 2018 nominee for governor, “the wicked witch of the South.”
Kemp first angered some Republicans with his appointment of Loeffler to a Senate vacancy rather than Trump’s preferred choice, then-Rep. Doug Collins. That boiled over in November when Kemp certified Biden’s Electoral College victory. He also declined to call a legislative special session to address the results.
“Kemp could have helped him, but he didn’t,” Cunningham said.
Biden won Georgia by about 12,000 votes out of 5 million cast, making him the first Democratic presidential nominee to win the state since 1992.
In the January Senate runoffs, Democrats’ margins widened. Ossoff defeated Perdue by 55,000 votes, while Warnock beat Loeffler by more than 93,000 votes.
Kemp remains a favorite for the GOP nomination.
“He has delivered time and time again on what Republican voters want, whether it’s pro-life issues, fiscal issues, whatever,” said Kevin Gough, a delegate from Glynn County.
Kemp ticked through his victories, including tax cuts, new pro-life protections, “measured” relaxing of pandemic restrictions to keep businesses open, and opposition to critical race theory being taught in Georgia public schools.
The boos, Gough said, “don’t speak for the whole party.”
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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