'Make nice with MAGA': A 2020 'false elector' is Georgia GOP Governor Brian Kemp’s running mate

'Make nice with MAGA': A 2020 'false elector' is Georgia GOP Governor Brian Kemp’s running mate
United States Army National Guard photo by Captain Bryant Wine.

Former President Donald Trump suffered a painful humiliation when, on May 24, incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp defeated a Trump-backed challenger, former Sen. David Perdue, by a whopping 52 percent in Georgia’s 2022 GOP gubernatorial primary. Perdue aggressively campaigned on the Big Lie, promoting the false and totally debunked conspiracy theory that the 2020 presidential election had been stolen from Trump in Georgia and other states — a claim that Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger have denied, maintaining that there is no reason to believe that President Joe Biden didn’t win the Peach State fairly. Raffensperger also enjoyed a double-digit GOP primary victory on May 24.

Never Trump Republicans have hailed the outcome of those Georgia primaries as a conservative rejection of the “Stop the Steal” movement, but they’ve also been sounding the alarm about all the Trump-backed “Stop the Steal” Republicans who have won GOP primaries in other states — including far-right gubernatorial nominees like Kari Lake in Arizona, Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Tudor Dixon in Michigan. The Bulwark’s Amanda Carpenter is among the Never Trumpers who has been sounding the alarm, and she has a warning about Georgia: Kemp’s running mate has been a Big Lie promoter even though Kemp himself hasn’t.

In an article published by The Bulwark on September 1, Carpenter explains, “Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp gets a lot of credit for resisting pressure from former President Donald Trump to ‘find the votes’ to flip the 2020 election results in his state. But that was then. Today, Kemp stands shoulder-to-shoulder with one of the state’s top election deniers. That man is his running mate, the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, Burt Jones.”

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Jones, Carpenter notes, “signed on as a false elector in the scheme to squeeze former Vice President Mike Pence to reject electoral votes” on January 6, 2021 — and he is “now a target of” Fulton County, Georgia DA Fani Willis’ “criminal investigation into Trump’s broader efforts to interfere in the 2020 election.”

“Should he win,” Carpenter warns, “Jones will claim a major prize — he would serve as ‘president of the Senate’ in Georgia — a plum position for someone seeking to do election-flipping, should the opportunity present itself in 2024. As president of the (Georgia) State Senate, Jones could guide the Georgia legislature in appointing its own electors, irrespective of the vote count, as many Trump-aligned activists hope that Republican state legislatures will do in the future.”

Carpenter continues, “A Jones victory would represent an evolution in Georgia’s Republican leadership. The current lieutenant governor, Republican Geoff Duncan, spoke out aggressively against Trump’s election lies in 2020 and stripped Jones of his committee chairmanship due to Jones’ outlandish efforts to overturn the election results. But Duncan decided not to seek a second term.”

After defeating Perdue in the primary, Kemp focused his attention on the general election and the Democratic nominee, Stacey Abrams. Polls released in late August found Abrams trailing Kemp by 6 percent (Trafalgar) or 4 percent (Emerson College).

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“Despite Kemp’s disinclination to go along with Trump’s election denialism, his strategy throughout this campaign has been guided by one principle: Make nice with MAGA,” Carpenter observes. “Kemp has steadfastly looked past Trump’s desire to oust him from office and been quick to remind voters that he has ‘never said a bad word about Trump.’ He has ignored Trump’s tirades against him, turned the other cheek, and told voters he was the better candidate to deliver on Trump policies than his Trump-endorsed primary opponent, David Perdue.”

Carpenter continues, “It worked…. Though Kemp may have been at odds with Jones about his election denialism in the past, by all appearances, it isn’t a deal breaker for the governor. They’re campaign buddies now.”

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