Brian Kemp distanced himself from 'scandal-tinged' Herschel Walker — but now he’s 'all in': report
During his 2022 reelection campaign, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp avoided talking about his state’s Republican U.S. Senate nominee Herschel Walker and the many controversies that have surrounded him — including allegations that Walker, who opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest, impregnated two women and encouraged them to have abortions. Kemp was victorious in that race, defeating Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams by around 8 percent.
The Senate race, however, was much closer. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock received more votes than Walker, which would have made him senator-elect in other states. But because Warnock received less than 50 percent of the vote, that race is, under Georgia election law, going to a runoff. And now, after months of relative silence about Walker, Kemp is openly campaigning for him.
The Daily Beast’s Sam Brodey, reporting in an article published on November 23 — the day before Thanksgiving — explains, “At a rally in the Atlanta suburbs this past Saturday, Gov. Brian Kemp did something he has never done before this election season: he got onstage with Herschel Walker…. In most states, it would be unremarkable to see the Republican governor campaign with the Republican Senate nominee. But before the November election, Kemp and Walker shared the top of the GOP statewide ticket in Georgia — and virtually nothing else.”
Kemp ran as a conservative in Georgia’s 2022 gubernatorial election, repeatedly attacking Abrams as too liberal for the Peach State. But he didn’t run on a hyper-MAGA platform, and that made sense politically in a swing state. Hyper-MAGA gubernatorial candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump lost to Democrats in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maryland and Arizona. Kemp, in contrast, defeated a Democratic rock star, Abrams, by 8 percent in a swing state that has two Democratic U.S. senators (Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff) and went to President Joe Biden in 2020.
“The no-drama Kemp was cruising to reelection after defying Donald Trump and his supporters’ relentless calls to embrace 2020 election fraud claims,” Brodey notes. “Walker, Trump’s handpicked candidate to take on Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), ran a MAGA-fueled campaign that became consumed by scandal after reporting by The Daily Beast and other outlets revealed his personal conduct contradicted his public ‘family values’ positions. The distance between the two candidates — organizationally, politically, and personally —only deepened with Walker’s growing controversies.”
Brodey continues, “In the final months of the election, Kemp declined to explicitly endorse Walker, and simply said he was working to ensure GOP victories ‘up and down the ticket.’ But now that the Senate contest is in a runoff, Kemp is all in. And his support for Walker is notable for a simple reason: Walker is an election denier.”
Campaigning for Walker at a rally in Cobb County, Georgia, the reelected Kemp told the crowd, “Look, we cannot rest on our laurels here. Who do you want to fight for you in the United States Senate? Do you want a guy that represents our values like Herschel Walker, or do you want a guy who’s stood with Joe Biden 96 percent of the time?"
Walker, unlike Kemp, has promoted the Big Lie and falsely claimed that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. And many Warnock supporters have slammed Walker as a MAGA authoritarian who doesn’t believe in democracy.
“For Walker to prevail, winning over just some of the roughly 203,000 people who voted for Kemp — but not him — will be key,” Brodey observes. “With his own reelection secure, Kemp is free to spend his political capital boosting the scandal-tinged Walker. But the governor’s emergence as a major player in the Georgia Senate race comes at a tumultuous moment for the Republican Party — one that is exposing the fissures that helped to separate Kemp and Walker in the first place.”
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