Kemp wins GOP run-off for governor

Published 10:16 pm Tuesday, July 24, 2018

ATLANTA (AP) — With a damning secret recording of his opponent and a late Trump-Pence endorsement, Secretary of State Brian Kemp on Tuesday won a bruising Republican runoff in the race for Georgia governor.

A self-described “unapologetic conservative” whose campaign ran an eyebrow-raising ad that said he could use his own pickup truck to “round up criminal illegals,” Kemp rode a national wave of voter contempt for the establishment in favor of bare-knuckled outsider politics.

He now faces Democrat Stacey Abrams, who could become the country’s first black woman governor, in a race that will test Democrats’ assertion that changing demographics have turned the Republican stronghold into a swing state.

Abrams tweeted her reaction Tuesday, saying “Tonight, I have an opponent: Kemp. The race for #GAGov may change, but our values never will. Service, faith & family guide our vision for GA: Affordable health care. Excellent public schools for every child. An economy that works for all.”

“Stand with us,” she wrote, followed by a link to a fundraising page.

Kemp beat once heavily-favored Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who outraised Kemp more than 2-to-1 and had a Rolodex of endorsements from establishment Republicans in the state including Gov. Nathan Deal.

Kemp won emphatically in Troup County as well, winning 14 of the 15 precincts. Kemp received 2,466 votes in Troup County to Cagle’s 1,416. Cagle made three visits to Troup County, with the most recent one coming in late June — less than a month before the election.

Kemp made only one visit — a March speech at the LaGrange Rotary Club.

In the end, it didn’t matter. Kemp won the McLendon (291 to 151), Rosemont (331 to 108), East Vernon (284 to 149), Gray Hill (125 to 43), Mountville (130 to 58) and Long Cane (226 to 136) precincts convincingly in Troup County. Cagle’s only precinct win in Troup County was the Hogansville precinct, but even his victory there was small. Cagle won the precinct 25 to 16.

In a tweeted endorsement last week, President Donald Trump pointed to Kemp’s tough stance on illegal immigration and strong support for gun rights. With days left in the race, Vice President Mike Pence also stumped for Kemp on the campaign trail. Both reiterated their support for Kemp in tweets Tuesday.

Kemp victory is likely to embolden Trump to become even more engaged in shaping the Republican Party in the final months of the primary season. And it is another election success for a Trump-approved candidate, following victories by Katie Arrington in South Carolina and Martha Roby in Alabama.

Cagle began to lose ground after the release of a secret recording in June in which he says he helped pass a “bad public-policy” bill for political gain.