Georgia GOP gubernatorial clash: Perdue goes to CPAC to make case to Trump voters

Former Georgia Sen. David Perdue at CPAC 2022

Former Sen. David Perdue speaks with Fox News Digital at CPAC 2022 about the Georgia Senate race.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Republican gubernatorial candidate and former Sen. David Perdue of Georgia took aim at President Biden as he spoke to the largest annual gathering of conservative activists and leaders.

And in an interview with Fox News Digital on the final day of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Perdue also targeted GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Perdue is challenging in Georgia’s May 24 primary.

“Joe Biden has brought us high gas prices and runaway inflation,” Perdue charged as he targeted the president in front a large CPAC crowd on Sunday. Minutes earlier, he attacked Kemp as “a 20-year career politician who’s desperate to keep his job.”

Georgia GOP gubernatorial candidate and former Sen. David Perdue speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, on Feb. 27, 2022.

Four years ago, with the support of then President Trump, Kemp narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams to win the governorship. 

But the governor earned Trump’s ire starting in late 2020, after he certified Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia in the presidential election, following two recounts of the vote. Trump, who had unsuccessfully urged Kemp and other top Republican officials in the state to overturn the results, has repeatedly vowed to return to Georgia to campaign against Kemp. For months the former president urged Perdue to challenge Kemp in the primaries, and he endorsed him the day after he launched his bid late last year.

Perdue’s move set up an epic and increasingly nasty GOP primary battle with Kemp in a one-time solidly red state that has become a top general election battleground. Kemp is also facing primary challenges from a lesser-known candidate.

Asked about the divisive tone of the primary race, Perdue pointed to Kemp’s campaign, saying “in their first attempt back in December they started with negative advertising….it hasn’t moved the needle at all.”

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia formally launches his 2022 reelection campaign at a kick-off event in Perry, Georgia, on July 10, 2021.
(Brian Kemp 2022 re-election campaign)

Perdue also questioned Kemp’s ability to unite Georgia’s Republican voters in November’s general election against Abrams. The voting rights organizer, former state Democratic legislative leader and rising national star in her party launched her second straight run for governor a week before Perdue jumped into the race. Abrams raked in over $9 million in the first two months of her campaign.

“My question to Georgia is very simple – if Brian Kemp were able to unite our party and stand up against Stacey Abrams, wouldn’t he have already done it,” Perdue argued. “We have a divided party…I don’t believe that Brian Kemp can bring out the voters who are upset about 2020 and bring them together and unite them against Stacey Abrams.”

Stacey Abrams speaks onstage during the 2021 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award Gala on Dec. 9, 2021, in New York City.
(Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

But Kemp currently has a large campaign cash advantage over Perdue and enjoys the edge in public opinion polling.

“Governor Kemp has spent the last few months campaigning all over Georgia, sharing his record of conservative results,” Kemp spokesperson Cody Hall told Fox News. “Meanwhile, David Perdue is running a desperate campaign of false attacks that is struggling in the polls and fundraising. If the former Senator is upset about the current state of affairs in the Georgia Republican primary, he need only look in the mirror.” 

Trump, who 13 months removed from the White House remains the most popular and influential politician in the GOP as he plays a kingmaker’s role in Republican primaries and flirts with a 2024 presidential run, has praised Perdue on camera as he stars in the former senator’s campaign commercials.

“I talk to him frequently. He’s going to come to Georgia personally,” Perdue said of the former president.

Fox News’ Bryan Preston contributed to this report.

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