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Gov. Brian Kemp Goes After President Biden in Oconee Speech

Gov. Brian Kemp. Credit: Adria Carpenter/file

Gov. Brian Kemp has chosen his opponent, and it’s not Stacey Abrams, nor is it Vernon Jones or David Perdue. Kemp wants to make his 2022 re-election bid about President Joe Biden.

He made that abundantly clear in a speech to a crowd of over 200 people at an Oconee County Republicans meeting Nov. 29. Kemp never mentioned Abrams, who lost to him by a slim margin in 2018 and was his presumptive Democratic opponent even before she officially announced her campaign last week. He never mentioned Jones, who switched parties and embraced Donald Trump last year before running against Kemp. And he never mentioned Perdue, the former senator who said Monday he would also challenge Kemp in the Republican primary, and whose cousin Sonny has been Kemp’s political ally for more than a decade. 

Kemp blamed Biden for “30-year high inflation,” “the disgraceful exit from Afghanistan” and “a mass migration crisis.” Furor over Georgia’s new voting law, he said, is Biden “trying to distract from the disastrous record they have.”

SB 202, Kemp said, “makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat.” (It does make it somewhat easier to vote early in person, but harder to vote by mail.) Critics “simply got their talking points before they saw the final version of the bill,” he said.

Even the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates for federal employees, federal contractors and large companies are merely a distraction, according to Kemp. “It’s a federal overreach mandate,” he said. “I don’t think the president even wants this enacted. It’s a distraction.”

Kemp—who was unmasked, like almost everyone else at the indoor gathering—also claimed he was vindicated in his decision to lift stay-at-home orders early on in the pandemic, even though “everyone said I was an idiot,” pointing to a 46% increase in private investment, resulting in 32,000 new jobs, and the lowest unemployment rate in 20 years.

Attacking Biden makes sense from a political standpoint—his approval rating is down to 42%. But another opponent is lurking in the background of the governor’s race: Former President Donald Trump, who has vilified Kemp for refusing to overturn the results of Georgia’s 2020 election. The Republican base remains in thrall to Trump’s big lie.

After Kemp’s stump speech, during a question-and-answer session with state Reps. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) and Marcus Wiedower (R-Watkinsville), a woman asked, “Why has no one done a forensic audit of the November election when there has been so much evidence of fraud?”

Before Gaines or Wiedower could answer, Kemp strode to the front of the room and took the microphone. “What evidence do you have?” he said, urging the woman to take it to a judge, or to the GBI or the secretary of state’s office.

Only a Superior Court judge can order a forensic audit, Kemp said. “I don’t have the constitutional authority or legal authority to do that,” he said. “Anyone who tells you that [I do], they’re lying to you.”

Trump has alleged fraud in Georgia’s elections, even though two recounts and a partial audit found no major issues, and a half-dozen lawsuits Trump supporters filed in state and federal courts in Atlanta and Savannah have been dropped or dismissed. Trump also called Brad Raffensperger to ask the secretary of state to find enough votes to declare him the winner, and pressured Republican officials in Georgia and other swing states to ignore the results and appoint their own slates of Trump electors to send to Washington, D.C.

Kemp received some applause for his response—but not as much as the original questioner. Jones received an enthusiastic response from the same group when he called for further investigation into the 2020 election during a speech in September