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Perdue’s Appointment as Chancellor Draws Polarized Reactions

Reaction to Sonny Perdue’s imminent appointment as chancellor of the University System of Georgia came fast and furious in the Twitterverse after the state Board of Regents named the former Georgia governor the sole finalist to become the next chancellor of the University System of Georgia last week.

After a mandatory two-week waiting period, a final vote for Gov. Brian Kemp’s choice is all but certain — Kemp also appoints the Regents, who oversee the 26-school University System of Georgia, including the University of Georgia.

The board was set to give Perdue the job and its $500,000 salary nearly a year ago, but put the vote on hold after widespread criticism of what appeared to be a sham search process and division within the board — division Kemp cured by replacing several Regents in the interim.

Tweeted UGA political science professor Cas Mudde, an authority on political extremism:

Mudde explained the politics of Kemp’s choice:

When Perdue was governor of Georgia, he appointed Kemp as secretary of state, providing a platform for Kemp’s subsequent run for governor. Perdue, while secretary of agriculture under Trump, also helped secure the ex-president’s endorsement of Kemp in his run for governor.

Emeritus history professor Jim Cobb, another UGA academic star, was blunt in his assessment.

Georgia State University political science professor Jeffrey Lazarus was more sanguine.

Politicians both Democratic and Republican had plenty too say, much of it predictable. Democrats predicted dire consequences, pointing to Perdue’s history of support for the Lost Cause, including his role in keeping Confederate symbolism on the state flag, his profitable land dealing, and the steep and enduring cuts to k-12 and college funding during Perdue’s two terms as governor. In 2001-02, the year before Perdue took office, state funding accounted for 41% of UGA’s annual budget, and student tuition and fees 14.2%, according to the UGA Fact Book. As he left office, the state portion was down to 27.2%. Students and their families were paying 29%; revenue from tuition and fees had doubled from about $169 million to $387 million.

“This is ridiculous. How did he earn this seat?” asked Mokah Jasmine Johnson of Athens, a former Democratic legislative candidate.

Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Russell Edwards, who once ran for Congress as a Democrat, posted a photo of Perdue speaking at one of Trump’s “Stop the Steal”rallies, promoting Trump’s false claims that he won in Georgia and other states where voters rejected him.

“This is a shameful & disgraceful move by GA Republicans to politicize our classrooms. Sonny Perdue has no place deciding what is best for the 340,000+ students in our incredible public university system,” wrote Charlie Bailey, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

Republicans like Tyler Harper, a candidate for agriculture commissioner, sang a different tune.

“He brings a deep experience of state government & a passion for growing tomorrow’s leaders. I look forward to working with him,” said Republican State Rep. Jan Jones of Alpharetta.

“He has served the citizens of Georgia & the United States in an exemplary manner,” said Wayne Johnson, a senior official in the Trump administration, now running for Congress in Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District.

“I’m confident he will ensure our Higher Ed system thrives and prepares each of our students for future success,” tweeted Burt Jones, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce also weighed in, hailing Perdue:

Perdue’s selection was national news, and got national reaction. The American Association of University Professors condemned the pick.

Perdue Chicken also had something to say, in response to another tweet:

David Perdue, Sonny’s cousin, is running against Kemp in the Republican gubernatorial primary. They’re not related to the Maryland family that founded the chicken company.