Three weeks after crushing his primary challenger, who was heavily supported by former President Donald Trump, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is endorsing the opponent of a Trump-backed candidate in next week’s Republican primary runoff in the state’s 10th Congressional District.
“I’m proud to endorse Mike Collins,” Kemp said on Thursday in a statement as he backed Collins, a trucking company owner, as he faces off next Tuesday against Vernon Jones. The former state lawmaker and Democrat turned Republican who was a top Black surrogate for Trump in Georgia in the 2020 election enjoys the support of the former president.
Kemp highlighted that “as a conservative small businessman, Mike knows firsthand how the disastrous policies of the Biden administration are hurting hardworking Georgians and communities all across our state. Mike is strongly pro-life, pro-2nd Amendment, and will fight hard to put Georgians first in Congress.”
And the governor noted that “I will be casting my ballot for Mike Collins in the June 21st GOP runoff, and I ask fellow Republicans across the district to join me in sending a trusted conservative to Washington!”
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Jones, responding to the news, said that “throughout my political career, I have never been the Establishment’s favorite. That’s something to be proud of — not ashamed of — and is exactly why President Trump endorsed me. I’m not running for Congress to join the Establishment. I’m running for Congress to destroy it.”
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Collins edged Jones 26%-22% in a multi-candidate field in Georgia’s May 24th primary, but since neither came close to grabbing a majority of the vote, they headed to a June 21 runoff election. Collins has already picked up the support of some other Republican candidates in the race who failed to advance. The winner in November’s general election will succeed Republican Rep. Jody Hice, who launched an unsuccessful campaign for Georgia secretary of state rather than seek re-election.
Kemp topped former Sen. David Perdue by more than 50 points in last month’s Republican gubernatorial primary, which was a stinging defeat for Trump.
Four years ago, with the support of the then-president, Kemp narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams. But Kemp earned Trump’s ire after certifying the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia following two recounts of the vote. Last year, Trump repeatedly urged Perdue to primary challenge the governor and endorsed him the day after the former senator announced his bid in December. Trump lambasted Kemp at two rallies he held in Georgia last autumn and this spring, and pilloried the governor in Perdue campaign commercials.
Perdue jumped into the race days after Abrams, a rising star in the Democratic Party and a nationally known champion of voter rights, launched her second straight gubernatorial bid. Abrams was unopposed in the Democratic primary and will face off with Kemp in a rematch in November.
“This is absolutely Kemp’s revenge tour,” argued a Georgia-based Republican consultant who asked to remain anonymous to speak more freely.
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Pointing to Kemp’s impressive victory, the consultant said the governor “let the scoreboard talk and now he’s going to let the scoreboard talk again and he’s doubling down on his brand of conservatism with which is clearly more potent that Donald Trump’s in Georgia.”
Perdue wasn’t the only high-profile Trump-backed candidate to go down to defeat in Georgia’s primary. Hice lost by double digits to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whom Trump had also repeatedly attacked. And Trump backed GOP attorney general challenger John Gordon was demolished by incumbent Chris Carr.
Kemp, in his primary victory last month, won in the 10th Congressional District by an even bigger margin that his overall statewide margin. The District, which is reliably red, stretches from the exurbs east of Atlanta through rural areas east to the outskirts of August and to the South Carolina border.
Collins’ team tells Fox News there’s a good chance Kemp may join Collins on the campaign trail over the coming days ahead of Tuesday’s primary.
Jones was originally running for governor this cycle, in hopes of landing Trump’s endorsement in the primary against Kemp. But after he endorsed Perdue, the former president convinced Jones to end his gubernatorial bid and instead run for Hice’s open congressional seat. Trump endorsed Jones as he launched his House bid.
Trump, in a robo-call recorded this week, once again praised Jones, saying “he will never let you down.”
And he slammed the Collins campaign for a recent attack on Jones, calling them “vicious political ads that aren’t true.”
Fox News’ David Lewkowict contributed to this report