The Georgia Republican governor’s race has had it all: Secret tapes, critical nicknames and an out-of-the-blue Twitter intervention from President Donald Trump that flipped the contest on its head.
On Tuesday, GOP voters are set to choose between secretary of state Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
Cagle was long thought to be the front-runner and finished first with 38.9% of the vote in May’s primary to Kemp’s 25.6%. But because Cagle fell short of 50%, they advanced to a runoff, which has become a contest between the two candidates to cozy up to Trump.
Kemp got a major boost last week when Trump unexpectedly extended his “full and total endorsement” in a tweet.
“Brian is tough on crime, strong on the border and illegal immigration. He loves our Military and our Vets and protects our Second Amendment,” Trump tweeted.
The tweet focused more attention on a Georgia contest that was already in the national spotlight: The Democratic nominee, Stacey Abrams, is a rising progressive star vying to become the nation’s first black female governor.
And Georgia’s move leftward in 2016 — Trump beat Hillary Clinton there by just under six percentage points — means both parties are looking to the governor’s race as a test of whether it will be in play in 2020.
Democrats, meanwhile, will hold runoffs in two congressional districts where they hope a blue wave in November could help oust incumbent Republicans.
In GOP Rep. Karen Handel’s 6th District, Lucy McBath — whose 17-year-old son Jordan Davis was shot and killed in 2012 and who has since become a leading gun control advocate as one of the “Mothers of the Movement” who campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2016 — faces Kevin Abel, the founder of a technology consulting company.
And in Republican Rep. Rob Woodall’s 7th District, Georgia State University professor Carolyn Bourdeaux faces David Kim, a tutoring business founder.
The two races will be another test of the strongest theme that’s emerged in Democratic primaries in 2018: Female candidates overwhelmingly winning contested races. Both McBath and Bourdeaux are endorsed by EMILY’s List.
But it is the race to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Nathan Deal that has gotten the most heated in its final weeks.
Cagle’s campaign has been undercut by a secret recording in which he told a former rival the GOP governor’s race was a contest over “who could be the craziest” and admitted supporting “bad public policy” to undercut an opponent’s fundraising.
Kemp has bashed Cagle over the tape in television ads and debates and has labeled Cagle “Pinocchio.”
Some Republicans have worried that Kemp is a weaker candidate for November’s general election than Cagle.
But Vice President Mike Pence — whose chief of staff, Nick Ayers, is a veteran Georgia Republican operative — visited the state on Saturday to campaign for Kemp.
At the rally in Macon, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, Kemp said he was tired of “politically correct liberals like Stacey Abrams who are offended by our faith, our guns and our big trucks.”
Pence said Kemp would bring “the same type of leadership that Trump brought to the White House.”