President continues criticism of Georgia’s governor, secretary of state at Valdosta rally
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
VALDOSTA, Georgia (CFP) — In his first major public appearance since November’s election, President Donald Trump urged Georgia Republicans to turn out for January runoffs in two U.S. Senate races that will determine which party will control the upper chamber.
However, at a Saturday night rally in Valdosta, the president continued to insist that he won November’s presidential election and kept up his drumbeat of criticism aimed at Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for not taking action to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the Peach State.
At one point, Trump acknowledged one of his most stalwart supporters, Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, in the audience and asked him, “You want to run for governor in two years?”
While Trump’s appearance was designed to tamp down calls by some of his supporters to boycott the runoffs, the awkward fallout from the presidential race became apparent when Trump invited U.S. Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to speak briefly to the audience — and the crowd began to loudly chant “Fight for Trump” at both of them.
The capacity crowd — most of whom were not wearing masks — waited for hours at the airport in Valdosta for Air Force One to arrive. During Trump’s appearance, which lasted nearly two hours, they chanted “Four More Years,” “Stop the Steal” and “We Love You.”
Trump referred to boycott supporters as “great people” and “friends of mine” and said he understood the impulse to sit out the runoffs to protest the presidential election results. But, he told the crowd, “Don’t listen to my friends.”
“If the other side manages to steal both elections, we will have total one-party socialist control, and everything you care about will be gone,” he said. “If you don’t vote, the socialists and the communists win. Georgia patriots must show up to vote for these two incredible people.”
The certified results from the November 3 election show that Biden beat Trump in Georgia by 12,670 votes, becoming the first Democrat to win the state in 28 years. Two recounts have confirmed Biden’s win, and the Trump campaign’s legal challenges of the result have been turned back in every state and federal court where they have been filed.
But Trump has been publicly and privately pressuring both Kemp and Raffensperger to try to overturn his loss, which he claims was the result of fraud.
“You governor could stop it very easily, if he knew what the hell he was doing,” Trump said. “For whatever reason, your secretary of state and your governor are afraid of Stacey Abrams.”
Abrams was Kemp’s Democratic challenger in 2018 who led a voter registration campaign for the 2020 vote that has been widely credited for Biden’s victory.
Kemp and Raffensperger, who did not attend the Valdosta rally, have both insisted that while they supported Trump in the election, no legal basis exists for them to intervene in the election. And even if the result in Georgia were overturned, that alone would not alone change Biden’s victory in the Electoral College.
Raffensburger, who has been subjected to death threats, has defended the integrity of the election against Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of fraud.
The runoff elections on January 5 pit Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff and Loeffler against Democrat Raphael Warnock.
If Democrats win both of those races, the Senate will have a 50-50 tie, with the incoming vice president, Kamala Harris, giving Democrats control in her role as Senate president. If either Perdue or Loeffler win, Republicans will keep control, which would likely be a significant impediment to the incoming Biden administration.
Perdue defeated Ossoff by 93,000 votes in the November vote but was forced into a runoff because he did not receive a majority, as required by state law.
Warnock and Loeffler finished in first and second place, respectively, in an all-party special election for the state’s other seat. Loeffler was appointed to that post by Kemp last year to replace Republican Johnny Isakson, who retired because of ill health.
Collins, who finished third in the special election for Loeffler’s seat, has been publicly supportive of Trump’s fraud claims, prompting Raffensperger to call him a “charlatan.” Collins gave up his House seat to run for the Senate, which will leave him free to challenge Kemp in 2022.
Trump’s endorsement of Kemp in the Republican gubernatorial primary in 2018 was seen as a key factor in his victory — an endorsement the president now says he regrets.