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Georgia GOP Civil War: David Perdue will try to unseat Gov. Brian Kemp

Perdue launches primary fight with incumbent after Donald Trump’s encouragement

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

GeorgiaATLANTA (CFP) – Former Georgia U.S. Senator David Perdue is running to unseat fellow Republican and former political ally Governor Brian Kemp in next May’s party primary, setting off what’s likely to be a contentious and divisive battle armed with an endorsement from Donald Trump.

perdue announcement

Former Georgia U.S. Senator David Perdue announces run for governor

Perdue launched his campaign in a December 6 video, in which he said Kemp can’t beat likely Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams and blaming him, rather than Trump, for the loss of two U.S. Senate runoffs in January.

“I like Brian. This isn’t personal. It’s simple. He failed all of us and cannot win in November,” Perdue said. “If our governor was ever going to fight for us, wouldn’t ne have done it already?”

Perdue also cast the prospect of Abrams as governor in apocalyptic terms.

“Make no mistake – Abrams will smile, lie and cheat to try and transform Georgia into her radical vision of the state that would look more like California or New York,” he said. “Over my dead body will we ever give Stacey Abrams control of our elections again.”

Video of Perdue’s announcement at end of story

Perdue, 71, was elected to the Senate in 2014. He lost his seat in January when he was defeated by Democratic U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff in a runoff.

He and his politically connected family had, until Monday’s announcement, been allies of Kemp. Perdue’s cousin, former Governor Sonny Perdue, appointed Kemp as secretary of state in 2010 and helped persuade Trump to endorse Kemp during his first run for governor in 2018.

One of the key issues in the primary campaign will be who is responsible for Republicans losing both Perdue’s seat and the seat of Kelly Loeffler in the January runoffs, which came two months after Joe Biden became the first Democrat to carry Georgia in 28 years.

In his launch video, Perdue implied that the decision by Kemp and Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to enter into a consent agreement with a voting rights group led by Abrams about verification of absentee ballot signatures led to the GOP’s defeat – a theory Trump has repeatedly advanced.

“Instead of protecting our elections, he caved into Abrams and cost us two Senate seats, the Senate majority, and gave Joe Biden free rein,” he said.

However, three different audits of Georgia’s 2020 election results have turned up no evidence of absentee ballot fraud. And results of the runoffs show that Perdue and Loeffler may have been done in by weak Republican turnout, after weeks of claims by Trump that state elections couldn’t be trusted.

Both Kemp and Raffensperger, who is in charge of state elections, refused to go along with attempts by Trump to overturn the state’s results, which are now the subject of a criminal investigation by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

Trump turned on both Kemp and Raffensperger after the November election and has been encouraging primary challengers to unseat both of them.  He enthusiastically greeted the news of Perdue’s candidacy and offered what he termed “my Complete and Total Endorsement.”

“This will be very interesting, and I can’t imagine that Brian Kemp, who has hurt election integrity in Georgia so badly, can do well at the ballot box (unless the election is rigged, of course),” Trump said in a statement.

There was no immediate response from Kemp to Perdue’s announcement, although the Washington Post quoted a Kemp spokesman as saying Perdue was running to “soothe his own bruised ego” after losing the Senate race.

As Kemp and Perdue battle it out on the Republican side, Abrams – who lost to Kemp by 55,000 votes in 2018 — is likely to face only token opposition in her primary, allowing her to save money for the November general election.

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Democrat Stacey Abrams launches another run for Georgia governor

Former state legislator narrowly lost to Republican Governor Brian Kemp in 2018

♦By Rich Shumate,

GeorgiaATLANTA (CFP) — Democrat Stacey Abrams has launched a new bid for Georgia governor, setting up a possible rematch with Republican Governor Brian Kemp — if he can get through his party’s primary in the face of fierce opposition from Donald Trump.


Governor candidate Stacey Abrams, D-Georgia

Abrams, 47, a former state legislator who founded a voting rights group after her 2018 loss to Kemp, announced her candidacy in a video posted on Twitter December 1, reviving the “one Georgia” theme that was central to her 2018 campaign.

“If our Georgia is going to move to its next and greatest chapter, we’re going to need leadership,” she said. “Leadership that knows how to do the job. Leadership that doesn’t take credit without also taking responsibility. Leadership that understands the true pain folks are felling and has real plans.”

In 2018, Abrams lost to Kemp by 55,000 votes, coming closer to winning the governorship than any Democrat had in two decades. She acknowledged Kemp’s win but refused to formally concede, alleging that voting suppression tactics had tainted the outcome.

At the time, Kemp was in charge of state elections as secretary of state.

After her loss, Abrams founded a voting rights group, Fair Fight, and led an effort to mobilize Democratic voters that was widely credited with Joe Biden’s win in Georgia in 2020 and victories in two U.S. Senate runoffs.

While she is unlikely to face any significant opposition in the Democratic primary, Kemp may not have that luxury.

Trump — angry that Kemp didn’t go along with efforts to overturn the 2020 results in Georgia — has been encouraging Republicans to try to take the governor down in a primary. His criticism has taken a toll on Kemp’s approval rating, which stood at just 42% in a recent Morning Consult poll.

Former U.S. Senator David Perdue is reportedly considering launching a primary challenge, which could plunge Republicans into ugly combat as Abrams stands by turning her national profile into a mountain of cash.

If elected, Abrams would be the first woman and the first person of color to serve as the state’s chief executive. However, Democrats haven’t won a governor’s race since 1998.

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No end of a lesson: Democrats discover Virginia is not that “woke”

Why leftward lurch in Richmond was a misreading of the Old Dominion’s electorate, leading to Tuesday’s political catastrophe

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

VirginiaRICHMOND (CFP) — Heading into Tuesday’s elections in Virginia, the Republicans’ theory of the case was that they could ride a backlash against two years of total Democratic rule in Richmond back into power – that voters in the suburbs were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

The results, if anything, may have understated the case’s potency.

Before Tuesday, Democrats held all three statewide offices and majorities in the House of Delegates and Senate. Come January, all they will have left is a one-seat margin in the Senate, where a defection from a single Democratic senator will create a tie to be broken by the new Republican lieutenant governor, Winsome Sears.

In other words, every Virginia senator can play Joe Manchin – and Democratic senators hoping to win re-election in 2023 may find it in their political interests to cooperate with Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin.

Since the Democrats’ debacle in the Old Dominion, the chattering class has been busy theorizing that the inability of Democrats in Washington to push through President Joe Biden’s domestic spending agenda is to blame. But there is a deeper, much more local, reason for what happened.

Virginia is not nearly as “woke” as Democrats had convinced themselves that it was, and they are now paying the price.

In 2019, Democrats took control of all of the levers of power in Richmond for the first time in a quarter century – and they proceeded to go off on what can only be described as a liberal toot.

Marijuana legalized. Death penalty abolished. Police chokeholds and no knock warrants gone. Background checks for gun purchases imposed. LGBTQ discrimination protections enacted. Confederate monuments removed. Waiting periods and ultrasounds before abortions eliminated. Voting rules eased.

Inexplicably, they even reached back into the 1970s to dust off the Equal Rights Amendment and ratify it – a purely symbolic gesture that will have no actual impact on policy, as its ratification deadline expired nearly 30 years ago.

The one person who might have stopped this march to the left was Governor Ralph Northam, but he was busy hanging on to his job in the face a scandal over wearing blackface in medical school that caused many in his own party to abandon him. He firmly jumped on board the leftward train.

Democrats would no doubt argue that all of those reforms they enacted were necessary, even righteous. But Virginia is still, well, Virginia — a generally conservative place populated by conventional suburban people, many of whom didn’t take kindly to being governed as if they were living in Seattle.

Whether from hubris or cluelessness, Virginia Democrats fundamentally – and fatally — misread their electorate.

The most fiery issue in the recent campaign was critical race theory, which Youngkin vowed to eradicate from public schools, even though it is not being taught in any public school in the commonwealth.

Democrats denounced Youngkin’s crusade as factually unfounded, silly and racist. But what they didn’t understand was that critical race theory was actually shorthand proxy for another concern of many parents – that teachers and schools were delving, or preparing to delve, into discussions of race and sexuality in the classroom in pursuit of a more just, tolerant society.

On Tuesday, many of these parents made it clear that they do not believe those topics are appropriate in schools, even in pursuit of admirable ends. Full stop. And they were prepared to reward Youngkin for his opposition, couched as it was in criticism of critical race theory that is taught in graduate schools, not kindergartens.

Republicans have struck a nerve here that will echo into next year’s midterms; Democrats need to come up with a counternarrative, rather than simply dismissing this heartfelt sentiment as irrelevant or racist.

Virginia Democrats’ last rampart against Republican rule is their 21-member Senate caucus, all of whom are all up for election in 2023 in a political climate they now know to be unfavorable. Their number includes Joe Morrissey, a colorful, unpredictable lawmaker from Richmond who opposes legal abortion, and Chap Petersen, a moderate from Fairfax who supports gun rights.

In other words, not much of a rampart with which to go scorched earth on Youngkin.

The statewide offices are out of Democratic hands until at least 2026, which means any comeback will need to be in legislative races.

The bright spot for Democrats in this regard is that new House and Senate maps will be drawn before the next election in 2023. Because of population growth, more seats will need to be located in the Washington, D.C. suburbs, where Democrats dominate, shifting some power away from more Republican areas.

Given that Republicans only have a two-seat House majority, and Democrats a single-seat majority in the Senate, those new maps could have a significant impact on party legislative control. And because the newly created bipartisan redistricting commission has imploded, those maps are likely to be drawn by the state Supreme Court, where partisan gerrymandering will be limited.

But even if Virginia Democrats hold their own in 2023, the total control they enjoyed for the past two years won’t come back for at least the next four – and at that point, they might do well to remember Kipling’s admonition: “We have had no end of a lesson, it will do us no end of good.”

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Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore advances to runoff for mayor; Kasim Reed falls short

Ken Welch wins open seat in St. Petersburg; Francis Suarez and Elaine O’Neal cruise to victory in Miami and Durham

♦By Rich Shumate,

(CFP) — Voters in four large Southern cities decided elections for city offices Tuesday, with the field set for a November 30 runoff for the open mayor’s post in Atlanta.

In Atlanta, where incumbent Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms did not seek re-election, City Council President Felicia Moore ran up a large lead in a 14-person race, but her 41% was not enough for the majority she needed to avoid a runoff.

In the battle for the second runoff spot, with all precincts reporting, City Councilman Andre Dickens held just a 576 vote lead over former mayor Kasim Reed, who was trying to make a comeback to the mayor’s office he held from 2010 to 2018.

Dickens declared victory for the second spot, but Reed has so far not conceded.

The race has focused on rising violent crime in the city and Reed’s previous time as mayor, with several former aides convicted or facing corruption charges. Reed himself has not been charged, but critics argued that the ethical problems in his previous administration should be disqualifying.

Bottoms, who led the city through the COVID-19 pandemic and was mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick for Joe Biden last year, surprised the political world in May when she announced that she would not seek another term as mayor.

In St. Petersburg, where Mayor Rick Kriseman is term limited, former Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch easily defeated City Council member Robert Blackmon.

While city elections in St. Petersburg are officially non-partisan, Welch is a Democrat and Blackmon is a Republican, and the race has taken on a partisan hue, with endorsements from party leaders on both sides..

In Miami, Mayor Francis Suarez won re-election in a landslide against four little known candidates.

In Durham, where Mayor Steve Schewel did not seek re-election, Elaine O’Neal, a former judge and law professor, will become the first black woman elected to lead the city.

She won 86% in the first round of voting in October, prompting the second-place candidate, City Council member Javiera Caballero, to suspend her campaign.

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Glenn Youngkin, Republicans sweep all 3 Virginia statewide races

Youngkin beats Democrat Terry McAuliffe in governor’s race; Republicans also win races for lieutenant governor, attorney general, on track to flip House of Delegates

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

VirginiaRICHMOND (CFP) — Republican Glenn Youngkin claimed Virginia’s governorship in Tuesday’s off-year election, defeating Democratic insider Terry McAuliffe in an embarrassing loss for Democrats just a year after President Joe Biden swept to a 10-point win in the Old Dominion.

Virginia Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin addresses supporters

Republicans also won the lieutenant governorship and defeated two-term Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring. GOP legislative candidates also appear to have flipped enough seats to take control of the House of Delegates.

For the past two years, Democrats have controlled all of the levers of power in Richmond, ushering in a series of liberal polity initiatives that incensed conservatives; come January, Democrats will control only the State Senate, by just a single vote.

Youngkin, a wealthy private equity executive making his first run for political office, took 51% to 48% for McAuliffe, who was trying to return to the governor’s seat he held from 2014 to 2018.

Speaking to jubilant supporters, Youngkin called his victory “a defining moment that is now millions of Virginians walking together.”

“We are going to change the trajectory of this commonwealth,” he said. “It’s time for Virginia to be the place where everyone wants to live, not leave — where the relentless pursuit for a better life, for prosperity, is not burdened or blocked by self-interested politicians.”

In the lieutenant governor’s race, Republican Winsome Sears, a businesswoman and former state delegate, defeated Democratic State Delegate Hala Ayala by a margin of 51% to 49% percent. She will be the first woman and woman of color to hold the state’s second-highest office, which includes presiding over the closely divided State Senate, which was not up for election Tuesday.

In the attorney general’s race, Republican State Delegate Jason Miyares defeated Herring by a margin of 51% to 49% percent, giving Republicans a post from which to launch legal challenges against Biden administration policies.

All 100 seats in the House of Delegates were up on Tuesday, with Democrats holding a 55-to-45 majority. With 10 races still undecided, Republicans had won or were leading in races for 51 seats, with Democrats winning or leading in 49, which would give the GOP a one-seat majority.

Youngkin had been endorsed by Donald Trump, although he did not invite the former president to come to Virginia to campaign for him.

McAuliffe hung Trump’s endorsement around Youngkin’s neck, hoping antipathy to Trump in the Washington D.C. suburbs would sink his chances statewide. But Youngkin used cultural issues and parental anger over school policies to outperform Trump in suburban areas and also increased Republican margins in areas Trump won, which could be a GOP blueprint for 2022.

This year’s election was the first since Democrats took control of both houses of the legislature in 2019 and embarked on a series of policy changes that drastically altered the political complexion of the Old Dominion.

The Democratic majority abolished the death penalty, legalized recreational marijuana, imposed background checks for gun purchases, eliminated waiting periods for abortions, protected LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment and housing, and gave cities and counties the green light to remove Confederate monuments.

Legislators even reached back into the 1970s to dust off the Equal Rights Amendment and ratify it.

Republicans used the backlash to Democrats’ shift to the left in Richmond that allowed them to flip the House and win the commonwealth’s three statewide offices.

Once reliably Republican, Virginia has shifted toward the Democrats over the last decade. Both U.S. senators are Democrats, as are seven of its 11 members of Congress, and the last Republican presidential candidate to carry the commonwealth was George W. Bush in 2004.

Still, history was on Youngkin’s side: The Virginia governor’s race is held in the off-year after presidential elections, and since the days of Richard Nixon, the party that won the White House has lost the governorship every time — except in 2013, when McAuliffe won a year after Barack Obama did.

McAuliffe loss is likely to  reverberate in Washington, where Democrats have been struggling to pass President Joe Biden’s agenda. McAuliffe has conceded during the campaign that Biden’s popularity has waned in Virginia, although he still brought both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in to campaign with him.

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