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Georgia gubernatorial candidate and former Sen. David Perdue and incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp pulled no punches in attacking each other Thursday night in a debate for the Republican Party nomination for governor.
In the final debate before early voting begins May 2, the two Republican candidates sparred over familiar issues like the handling of the 2020 election, former President Trump’s endorsement, crime in Georgia, and who had the better plans to stave off economic pain from record-high inflation.
Each candidate returned to familiar lines of attack related to the 2020 election, with Perdue charging that Kemp had divided the Republican Party and lost the trust of voters.
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“People have lost confidence in you, and confidence in the voting system. You won’t own up to the fact that you actually certified the election, governor, without investigation,” Perdue said.
“Lord of mercy, there’s a lot of spaghetti being thrown on the wall,” Kemp responded, adding that the FBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigations and his own office had conducted investigations.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp looks on during the celebration honoring the Georgia Bulldogs national championship victory on Jan. 15, 2022, in Athens, Georgia.
(Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Kemp stridently defended his record and expressed exasperation at Perdue’s statements. “Senator Perdue is lying about my record because he doesn’t have one of his own,” Kemp said, a phrase he repeated numerous times throughout the hour-long debate.
Perdue accused Kemp of violating his oath of office by suppressing claims of voter fraud after the 2020 election, and blamed the governor for his own loss to Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff in the January 2021 special election.
Perdue insisted that he won the special election by 90,000 votes, to which Kemp responded: “If you beat Jon Ossoff, why are you not a U.S. senator?”
“Because you let him steal the election, governor,” Perdue said.
At another point, Perdue accused Kemp of refusing to fix election laws after the November 2020 election related to signature verification, ballot harvesting, and unsecured drop boxes — which he claimed contributed to his loss against Ossoff.
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“Lord of mercy, he’s lying again folks. It’s really sad,” Kemp said. “You can’t go and change the laws in the middle of an election that’s happening, which includes your runoff,” he continued.
Perdue defended his proposal to end the state income tax and called for the creation of “an election law enforcement agency that does nothing but enforce election laws.”
FILE – Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., speaks during a “Save the Majority” rally in Augusta, Ga. on Dec. 10, 2020.
(AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Kemp called Perdue’s plan to end the state income tax “fuzzy, Washington D.C. math” because it would require raising other taxes to make up for $14 billion in revenue — around half of the state budget. Perdue hit back that Kemp took “several hundred million dollars” to invest in a development with Rivian Automotive, an electric truck startup, which George Soros invested in earlier this year.
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Perdue also stated that Georgia would attract more business if crime rates had been lower under Kemp’s watch and the state had no income tax.
Perdue’s position was that even if Kemp won the primary nomination, he would never get Trump’s endorsement — and that would likely mean he’d lose against Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams in November .
“I believe with [Trump’s endorsement], and with everyone’s help and vote, we will stop this madness and we will beat Stacey Abrams, even though our governor has divided the party,” Perdue said.
“I’m in here to protect my state, this man has sold us out to the radical left,” Perdue said.
Kemp insisted he has the record to beat Abrams a second time. “We’ve gotta have someone that will focus on today and focus on how we win in November — not try to look back like David Perdue and Stacey Abrams have been, and not admit that they lost an election because they didn’t have a record to win,” Kemp said.
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