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Kemp campaign slams Perdue’s opposition to Rivian
Cody Hall - Kemp campaign
Cody Hall, director of communications for Gov. Brian Kemp's reelection campaign, addresses reporters Tuesday afternoon, March 1, 2022, in Atlanta. (David Clemons | The Walton Tribune)

ATLANTA — A top aide to Gov. Brian Kemp’s campaign said David Perdue has a lot to answer for in his opposition to the Rivian plant.

In a news conference Tuesday, Kemp campaign communications director Cody Hall slammed the former senator hours before his appearance in Rutledge.

“He’s making a very big deal about people buying stock in this public company, and if there’s anybody who knows a lot about buying stock, it should be David Perdue,” Hall said.

“But it is unfortunate to play politics with 7,500 jobs and $5 billion worth of investment in a rural community that needs more jobs and more economic development.”

Perdue has scheduled a rally for 5 p.m. Tuesday in Play Fair Park in Rutledge. The town has been the center of opposition to the Rivian Inc. plant which Kemp announced in December.

The California-based company — with George Soros among the investors, along with Inc., Cox Communications and Ford Motor Co. — makes electric vehicles. It’s expected to break ground later this year and begin producing EVs in Georgia by 2024.

Rivian drew opposition centered in the Rutledge area with people concerned about the potential environmental impact and the conversion of previously undeveloped land, or land used for agriculture, to industrial use.

Perdue has keyed on opposition to Soros, a frequent target of Republican critics for his large donations to progressive causes. Soros also donated to a political action committee that supported Democrats Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock as they defeated Republicans Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, respectively, in the 2021 Senate runoffs in Georgia.

Perdue once had a close relationship with Kemp — they spoke together in Monroe at an October 2016 Walton County GOP meeting and two years later, the senator appeared at Kemp’s election night party in Athens. Hall said he couldn’t speak to the men’s working relationship on economic development issues while Kemp was governor and Perdue was in Washington, but it’s clear things have frayed.

“Obviously Perdue is listening to his handlers who have told him that in order to make some political points or to get some votes in the primary, that he needs to now attack 7,500 jobs coming to a local community,” Hall said.

He said Perdue needed to answer his statement, issued through his campaign Monday, that economic growth should be “organic.”

Hall said Georgia, during Kemp’s administration, has created 103,000 jobs through $32 billion in investment for 1,100 projects.

“Does David Perdue not want those 103,000 jobs because the economic development wasn’t, quote, organic?” Hall said.

Hall said Perdue’s first cousin Sonny Perdue, governor from 2003-11, put together a development package that lured Kia to West Point.

“He doesn’t want Kia, he doesn’t want 103,000 jobs that have been created while the governor has been in office. I think he should have to answer whether or not he thinks those jobs are viable,” Hall said, “and if he would promise not to utilize state funds or state incentive packages if he were to become governor.”

Perdue’s campaign declined to answer a similar question from The Walton Tribune on Monday, with an aide saying the statement “speaks for itself.”

Defending the project

Hall defended the process by which Rivian was lured to Georgia, and the state’s takeover of the zoning process last week.

He noted the East Atlanta Megasite, also known as Stanton Springs North at the intersection of Interstate 20 and U.S. 278, was a finalist for a joint venture of Toyota and Mazda and for a Tesla facility.

“That site has been known to be a megasite and an industrial site that was being pitched to lure companies to that area,” Hall said.

He said the state economic development team was “in close contact” with local officials during the process to attract Rivian, but said confidentiality is part of recruitment.

Last week, the Georgia Department of Economic Development announced it was accepting the Rivian site from the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton Counties. Making it a state property allows for streamlining the permitting process — but also takes away the oversight of local planning and zoning boards.

“The state coming in and overseeing the process is much like what happened with Kia,” Hall said. “In this situation, given that the site is crossing over three different jurisdictions, we would have had to go through 34 different zoning hearings.

“This will allow us to simplify the process, but I think the state economic development team has made it very clear that they’re very committed to creating committees that will hear directly from voters and from constituents in that area whether it’s from the environment, whether it’s from traffic, whether it’s from safety, whatever it may be.”

Kemp, Perdue and south Georgia educator Kandiss Taylor are seeking the Republican nomination in the May 24 primary. Qualifying will be Monday through March 11 at the state Capitol.