By DAVE WILLIAMS and REBECCA GRAPEVINEATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp captured renomination for a second term Tuesday, defeating former U.S. Sen. David Perdue in the Republican primary without the need for a runoff.
At 10:15 p.m., with 57% of the vote counted, Kemp had amassed 72.5% of the statewide vote to just 22.7% for Perdue.
Educator Kandiss Taylor, conservative activist Catherine Davis and retired software engineer Tom Williams trailed far behind in the low single digits.
Perdue took the stage at a Sheraton Hotel in suburban Smyrna at about 8:30 p.m., pledging to support Kemp in the November election despite the bitter campaign he waged against the incumbent.
"I just called the governor and congratulated him," Perdue told supporters. "I want you to do the same thing."
Kemp will face Democrat Stacey Abrams, who won her party's gubernatorial nomination unopposed.
"[Kemp] is a much better choice than Stacey Abrams," Perdue said.
Kemp addressed his supporters at the College Football Hall of Fame in downtown Atlanta about an hour after Perdue, touting his accomplishments in more than three years in office.
"We cracked down on gangs and human trafficking," he said. "We expanded access to rural broadband. We lowered the cost of health insurance, and we back and will continue to back our men and women in law enforcement.
"In Georgia, we protected both lives and livelihoods during the global pandemic. We passed historic tax cuts, raised teacher pay and brought the two largest economic development projects in state history to Georgia."
While Kemp and Perdue disagreed over some issues, Perdue focused his campaign on the governor's refusal to go along with former President Donald Trump's attempts to overturn the Georgia results in the 2020 presidential election.
Carrying Trump's endorsement, Perdue accused Kemp of ignoring evidence of widespread voter fraud, allegations that have been repeatedly dismissed as false in multiple court rulings.
Kemp said he followed the Constitution and the law, which gave him as governor no role to play in the certification of Georgia's 16 electoral votes in favor of Democrat Joe Biden.
Kemp also pointed to the passage of election law changes following the 2020 election imposing a photo ID requirement for absentee voting and restricting the location of absentee ballot drop boxes.
The governor defended his record on a host of issues throughout the campaign, including maintaining Georgia's status as the No.-1 state in the nation in which to do business and passing the "heartbeat" bill prohibiting abortions in Georgia after a fetal heartbeat is detected, typically about six weeks into a pregnancy.
Kemp cited his decision to reopen Georgia businesses during the early months of the pandemic as key to the state's quick recovery from the economic impact of COVID-19.
He also scored two significant economic development victories with announcements of new electric-vehicle manufacturing plants in December and just last week.
Perdue leveled some of his strongest criticism of Kemp at the $1.5 billion in incentives the state offered EV startup Rivian to build a $5 billion plant near Interstate 20 east of Atlanta. The challenger called instead for eliminating the state income tax as a better way to lure jobs to Georgia.
Perdue also argued that the election reform and anti-abortion measures passed on Kemp's watch didn't go far enough.
He said if elected he would push for legislation creating a new state law enforcement agency focusing solely on investigating voter fraud.
Perdue also called for a complete ban on abortion after the first draft of an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court decision apparently overturning the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion was leaked to the news media.
The Republican Governors Association (RGA) released a statement Tuesday night congratulating Kemp on his primary victory.
"Tonight, voters proved that Governor Brian Kemp is a results-driven leader who has always put Georgia first," said Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Pete Ricketts, the governor of Nebraska, co-chairmen of the RGA. "As we were in the primary, the RGA is all-in and we will be there to ensure Governor Kemp is re-elected this fall.”