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Trump-backed Perdue brings 'outcast' bid for governorship to Cobb

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Politicians love to call themselves “outsiders.” Few claim the mantle of “outcast.”

Making his first stop in Cobb County since announcing his run for governor, Republican and former U.S. Sen. David Perdue acknowledged the eyebrows he’s raised jumping into a primary race that, a little more than a month ago, had appeared to belong to incumbent Brian Kemp.

Referring to his first U.S. Senate campaign, Perdue told a packed room at the Cobb GOP headquarters, “We were the outsider then.” Things have changed. 

“I feel like I’m the outcast now, in what I’m doing.”

Last year, some two dozen state senators, including Cobb Republicans Kay Kirkpatrick and Lindsey Tippins, signed a letter to Perdue asking him to endorse Kemp rather than challenge him in this year’s primary. That letter was made public in December, shortly after Perdue announced his candidacy.

“Governor Kemp has led Georgia to the best economic time in history while navigating us through the pandemic better than all other states,” the letter reads. “Our GOP and state must be unified behind our Governor with a positive message to keep Georgia conservative and moving forward.”

On Saturday, Perdue said his candidacy “has nothing to do with Brian Kemp,” and briefly touched on his plans for the governorship.

If elected, Perdue would try to end the state income tax, he said. On education, he is “outraged at … what the schools are teaching our kids,” and wants parents “to be in charge of what our kids are learning in school.”

The sitting governor was not spared, however.

Perdue attacked Kemp over a year-old law that some say gives some incumbents, including the governor, a fundraising advantage in primary elections. And, referring to conspiracies surrounding the 2020 presidential election, the former senator said the governor “hasn’t done enough to find out what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Despite a record that appeals to many a conservative voter, Kemp infuriated die-hard Republicans and then-President Donald Trump with his refusal to overturn the 2020 general election results which indicate Joe Biden won Georgia by about 12,000 votes.

Before Perdue took the stage at the Cobb GOP headquarters Saturday, he played a pre-recorded video in which Trump gave the would-be governor his “complete and total endorsement.”

Trump’s claim that Democrats had rigged elections in the states he narrowly lost have, time and again, been rejected by courts for lack of evidence. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has said there was no widespread fraud in the election. Nevertheless, the belief there was fraud has taken root among many in the Republican Party and led to the demise of Perdue’s reelection bid as well as the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

“I would say that Perdue would have been reelected in 2020 if we had a unified party, and he, better than anyone else, could understand the dangers of a divided party,” Tippins said when asked why he’d signed the letter asking Perdue not to run. “I would point out that it was not Gov. Brian Kemp who was urging Republicans not to go vote in the senatorial elections, stating that their vote probably would not be counted.”

Perdue addressed that line of thinking in his speech Saturday.

“People are saying, ‘David, why are you getting in, running against an incumbent Republican governor, you’re going to divide the party.’ No I’m not. The party’s already divided,” he said to murmurs of approval. “What we got to do is pull it together. If our governor were able to pull us together and were willing to do that, wouldn’t he have already done that?”

Perdue acknowledged he and Sen. Kelly Loeffler both lost to Democrat challengers in their January 2021 runoff elections because so many Republicans had lost faith in the system and stayed home.

“That’s not a choice anymore,” Perdue said. “We have learned, we’ve done that, we’ve demonstrated our disdain for what happened in 2020. Okay. Let’s all get over that and move forward. Together.”