Trump experiences major setback as favoured candidate crushed in Georgia primary US election

Kemp decisively defeats Perdue in contest for Republican nomination for governor

Former US president Donald Trump has suffered a big political setback with his favoured candidate to be the Republican Party nominee for governor in Georgia being heavily defeated by a man he desperately wanted to unseat.

Current Georgia governor Brian Kemp decisively won the Republican Party primary election Tuesday.

Mr Trump had actively encouraged former senator David Perdue to run against Mr Kemp. Mr Trump provided about €2.4 million ($2.6 million) in funding to groups backing Mr Perdue.

The Georgia primary election for governor was seen by political observers in the United States as a key test of Mr Trump’s continuing influence over the Republican Party.

The former president has been playing in effect a role of kingmaker in the current round of republican primaries across the country in advance of the overall midterm elections in November — endorsing some candidates and criticising others. He has had a mixed success rate so far.

However, in Georgia the situation appeared to be more personal for Mr Trump.

Georgia was one of the key states where he was defeated by Joe Biden in the presidential election in 2020.

Mr Trump blamed Mr Kemp for not supporting his claims — for which no evidence has been produced — that the election had been rigged and for not backing efforts to overturn the result.

In the case of Georgia significant parts of the Republican Party establishment opposed Mr Trump’s bid to unseat a sitting governor.

The contest also became in effect a proxy war between Mr Trump and his former vice-president Mike Pence.

While Mr Trump backed Mr Perdue, Mr Pence campaigned in person for Mr Kemp.

At a rally in Georgia in March Mr Trump hit out at Mr Kemp as a “loser”.

“Brian Kemp is a turncoat, a coward, and a complete and total disaster,” he said.

In a statement on Tuesday in advance of the vote Mr Trump argued Mr Perdue was “a conservative fighter who isn’t afraid of the radical left”.

He contended that Mr Perdue was the only Republican candidate who could beat Democrat Stacey Abrams in the election in Georgia for governor in November.

Repeating the lie that Mr Kemp “allowed large election fraud” to take place” in Georgia in 2020, Mr Trump said that Mr Kemp could not win because his ” MAGA [make United States great again] base — which is enormous — will never vote for him”.

At a rally on Monday Mr Pence backed Mr Kemp.

“When you say yes to Governor Brian Kemp tomorrow, you will send a deafening message all across United States that the Republican Party is the party of the future.”

Mr Kemp was last night leading by roughly 50 percentage points with nearly three-quarters of the vote counted, far more than enough to avoid a runoff.

The victory for Mr Kemp sets up a rematch with his Democratic opponent Ms Abrams, who won her party’s nomination unopposed on Tuesday.

In the contest for secretary of state in Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, the Republican incumbent whom Mr Trump pressured to “find” the sufficient votes to overturn the election in early 2021, was significantly in advance of a challenger, Jody Hice, who was backed by the former president.

The secretary of state serves as Georgia’s top elections official, and the winner of the election in November will have great influence over how the 2024 presidential campaign will be conducted in a key battleground state.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, the right-wing congresswoman, easily defeated a more moderate challenger, securing more than two-thirds of the vote in her district.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent