Election 2022

Good Riddance, David Perdue

In a campaign that began with promise and ended with racist invective, the former Georgia senator performed so poorly as to not even qualify for a runoff.


FiveThirtyEight reports that David Perdue, formerly a senator from Georgia, has failed to unseat Gov. Brian Kemp in the state's Republican primary. Despite name recognition and the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, Perdue failed to even keep Kemp under 50 percent of votes, which would have advanced them both to a runoff.

Trump, still chafing from his loss after the 2020 election, focused much of his ire on Georgia. In an effort to punish Kemp for his refusal to subvert the state's results, Trump convinced Perdue, who lost his Senate seat in the same election cycle, to challenge the governor in the Republican primary.

Perdue was elected to the Senate in 2014. While in office, he co-sponsored the Reforming American Innovation for a Strong Economy (RAISE) Act, which would have cut legal immigration in half. Despite initial reluctance, he came to support Trump's protectionist tariffs on Chinese-made steel and aluminum, which ended up lowering American steel output.

When Perdue ran for reelection in 2020, he billed himself "The Original Outsider"—this despite being a millionaire CEO, the cousin of then-Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, and a Senator for more than half a decade. At a campaign rally two weeks before the election, he referred to Kamala Harris, then a candidate for vice president, as "Kah-ma-la, or Ka-mah-la, or Ka-mala-mala-mala, whatever." The incident was widely derided, with Democratic Party of Georgia Chair Nikema Williams calling it "bigoted and racist." Perdue would lose in a runoff to Jon Ossoff, which helped cement Democrats' control over the White House and both houses of Congress.

Since entering the governor's race, Perdue has doubled down. Despite having genuine policy ideas, he functionally ran a one-issue campaign based on election conspiracies. At a gubernatorial debate, he called the 2020 election "rigged and stolen" as part of his opening statement. In a recent poll, Kemp led Perdue in every demographic except for one: those for whom "election integrity" was their chief concern. And the day before the primary, he told a reporter that he may not accept the results.

Most galling, this past weekend, Perdue spoke of Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee who is running unopposed. Referring to critical comments she had made about life in Georgia, Perdue said that Abrams, who is black, was "demeaning her own race." He further added, "Hey, she ain't from here. Let her go back to where she came from."

In 2020, Perdue defended himself after his comments about Harris by claiming that he "simply mispronounced Sen. Harris's name, and he didn't mean anything by it." But it's hard to characterize his comments about Abrams as anything other than a racist smear.

Ultimately, Perdue's campaign flamed out. Despite starting the race in a dead heat with Kemp, Perdue slipped in the polls and never recovered. And even though Trump publicly endorsed Perdue in December, more recently he complained privately that he would no longer do any campaigning on Perdue's behalf. (Notably, Trump did not go to the trouble of publicly revoking his endorsement, as he did with Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks.)

There could be any number of explanations for why Republican primary voters did not connect with Perdue's campaign. Hopefully, one main reason is that they looked past Trump's endorsement and saw a man without principles, who would say whatever it took to get elected. Kemp advances to the general election in November against Abrams, while Perdue's candidacy meets its ignominious end today, amid election conspiracies and racist attacks. Good riddance.

Elsewhere in the state, today's results were largely cut-and-dry: After prevailing in a 2020 special election, Sen. Raphael Warnock is running for his first full term in November. He faced only one primary challenger, whom he defeated with more than 90 percent of votes cast. In the Republicans' race to be Warnock's eventual opponent, the field was more crowded, but the results were similarly unsurprising: Despite being a political neophyte (and a resident of Texas), football star Herschel Walker easily prevailed in a field of six candidates. The former running back enjoyed name recognition, hometown hero status, and Trump's backing.

Like Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger earned Trump's ire for refusing to "find" enough votes for the former president to win Georgia in 2020. As of this writing, Raffensperger is holding off a challenge from Rep. Jody Hice, another Trump-backed candidate, with just over 50 percent of the vote.