President Trump endorsed Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp on Wednesday in the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary runoff, throwing his weight behind a candidate who has echoed the president with a TV ad promising to “round up criminal illegals” in his pickup truck.
Kemp is in a dead heat with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle ahead of Tuesday’s runoff in the race to succeed Gov. Nathan Deal (R). An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll last week showed Kemp edging out Cagle 44 percent to 41 percent, a lead just outside the survey’s 3.5-point margin of error.
In a tweet, Trump praised Kemp as “tough on crime, strong on the border and illegal immigration.”
“He loves our Military and our Vets and protects our Second Amendment,” Trump said. “I give him my full and total endorsement.”
Cagle emerged as the top vote-getter in the May 22 Republican primary, with 39 percent to Kemp’s 25.5 percent in a crowded GOP field. But Kemp has made up ground in recent weeks, and the race has garnered national attention as both candidates spar over a secret recording in which Cagle told one of his former primary rivals that the election would hinge on “who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck and who could be the craziest.”
In a race in which both candidates have sought to mimic Trump’s combative style, Kemp, who has branded himself a “politically incorrect conservative,” has drawn notice for some of his boundary-pushing TV ads.
One of the ads shows the candidate wielding a chain saw as he declares that he’s ready to “rip up some regulation” and talking tough on illegal immigration.
“I’ve got a big truck, just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take ’em home myself,” Kemp says in the ad.
In another TV spot, Kemp points a shotgun at a young man sitting next to him in a room filled with firearms. “I’m Brian Kemp, this is Jake, a young man interested in one of my daughters,” the candidate says in the ad, as he prompts the teenager to list the reasons Kemp is running for governor.
At the end of the ad, Kemp tells the teenager, “We’re going to get along just fine.”
Trump’s endorsement puts him at odds with Deal, who announced Monday that he is backing Cagle in the race. Cagle also has received the support of Oliver North, the incoming president of the National Rifle Association.
The winner of the Republican primary will go on to face Stacey Abrams, the Democratic leader of the Georgia State House, who, if elected, would become the nation’s first female African American governor.