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How Brian Kemp solved the puzzle of the Trump-era GOP


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The Washington Examiner Magazine

Salena Zito, National Political Reporter
May 19, 2023

ATLANTA — Brian Kemp, the 59-year-old son of an Athens farmer who was once trampled by a 750-pound bovine in a cattle chute, has developed a way of casting calm in the fiercest of storms.

Six months after soundly defeating Democrat Stacey Abrams in their second matchup in four years, he remains undaunted by everything that has happened to him in the past few years, from Abrams refusing to admit she lost that race four years ago to the strident national media criticisms of how he handled COVID-19, MLB's meltdown over his state’s new voting laws, the money spent to undo him as well as the pressure former President Donald Trump put on him to overturn the Georgia election results, President Joe Biden’s assertion he was enacting Jim Crow 2.0, and Trump’s return last year to campaign against him in the state’s primary.

Now, as the presidential primary contests loom without Kemp as a candidate, the governor talked to the Washington Examiner about his plans for Georgia as he enters his second term, his thoughts about Trump, and whether he has presidential ambitions of his own.


Washington Examiner: But given everything you’ve faced in office, aren’t you an example of how to answer the questions facing your party?

Kemp: I think it also just goes to what were my gut instincts at the time of a lot of really tough things that I had to deal with, whether it was civil unrest, COVID-19, reopening of small parts of our economy, taking a lot of grief in regard to that from the president at the time, but also from the Democrats and the national media. I mean, I remember, at that point in time, most people in politics would say I was a dead man walking. Nobody thought I was getting reelected. Nobody thought I could win a primary. But I was doing the right thing. I was doing what I felt like people in our state wanted me to do, and I got rewarded for that.

But it was also because we worked hard and we held our position and we fought for it. I was willing to stand up in a respectful way and disagree with people and tell them what my position was. And I think the longer that things went on and the farther we got away from the election and from COVID, people realized that I was being a true conservative. I was following the law and the Constitution, and I simply gave people their right to choose to open their business or go back to work. And I fought for them when a lot of other people wouldn’t, and they remembered that. And I think that’s why a lot of people that maybe didn’t vote for me the first time did the second time, because they said, “Really, I may have a governor that I don’t agree with all the time, but at least I know he’s going to try to do the right thing and he’ll be fighting for me.” And a lot of ways, I think that’s what the country needs right now.

Washington Examiner: You never took the martyr stance [when attacked by Trump]. Let’s talk about that part of your character.


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