Friday, April 16, 2021


New York magazine's Ed Kilgore notes that Brian Kemp's polling among Georgia Republicans looks a lot better since he signed the vote suppression law, after a period when he seemed like a dead man walking because he refused to help Donald Trump steal his state's presidential electors:
Kemp has eagerly been making the rounds of conservative media outlets to defend the new law, struggling, no doubt, to hide his glee at the liberal criticism it has attracted. The furor is helping him back home where it matters as well, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein observes:
In recent weeks, Kemp has been a mainstay on conservative cable TV shows and enjoyed raucous receptions at grassroots meetings across the state, seemingly dissuading better-known Republican rivals such as former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, whom Trump once recruited to run.
Morning Consult reports that Kemp’s job-approval rating among Georgia Republicans rose from 59 percent in mid-March to 74 percent in early April.
But Kemp does have a challenger:
Vernon Jones is a Black former state legislator and county CEO who endorsed Trump’s reelection last year and has more recently switched parties. He got a lot of MAGA attention, particularly after his featured role at the GOP National Convention. He has really taken to his new career in Republican politics, speaking at the notorious January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington and basking in the affection of the Big Man (“When are you announcing? When are you announcing?” Trump said to Jones at Mar-a-Lago last week).
Kilgore thinks Jones has some liabilities:
Aside from the fact that he’s a career Democratic politician from a jurisdiction (the Atlanta inner suburb of Dekalb County) that your average rural Republican wouldn’t visit on a bet, he has always had some issues, as Bluestein explains, calling him “a uniquely polarizing figure in state politics”:
Jones launched his political career in the early 1990s in the Georgia House before winning the first of two terms as DeKalb County’s chief executive officer in 2000. His stint was marked by controversy ...

[H]is angry outbursts and clashes with other local officials dominated headlines, as did more serious allegations ...

[A] wide-ranging special grand jury report released in 2013, after Jones left office, recommended an investigation against Jones and other DeKalb officials into possible bid-rigging and theft when he was chief executive, painting a picture of a culture of corruption that spanned from his office to workers and contractors in the watershed department.
Worse yet, Jones was accused of rape in 2005. His successful defense was that the intercourse in question was part of a consensual three-way sexual encounter. This is still not a great look for candidates in the Christian-right- dominated Georgia GOP.
Kilgore is a son of the South and I'm not, but I question whether any of this would bother MAGA voters. I'm certain that none of it would bother them if Jones were a white MAGA candidate. Ex-Democrat? Angry? Corrupt? Boasted about an exciting sex life as a defense against charges of sexual assault? All of that could describe Trump. Bible Belters love Trump.

But this could be a dealbreaker:
And speaking of the Christian right, Jones had a problem with a vote in the legislature against a “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban Kemp had championed in 2019.
Jones now supports the fetal heartbeat bill -- but this kind of thing matters to the Christian right. His flip-flop was recent, unlike Trump's. (Republican voters don't remember Trump's long-ago statements in favor of abortion rights, and he proved his Christian right bona fides in 2016 by releasing a list of potential judicial nominees that was heavy on Christianists.)

This and the fact that Jones is Black will hurt him in the primary. On the other hand, if Trump puts some real effort into backing Jones, he might have a shot.

However, what I suspect will happen is that Herschel Walker's campaign against Raphael Warnock will be of much more interest to Trump, because Trump prefers Black people who stay in their lane (sports), but he does love the reflected glory he gets from hanging out with jocks. I can imagine him showing up in Georgia and delivering a speech in which he praises himself (a lot), praises Walker (a bit), denounces Kemp (a lot) ... and barely mentions Jones's name.

So Kemp might survive the primary. Who'd have thought?

No comments: