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Divided Republicans, campaigns to factor in 2022 legislative session
State capitol

Former Sen. David Perdue challenging Gov. Brian Kemp in an upcoming primary shows a significant divide in the Republican Party that could affect what legislation is discussed this session. 

Local political experts said they expect legislators who are running for higher offices to focus on more “red meat” issues such as continued election reform, critical race theory and constitutional carry. 

Someone of Perdue’s stature challenging a sitting governor in his own party is unprecedented in the modern era, said Charles Bullock, professor of political science at University of Georgia. 

“Although the governor is not a member of the legislature, he is the biggest dog in the fight,” Bullock said. “So his being also challenged by a (Donald) Trump-endorsed candidate could well impact the kinds of legislation the governor proposes.”

This week, Kemp said he supported constitutional carry for firearms and some legislation has already been proposed that would loosen restrictions on carrying a handgun in public.

Local political experts said they expect legislators who are running for higher offices to focus on more “red meat” issues such as continued election reform, critical race theory and constitutional carry. 

Someone of Perdue’s stature challenging a sitting governor in his own party is unprecedented in the modern era, said Charles Bullock, professor of political science at University of Georgia. 

“Although the governor is not a member of the legislature, he is the biggest dog in the fight,” Bullock said. “So his being also challenged by a [Donald] Trump-endorsed candidate could well impact the kinds of legislation the governor proposes.”

This week, Kemp said he supported constitutional carry for firearms and some legislation has already been proposed that would loosen restrictions on carrying a handgun in public.

Gainesville Sen. Butch Miller is running against Sen. Burt Jones, R-Milner, who has received the former president’s stamp of approval. Miller and Rep. Timothy Barr, R-Lawrenceville, are the only local legislators facing primary challenges. Barr is running for the 10th Congressional District, which does not include Hall County, and faces seven other Republican challengers after U.S. Rep. Jody Hice announced he would run for secretary of state. 

Miller has said he isn’t concerned about the lack of support from Trump, and his campaign fundraising numbers from his last filing in June 2021 showed strong support with about $2 million raised. Campaign fundraising reports for Jones have yet to be released. 

Miller has proposed legislation to get rid of ballot drop boxes and eliminate state income tax, and he has said recently that legislation regarding critical race theory would be a priority. 

“By no means have I had anybody call me and say it’s being taught in Hall County,” he said. “But I have had discussions with folks all over the state about their concern about it.” 


Though many lawmakers have publicly discussed critical race theory, it may be unlikely for firm legislation to pass that targets CRT specifically. 

“Anything that comes out of it would be a more symbolic gesture than something that's substantive policy, because I think CRT is generally only taught at universities and law schools,” Price said. 

Douglas Young, a retired UNG political science professor, said that even though Trump’s endorsement may divide candidates in primary races, he suspects most Republican voters have much they agree on. 

“On the issues, I really don't think rank-and-file Republicans are divided at all,” Young said. “I think that most Republican voters in Georgia are united. I think that they are, certainly by present day national standards, very conservative.”

Price described running in a primary as a balancing act. 

“For those who have primaries, they also have to throw some red meat to the base,” Price said. “You have to avoid, I guess, getting pushed out too far.”

And down ballot races may not be swayed by Trump as much as high-profile contests. 

“I think the lower down the ballot you go, the more local politics or personal relationships with the candidates matter,” Young said. “I think that Butch Miller has far more name recognition — and that generally tends to translate into more fundraising ability — than Burt Jones.”

Some experts differ on how quickly Trump’s influence might wane. 

“Historically, I don’t think that’s going to be a lasting divide,” Young said. “The divide that exists now between your more staunch Republican Trump supporters, and the Republicans who are not as staunchly pro-Trump, to some extent, I think it reflects the difference between the more conservative rural Georgian Republicans and the more moderate, historically anti-Trump, long before 2020, urban Republicans.”

Price said he doesn’t see the division ending. 

“I think you just have this difference… between the people who are writing policy and the people …  who are kind of on all the talk shows, working the base. I don’t think that that’s going to go away in Georgia or nationally.”

 This article was originally posted by the Gainesville Times, a sister publication to Forsyth County News.