Georgia Governor Brian Kemp booed and Sec. of state Brad Raffensperger censored at state GOP convention

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Georgian Governor Brian Kemp received booing and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was formally reprimanded Saturday at the state’s GOP convention for what critics say was their role in the loss of former President Donald Trump in the pivotal state last November.

Kemp has been criticized by the former president and his supporters for certifying the state’s election results that favored Joe Biden, while Raffensperger was reprimanded for allowing the use of absentee ballots in the past election, which Trump advocates say. stolen election claim was allowed for widespread voter fraud.

Kemp’s supporters tried to drown out the taunts and he argued for party harmony. Heading into his re-election campaign in 2022, the governor highlighted his achievements, most notably an election overhaul that GOP state lawmakers pushed in response to Donald Trump’s false claims he lost in November to voter fraud.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp was booed Saturday at the state's GOP convention for his certification of state election results favoring President Joe Biden against claims of voter fraud by backers of former President Donald Trump.  Kemp is pictured as a March press conference

Secretary of State Brad Raffesnperger was formally censored by the state party for his role in allowing the mass sending of absentee ballots during the past election amid the coronavirus pandemic.  Critics say voter fraud is allowed

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp (left) was booed and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (right) was censored Saturday at the state’s GOP convention for refusing to support stolen election claims from supporters of former President Donald Trump

The crowd at the Georgia GOP convention on Saturday wooed Governor Brian Kemp for his refusal to back claims the state election was stolen in favor of President Joe Biden

The crowd at the Georgia GOP convention on Saturday wooed Governor Brian Kemp for his refusal to back claims the state election was stolen in favor of President Joe Biden

“We must be strong and courageous,” Kemp said. He said of the Democrats, “They have Hollywood. They have billionaires in New York and California. That is why we must also be united and move forward together.’

The whoops drowned out Kemp’s speech about 30 seconds before he was able to speak. He was later also applauded for making Georgia one of the first states to reopen during the pandemic.

Still, Kemp never mentioned the former president who beat him up for months and then returned to the political arena later Saturday with a speech to North Carolina’s Republicans. Also, Kemp has never explicitly stated that the 2020 election was counted fraudulently or inaccurately, setting him apart from a parade of other speakers taking the stage, including one of his underdog primary rivals who received an exciting response.

Despite the vocal opposition, Kemp retained enough power to roll back a resolution condemning his handling of the election. At least 15 local party conventions from the 159 counties and two congressional district conventions from the 14 have passed such resolutions. But the state party’s resolution committee shelved the matter and Kemp opponents were unable to force a full convention vote on Saturday.

However, state delegates have censored Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, another Republican, for his more direct role in managing the 2020 election. Raffensperger, like Kemp, is seeking reelection and faces a primary challenge from Trump. backed Rep. Jody Hice in front of his seat. Unlike Kemp, Raffensperger did not attend his own party’s convention.

Trump addressed North Carolina's GOP state convention earlier in the day on Saturday, in one of his first returns to the political scene since leaving in January.

Trump addressed North Carolina’s GOP state convention earlier in the day on Saturday, in one of his first returns to the political scene since leaving in January.

The formal reprimand revolved around Raffensberger’s change in voting procedures to allow for mass absentee ballots, which, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution resolution, “created opportunities for fraud and flooded polling offices.”

The scene underscored Trump’s iron grip on the Republican Party, even in the defeat and the potential danger to Kemp or any other GOP figure who crosses the former president, intentionally or not. And it left many Kemp supporters worried that Trump loyalists’ continued fixation on 2020 will doom the party in the upcoming midterm elections.

“I am terrified of these anti-Kemp Republicans,” said James Hall, a 37-year-old deputy from Savannah.

Trump recorded a video message for the convention praising Georgian Republicans in general but never mentioning Kemp. Trump also promised that he would return to Georgia for a rally “in the very near future.” It was reminiscent of his pledge on Jan. 4, the day before Republicans lost the second round of the U.S. Senate in Georgia, to spend the 2022 race on “campaigning against your governor.”

Hall predicted that such division would see a repeat of the Senate’s runoff election when Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue defeated. The Republicans lost votes to hardcore conservatives angry over Trump’s defeat; and they lost votes among moderates who were rejected by false claims that Biden’s win in November was illegitimate. State election officials from both parties and across the country have vouched for the results, and multiple courts have dismissed Trump’s election challenges.

“If we keep playing these stupid games and say Kemp isn’t pure enough, we’ll give it back to the Democrats,” Hall said. “It’s just so counterproductive. He’s the only Republican who can win in November.”

The governor’s critics insist he deserved the opposition.

“If you don’t support Trump, you can’t play,” said Barbara Cunningham of Savannah, who has been involved with the state party for more than 50 years.

Kemp challenger Vernon Jones echoed that sentiment. Jones, a black former Democrat who supported Trump and switched sides to face Kemp, played up his race and his former partisan affiliation, reminding delegates that Trump and Ronald Reagan were once Democrats.

Former Representative Vernon Jones challenges Kemp in Georgia's 2022 gubernatorial primary

Congressman Jody Hice poses primary challenge to Raffensperger

Former Representative Vernon Jones (left) challenges Kemp in Georgia’s 2022 gubernatorial primary, while Congresswoman Jody Hice (right) poses a primary challenge to Raffensperger

Jones tagged Kemp, a lifelong Republican, with the nickname “Republican in Name Only.” “This state’s RINO leadership was sitting on the sidelines” when Trump lost, Jones said.

He called Biden “Jim Crow Joe” and insulted Stacey Abrams, the Democrats’ 2018 nominee for governor and likely 2022 nominee, as “the wicked witch of the south.”

“What are they going to do, play the race card?” Jones asked, laughing and roaring from the overwhelmingly white deputy body.

Kemp first angered some of the GOP’s right wing with his nomination of Loeffler, a wealthy businesswoman, to a Senate vacancy rather than increasing the preference of Trump, the then Representative. Doug Collins. That boiled over in November when Kemp followed state law by certifying Biden’s electoral college. He also declined to call a special session of the legislature to discuss — or attempt to reverse — the results.

“Kemp could have helped him, but he didn’t,” Cunningham complained.

Multiple recounts confirmed Biden’s margin in November of about 12,000 votes out of 5 million votes cast, making him the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia since 1992. In the second round of the Senate in January, Democrats’ margins widened. Ossoff defeated Perdue by 55,000 votes, while Warnock ousted Loeffler by more than 93,000 votes or about 2 percentage points. Both margins were above the thresholds leading to recounts.

To be sure, Kemp remains a favorite for the GOP nomination.

“He’s made it clear time and again what Republican voters want, whether it’s pro-life issues, tax issues, whatever,” said Kevin Gough, a delegate from Glynn County, where the convention was held.

Kemp has certainly crossed out such a list: tax cuts, new abortion restrictions currently being challenged in court, “measured” easing of pandemic rules to keep businesses open, opposition to “critical race theory” taught in Georgia public schools.

The boos, Gough said, “don’t speak for the whole party.”

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