ATLANTA, GA — President Donald Trump has endorsed Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp just days ahead of a neck-and-neck runoff election in the Republican primary for governor.
Trump’s endorsement comes two days after Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal endorsed Kemp’s opponent, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle — splitting what are considered the two most influential endorsements in what has become a bitter inner-party fight for the nomination.
The winner in Tuesday’s runoff election will face state House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams, who handily won her party’s nod in May.
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"Brian is tough on crime, strong on the border and illegal immigration," Trump wrote on Twitter. "He loves our Military and our Vets and protects our Second Amendment. I give him my full and total endorsement."
In 2016, Trump won 51 percent of the vote in Georgia — 2,076,119 votes — to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s nearly 46 percent, or 1,853,445 votes.
Before Trump weighed in, Kemp’s most noteworthy endorsement likely was that of state Sen. Hunter Hill, the third-place finisher in the GOP primary. Hill took about 18 percent of the vote in the primary.
In Georgia, if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff is held. Cagle finished primary night with about 39 percent of the vote, compared to about 26 percent for Kemp.
Since then, the race has tightened, leading to a series of nasty back-and-forth attack ads and testy exchanges in a handful of debates between Cagle and Kemp.
An AJC/Channel 2 Action News poll of likely voters released last week showed Kemp with 44 percent of the vote, Cagle with 41 percent and about 15 percent still undecided. The difference between the two candidates was within the poll’s 3.5 percent margin of error.
Early voting already is under way for the July 24 runoff elections.
Brian Kemp is running for Governor of the great state of Georgia. The Primary is on Tuesday. Brian is tough on crime, strong on the border and illegal immigration. He loves our Military and our Vets and protects our Second Amendment. I give him my full and total endorsement.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2018
Photo courtesy Georgia Secretary of State’s office