Georgia's GOP governor under fire after US Senate losses

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, center, holds a press conference Wednesday evening, Jan. 6, 2021, at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, to condemn the breach of the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)

ATLANTA – Even though he wasn’t on the ballot, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has been painfully bruised by the 2020 elections.

In a state long dominated by Republicans, Democrats won Georgia’s electoral votes for president in November and two U.S. Senate seats in runoff elections Tuesday, defeating Kemp's hand-picked Senate appointee. President Donald Trump, furious at Kemp for resisting efforts to overturn Trump's election loss, vowed to oppose the governor’s reelection next year.

Trump loyalists are already working to recruit a primary challenger. Meanwhile, Democrats who have gained strength in Georgia since Stacey Abrams’ narrow 2018 loss to Kemp are spoiling for revenge.

“Gov. Kemp, you’re next. See you in 2022,” the Democratic Governors Association tweeted Wednesday as the upset victories of Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in the Georgia Senate races came to light.

The governor's political capital took a serious hit with the loss of Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler. A year ago, he chose the wealthy businesswoman and political novice to fill the seat vacated by retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson, in part to help Republicans win back support among suburban women. In doing so, he passed over more experienced contenders — including Trump’s personal choice, former GOP Rep. Doug Collins.

The gamble failed. And the defeats of both Loeffler and fellow Republican David Perdue handed control of the U.S. Senate to Democrats.

“Brian Kemp is the governor of the Titanic,” said Debbie Dooley, president of the Atlanta tea party and a Republican activist. “His governorship hit a big iceberg and it’s going down.”

Dooley said she and other Trump supporters are recruiting candidates to challenge Kemp and other Republican officials deemed disloyal to Trump. Among them: Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who repeatedly refused to back baseless claims that Trump won the election, and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who rejected the president’s pleas to “find” more Trump votes in a recorded phone call that became public.