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Pence will rally for Georgia Gov. Kemp, defying Trump, who backs David Perdue

In his most significant political break with former President Donald Trump to date, former Vice President Mike Pence will rally with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp the day before a May 24 primary. Trump is backing Kemp's rival, former Sen. David Perdue. Pence and Kemp are shown here in 2020.
Brynn Anderson
/
AP
In his most significant political break with former President Donald Trump to date, former Vice President Mike Pence will rally with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp the day before a May 24 primary. Trump is backing Kemp's rival, former Sen. David Perdue. Pence and Kemp are shown here in 2020.

Former Vice President Pence will rally for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp the day before the state's May 24 primary, the campaign announced Friday. Kemp faces a challenge from David Perdue, who ran and lost for Senate in 2020, but has support from former President Trump.

Pence's decision to rally for Kemp marks the most outward effort the former vice president has taken to buck Trump and his desired political outcome.

Pence joins other GOP figures like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts in backing Kemp, whom Trump has derided since the 2020 election. Pence's former chief of staff, Marc Short, recently joined the Kemp campaign as a senior adviser.

The former vice president's announcement also comes just days after a Trump-backed candidate in Nebraska lost his primary bid for governor. Ricketts' choice, farmer and University of Nebraska Regent Jim Pillen, won Tuesday night against Trump's pick, businessman Charles Herbster.

Kemp said in a tweet that he was "incredibly honored" to have Pence's support.

"The Vice President's leadership was instrumental in creating the most prosperous economy in American history, including here in Georgia, and his commitment to building a safer, stronger America represents the highest ideals of our party," Kemp tweeted.

"Brian Kemp is one of the most successful conservative governors in America," Pence said in a statement. "Brian Kemp is my friend, a man dedicated to faith, family and the people of Georgia. I am proud to offer my full support for four more years of Brian Kemp as governor of the great state of Georgia!"

Trump, meanwhile, has been actively campaigning for Perdue, and against Kemp, for months. At a rally in September, Trump called Kemp "a complete and total disaster." He added that Democrat gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams might make a better governor than Kemp.

Though Trump backed Kemp when he first ran for governor in 2018, his supported dwindled and then turned to detest after Trump lost Georgia in his 2020 re-election. Trump, in a stunning move, pressured state officials to overturn election results. When Kemp and others did not comply, he started publicly bashing them. Since, the former president's chief complaint about Kemp has been about election integrity.

Kemp has a comfortable lead in the polls and is expected to win the primary later this month. But if Perdue could get in the way of Kemp gaining more than 50% of the vote, the race could turn to a runoff.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Deepa Shivaram
Deepa Shivaram is a multi-platform political reporter on NPR's Washington Desk.