Pence campaigns for Brian Kemp as he faces a Trump-backed challenger in Georgia

Former Vice President Mike Pence will headline a campaign event on the eve of next week’s primary for Governor Brian Kemp, who faces a Trump-backed primary challenger in former Senator David Perdue

Pence will gather with Kemp on Monday, May 23, ahead of the May 24 GOP primaries in Georgia. Former President Trump has thrown his weight behind Purdue — the former president still harbors a grudge against Kemp for refusing to undo the results of Georgia’s 2020 presidential election. The Atlanta Journal Constitution first reported that the former vice president would campaign for Kemp.

The approval sparks a proxy war between Pence and Trump in a key battlefield. Trump has directed his anger at the 2020 election at Kemp for certifying the election results in his state. He encouraged Perdue to hold a primary against him, and Perdue has repeated Trump’s false claims about the election. In a recent debate, Perdue even started his opening statement by saying that the election had been stolen.

Georgia’s gubernatorial election will be another major test of Trump’s approval power. Kemp leads the polls, his campaign based on his record as the incumbent and focused on jobs and the economy, contrasting with likely Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams.

Pence’s endorsement also shows how far he can build his political capital in this year’s midterm elections, signaling his ambitions to run for the GOP nomination in 2024. While he was vice president, he campaigned for Perdue and Senator Kelly Loeffler in the second round of state races in January 2021 and urged Republicans to vote for the two Republican incumbent officials as a last line of defense against a Democratic Senate. At the time, Trump focused on a “rigged election” that Republican agents in the state believed were preventing their voters from running in the second round. In the end, Perdue and Loefller lost their races and the Democrats took control of the Senate.

Pence has clashed with Trump over the validity of the 2020 election and the former president’s suggestion that Pence could have somehow changed the outcome.

“There are those in our party who believe that as chairman of the joint session of Congress, I had unilateral power to reject votes in the electoral college,” Pence said in a February address to the Federalist Society:† “And I heard this week that President Trump said I had the right to undo the election. President Trump is wrong. I had no right to undo the election.”

Kemp has stood his ground in defending the way he and Georgia’s election officials have handled the 2020 presidential campaign. Kemp was elected to the governor’s office in 2018, defeating Democrat Stacey Abrams. If he wins the primary, he will face Abrams again, who is an unopposed candidate for the Democratic nomination.

Aaron Navarro contributed to this report.

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