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February is Women's History Month!

How Georgia's Republican governor broke with Trump — and thrived

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (left) has swatted aside Donald Trump's claims that the 2020 election results in Georgia were stolen from him.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images, Joshua Roberts/Getty Images
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (left) has swatted aside Donald Trump's claims that the 2020 election results in Georgia were stolen from him.

When Brian Kemp launched his campaign for Georgia governor in 2018, he ran with the enthusiastic backing of then-President Donald Trump.

But by the time Kemp was seeking reelection last year, Trump was prodding a challenger to take him down in the Republican primary.

This week, that complicated relationship has again been on full display after Trump was indicted in Georgia for seeking to overturn the 2020 election.

Who is he? Kemp is Georgia's conservative Republican governor.

  • Following the 2020 presidential election, he rebuffed Trump's overtures for help in subverting the result in Georgia — a move that soured the relationship between the pair.
  • Kemp went on to soundly defeat his Trump-backed primary challenger in 2022, and then ultimately beat Democrat Stacey Abrams by a wide margin to secure his reelection.
  • Kemp also testified under subpoena for the Fulton County special grand jury that investigated attempts to interfere with the 2020 election result. That investigation ultimately led a grand jury to hand up criminal charges against Trump and 18 others.

  • Want to learn more? Listen to the Consider This episode on why the Georgia indictment may be Trump's most difficult legal challenge.


    Brian Kemp speaks at a campaign event in 2022.
    Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images
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    Getty Images
    Brian Kemp speaks at a campaign event in 2022.

    What's the big deal? Kemp has been one of just a few elected Republicans in prominent positions to push back against Trump while maintaining broad support among GOP voters.

  • Kemp has managed to walk a fine line, breaking with Trump while being careful about bashing him directly.
  • He has kept his base satisfied by accomplishing a laundry list of conservative priorities, like championing a roughly six-week abortion ban and signing a sweeping election law designed to mollify voters who harbored doubts about the integrity of the 2020 election.
  • He has also appealed to independents by refusing to relitigate the 2020 election and by focusing on the economy, including growing the state's electric vehicle industry.
  • Following Trump's latest indictment in Georgia, the former president says he will hold a press conference on Monday to present evidence of widespread voter fraud in Georgia in 2020. But Kemp is already swatting those claims aside.
  • "The 2020 election in Georgia was not stolen," Kemp responded on social media. "For nearly three years now, anyone with evidence of fraud has failed to come forward — under oath — and prove anything in a court of law. Our elections in Georgia are secure, accessible, and fair and will continue to be as long as I am governor."
  • At the same time, Kemp has called the Fulton County criminal investigation a "distraction" and has also commented that, "Every Republican running for President would be better than Joe Biden." Trump is currently the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president.
  • Brian Kemp (right) stands with former Vice President Mike Pence at a campaign event in May, 2022, during his bid for reelection.
    Joe Raedle / Getty Images
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    Getty Images
    Brian Kemp (right) stands with former Vice President Mike Pence at a campaign event in May, 2022, during his bid for reelection.

    What are people saying?

  • Some Republicans have lauded Kemp's approach, like former Vice President Mike Pence, who said on Wednesday the "Georgia election was not stolen."
  • "Brian Kemp once again showing the roadmap other Republicans would be wise to follow," Georgia's former Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan wrote on social media
  • But some of the most fervent supporters of the former president still fault Kemp for not doing enough to keep Trump in office.
  • And many Democrats view Kemp's comments as hollow, given that he has implied he would still vote for Trump if he is the GOP nominee.
  • So what now?

  • Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has requested that a judge set a March 4 trial date, but the case could stretch beyond 2024.
  • Georgia's Republican presidential primary is March 12.
  • Georgia is expected to be a critical swing state in the presidential race. The 2020 contest was decided by less than 12,000 votes.
  • A key question for 2024 is whether the criminal cases against Trump will shift any viewpoints on the former president or election integrity.
  • Learn more:

  • Donald Trump is indicted in Georgia for seeking to overturn the 2020 election
  • Why Trump's Georgia indictment won't shake his GOP support
  • As the 2022 campaign kicks off in Georgia, 2020 casts a long shadow
  • Copyright 2023 90.1 WABE

    Sam Gringlas is a journalist at NPR's All Things Considered. In 2020, he helped cover the presidential election with NPR's Washington Desk and has also reported for NPR's business desk covering the workforce. He's produced and reported with NPR from across the country, as well as China and Mexico, covering topics like politics, trade, the environment, immigration and breaking news. He started as an intern at All Things Considered after graduating with a public policy degree from the University of Michigan, where he was the managing news editor at The Michigan Daily. He's a native Michigander.