By Yashwant Raj
Washington, May 25 (IANS): In a major blow to former US President Donald Trump's efforts to keep a tight grip on the Republican party, a candidate backed and funded by him to run for Governor of Georgia state was beaten comprehensively by a fellow Republican in primary elections on Tuesday.
Brian Kemp, the incumbent Republican Governor of Georgia who is seeking the party's nomination to run for a second term, beat David Perdue, a former US Senator. Perdue was backed by Trump and funded by him — the only one to receive funding personally from the former President — to beat Kemp who earned Trump's ire and enmity for refusing to help him overturn the outcome of the presidential election in the state in 2020.
In another setback for Trump, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger also won. He had not only refused to back Trump's election lies but also rebuffed his pleas to "find" him the extra votes he needed to overtake then Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Raffensperger had also released a recording of the phone conversation in which Trump had pressed him to overthrow the mandate.
Georgia, a solidly Republican state, had voted for Biden in the 2020 presidential election and along with other key swing states denied Trump a second term, something the former President has still not accepted and has continued to hawk his now-thoroughly debunked claims and use them to raise funds.
Trump has not yet indicated if he will run for the White House again in 2024 but has sought to keep a tight hold on the Republican party. He has used his base of committed Republican voters, which is reportedly shrinking, and has weaponised his endorsement to buy loyalty and punish detractors in the primaries.
Trump's nominee for a senate seat from Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz, also did not fare well in the primaries last week and has only a slim lead over his rival David McCormick. A recount is on the cards, and the race could go into a run off if neither candidate secures enough votes.
Mo Brooks, a Republican congressman who was once a Trump loyalist but has since turned, has survived despite being dumped by Trump, who withdrew his endorsement. He is now in a run-off election for the US senate from Alabama state.
Trump remains a force in the Republican party and his endorsement is a much sought after commodity, but the party also appears keen to get out from under his shadows. Kemp and Raffensperger's victories are being taken as moves in that direction, with more to come.
Former Vice-President Mike Pence also appears to have decided to strike out on his own, shedding poodle-like loyalty to his former boss. He endorsed Kemp and robustly cheered his victory in a tweet Tuesday: "Congratulations @BrianKempGA on a Great Win in Georgia's Republican Primary! On To Victory in November!"
Pence has long been accused of enabling Trump by not challenging him on his lies and other missteps. But the former Vice-President withstood unrelenting pressure from Trump and his aides and did refuse to overturn Biden's election on January 6 as hordes of Trump's supporters overran the Capitol as a joint session of congress certified the 2020 presidential election.