A look at Brian Kemp’s increasing political influence
It was just a few short years ago that Brian Kemp was one of our most underrated and understated governors. But not anymore. Today, he is a power to be reckoned with, both in the state and nationally.
Who saw it coming? I didn’t. Former Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle looked like a shoo-in for governor in 2018 until he was caught saying something he shouldn’t have said to a former rival surreptitiously taping Cagle’s foot-inthe- mouth remarks.
What I knew about Kemp was that he was the son-in-law of longtime state Rep. Bob Argo, who was known for his support of the University of Georgia during my involvement with the national alumni association. The future governor was also a member of my fraternity, Lambda Chi Alpha, at UGA, as was another understated and effective governor and classmate of mine, Joe Frank Harris.
Kemp’s first term as governor coincided with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic and subjected him to a lot of second-guessing. The Washington Post headlined a piece saying, “Georgia leads the race to become America’s No. 1 Death Destination.” Given there was no playbook on how to handle this major public health crisis, the governor was among the last governors to impose statewide socialdistancing measures and among the first to lift them. While there was tragic loss of life in Georgia from the insidious disease, we were not the No. 1 death destination in either numbers of deaths or deaths per 100,000.
In the meantime, the governor was running a tight ship managing the state budget during the pandemic and, coming out on the other side, the state of Georgia has a budget surplus approaching $5 billion. As a result, we have enjoyed a one-time break in income tax, property tax and fuel tax.
Kemp is also making Georgia the hub for the electric transportation industry. Since 2018, 35 EV-related projects have contributed $23 billion in investments in Georgia. That means new tax revenue sources and local jobs in an industry with its future ahead of it.
Ironically, on a day when Donald Trump and his posse were pushing for speedy trials, delayed trials, no trials or change of venue of trials, Hyundai and its battery partners announced they were planning to invest an additional $2 billion at their 2,000-acre Metaplant under construction in Bryan County, in which they have already invested some $5 billion, making it the largest economic development ever in Georgia.
Speaking of Trump, a recent poll of Republican voters in Georgia by the Atlanta Newspapers shows he has a commanding lead of likely primary voters with 57% of the vote. No one else is even close. The same poll indicates, however, that 43% aren’t on board yet. Call them swing voters that somebody had better be courting.
The most astounding number to me is that Gov. Brian Kemp’s approval rating among Georgia Republicans is 80 percent! If Donald Trump had had those kinds of approval ratings, we wouldn’t be talking about his having lost an election he claims he won.
Kemp has been one of the few Republicans with the courage to stand up to Trump and his election deniers. He says, “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.” As for calls to oust Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis for indicting Trump and others, Kemp says it’s not going to happen, even though he thinks — and I think — her actions were politically motivated.
The governor, along with Lt. Gov. Burt Jones and House Speaker Jon Burns, are pushing back on an effort by Republican state Sen. Colton Moore, R-Trenton, to impeach Willis in a special session of the General Assembly, calling it “some grifter scam that somebody’s doing to help them raise a few dollars into their campaign account.”
Moore, who has about as much influence in the Senate as I have at Betty Crocker, called his fellow Republicans “buzzard cowards.” That sounds like something from a 4-year-old on the Kindergarten playground. Will somebody get this guy his binky?
In less than five years since becoming Georgia’s 83rd governor, understated and underrated Brian Kemp is now a respected and influential figure on the national political stage. That must drive the wingnuts crazy. And I couldn’t be more delighted.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at email@example.com or at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139