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SMYRNA, Georgia — Gov. Brian Kemp campaigned for the first time Saturday with GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker at a much-anticipated rally meant to show a united front among Republicans in Georgia ahead of the presidential runoff. December 6.

Kemp’s public show of support is seen as crucial to the Senate hopeful’s prospects, as the governor handily outperformed Walker in the general election. More than 200,000 Georgia voters backed Kemp but did not vote for Walker — and Walker and Democratic Sen. Raphael G. Warnock are making direct appeals to those voters. Walker, whose candidacy has been plagued by controversy over his private life, is the only Republican on the statewide ticket who did not win Nov. 8.

Speaking for seven minutes, Kemp stressed to a crowd of hundreds of supporters that “we can’t rest on our laurels here,” adding that the stakes in the race remain high even though the Democrats have already won control of the Senate.

“Don’t believe the political pundits who say, ‘Oh, that race doesn’t matter anymore,'” Kemp said outside a gun shop here. “It’s important… It’s not just about this month of December. It will be around November in two years. The future of our country depends on it. »

The rally took place in Cobb County, one of the counties where Walker performed the worst compared to the governor. Kemp lost to Democrat Stacey Abrams in Cobb County by 5 points, while Walker lost to Warnock by 17 points. Kemp received about 20,000 more votes than Walker in the county, which is part of the Atlanta metro area.

For months, National Republicans have descended on Georgia to boost Walker, but Georgia Republicans, like Kemp, have been slower to openly embrace the former University of Georgia and NFL football star, whose campaign was hampered by allegations of domestic violence and that he paid for two ex-girlfriends to have abortions.

During the election campaign, Kemp did not publicly rule out the possibility of opposing Walker and often stressed that he was working to get the entire ticket elected. Still, Kemp largely kept his distance from Walker during the general election campaign. This was most noticeable the day before the election, when Kemp held a rally with most of the statewide GOP candidates and Walker opted to hold his own rally.

But in the days after the election, Kemp and other Republicans in the state rallied behind Walker.

“Who do you want to fight for you in the United States Senate? Do you want a guy who represents our values ​​like Herschel Walker? Or do you want someone who supported Joe Biden 96% of the time? Kemp asked the crowd. “That’s the question.”

In his remarks, Walker thanked Kemp and his family for their support, noting that “we are in for a tough fight.”

“We need someone in Washington who’s going to represent you,” Walker said. “We need someone in Washington who will row the boat with Governor Kemp, and we need to go in the same direction.”

Kemp did not take the stage while Walker was speaking. They hugged as he introduced Walker on stage and again took the stage to shake hands and take pictures at the end.

The governor won his re-election bid against Abrams by more than seven percentage points, garnering 2.1 million votes. Walker received 1.9 million votes.

Georgia counties scramble to meet new deadlines as Senate runoff looms

Warnock’s campaign pointed out that he is the only Democrat with more votes than his Republican opponent on the statewide ticket. However, he fell short of the 50% vote needed to win outright under Georgian law. Warnock, Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, won the seat in a 2021 special election, seeks a full six-year term.

Earlier this month, Warnock released a 30-second ad featuring testimonial from a Rossville voter who was “proud” to vote for Kemp but did not support Walker. “I just can’t get over Herschel Walker’s lack of character,” she says in the ad. He ran a similar ad in the run-up to the general election featuring several of these voters.

Georgia Democrats held an event Saturday morning less than three miles from Walker’s rally, featuring remarks from voters who backed Kemp and Warnock in the election and plan to back Warnock again in the runoff.

“I’ve heard Herschel speak of redemption. But I was taught that redemption requires confession, contrition and responsibility,” said Heidi Moriarty, who lives in Buckhead. “The choice is clear, Georgia. I voted for Governor Kemp and Reverend Warnock on Election Day, and plan to vote again in the runoff for Warnock.

Warnock offered a bipartisan campaign message, calling himself a “hands-on” senator willing to work with anyone to deliver for Georgians.

“I have a reputation for being able to work with people across the aisle to get things done,” Warnock told reporters Friday night when asked about Kemp’s rally with Walker and his own courting efforts. the electors.

Warnock pointed out, as he frequently does on the campaign trail, that he is ranked the 18th most bipartisan senator in the Senate by the Lugar Center, a nonprofit founded by former GOP Sen. Richard Lugar. “No matter what my opponent says, he can’t erase that fact,” Warnock said.

Warnock is scheduled to make stops in several metro Atlanta counties on Saturday, including Gwinnett and Cherokee. Warnock won at Gwinnett by 20 points and lost to Walker at Cherokee by 38 points. He had also planned a rally with students from Emory University. The Warnock campaign announced on Saturday that musician Dave Matthews was scheduled to perform at a rally to get the vote Nov. 28 in Cobb County.

Walker supporters at the rally expressed hope that having a popular Republican leader like Kemp would help build excitement for Walker ahead of the runoff.

Paula White, 57, and Emily Chapmon, 68, of Smyrna, said they were optimistic Kemp’s public show of support for Walker would help shore up support from uncertain moderate and conservative voters in the EU. former soccer star.

“We need Kemp because he had such an advantage,” Chapmon said. “We must first be united within the Republican Party. When it’s divided, you know, then we don’t have prayer.

As Republicans fret, Democrats hail Trump’s shadow in Georgia’s Senate runoff

Chapmon and White said the reason they feel Walker hasn’t garnered as much support as other GOP candidates statewide is that former President Donald Trump has vocally endorsed him. Trump has encouraged Walker to run for the Senate, and he even shouted at her when he announced last week that he would run for president again in 2024.

“But now that Kemp is on board and they seem to have a common goal, we think we can take over Herschel Walker. [the finish line] now too,” White said.

Matthew Hardwick, 58, said he was glad to see Kemp fall for Walker, especially given the governor’s frosty relationship with the former president. Trump has publicly denounced Kemp for resisting pressure to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results. Biden beat Trump in Georgia by just under 12,000 votes. Trump has backed a primary challenger against Kemp.

“I think it’s a good sign that at least, at a minimum, for the good of Herschel Walker and for the good of the state of Georgia, that [Kemp] was here today,” Hardwick said. “It shows that, yes, he is going to support Herschel Walker no matter what Trump asks. This is great news for all of us.

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