Republicans talk unity in Georgia but censure Kemp, others

Full Screen
1 / 3

Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., greets GOP activists Saturday, April 16, 2021, ahead of the Fulton County Republican Party convention in Alpharetta, Ga. Loeffler lost her Jan. 5 Senate runoff in part because some conservatives considered her insufficiently supportive of former President Donald Trump and his false claims that the 2020 election was rigged. Loeffler, who is considering another Senate bid in 2022, told her home county Republicans that she visited Trumps Florida resort recently. She urged party unity and warned that anything else will end with Republicans losing Georgia again next year. (AP Photo/Bill Barrow)

ATLANTA – Kelly Loeffler had a warning.

The former U.S. senator from Georgia, defeated in a January runoff amid Republican infighting, told her hometown GOP committee Saturday that only a unified party can avoid a repeat in the 2022 midterms.

“What I saw in my campaign is that we need to do better. We just need to get to work doing it,” Loeffler told Fulton County Republicans at their annual convention.

Yet Republicans can’t seem to get past 2020.

In the hours after Loeffler’s plea, at least 10 local party committees voted to condemn Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger or both for not helping overturn President Donald Trump’s November defeat. Two counties already had done so. Additionally, Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer eagerly noted in his rounds to local conventions that he’s sued “a Republican secretary of state.” And in Fulton County, the state’s most populous, a flood of new delegates ousted several incumbent officers despite their pledged fealty to Trump.

The tension reflects the former president’s ever-tightening grip on the Republican Party and suggests that even unabashed conservatives like Kemp are at the mercy of continued finger-pointing and competition to be the loudest echoes for Trump’s false assertion of a rigged 2020 election.

Kemp and Raffensperger were both the targets of Trump’s ire after they certified Democrat Joe Biden’s narrow win in Georgia. Some counties added demands that Raffensperger resign.

A Kemp aide focused on how few counties out of 159 have formally condemned the governor, saying he's “grateful” for grassroots support and looks forward to a primary campaign where he can tout his “successful record.” A Raffensperger aide did not respond to a request for comment.