Kemp got Trump’s anger after he refused to intervene and overturn Georgia’s election result. He said Sunday he was following the law and the state constitution.
“You’re the top officer in this state,” Perdue shot back. “It is your responsibility to make sure we investigate voter fraud.”
Kemp restrained himself by that.
“I was foreign minister for eight years and I do not need to be lectured by someone who has lost his last election on what the voting laws are in our state,” Kemp said.
The bitter confrontation between the former allies comes a month before the Republican primary. And it sometimes got the tone of a family feud, Kemp remembers when they campaigned together.
“When we were riding the bus and I was campaigning for you in the runoff, did you ever ask me to have a special session?” asked a visibly annoyed Kemp.
“Of course I did,” Perdue replied
“No, you did not,” Kemp insisted.
Asked if he shared the GOP by launching a primary challenge for Kemp, Perdue said the party “was already divided.”
“The only reason I am running for governor is to try to save our state,” Perdue said. “The awake left has entrenched itself here.”
Kemp disproved that he beat Democrat Stacey Abrams once and can do it again.
“I will promise you this tonight, if you will nominate me as your Republican candidate, I will work every single day … to make sure Stacey Abrams is never your governor or your next president.”
One of the sharpest disagreements of the night came over the question of Buckhead being proposed to become a city.
“I personally support their separation from the city of Atlanta,” Perdue said.
Kemp went on to say that he “kept his powder dry” and let the debate play out.
But he claimed he had invested heavily in crime prevention – a factor in the city’s push – and said that while Perdue has talked about the problem, “I have done something about it.”
When they were done, Perdue Kemp called for a “weak governor” who had presided over high crime rates, indoctrination of school children and a stolen election.
Kemp opposed that Perdue attacked his record because he did not have one of his own, which was why he lost his re-election bid to the Senate.
Sunday marked a return to the debate stage for Perdue, who famously skipped a debate with Ossoff. Kemp also missed his second and final debate against Abrams in 2018, after Trump had scheduled a campaign rally for the same night.
Sunday night’s match-up begins a week of debates between Kemp and Perdue ahead of the May 24 Republican primary. Republicans Catherine Davis, Kandiss Taylor and Tom Williams have also qualified for the gubernatorial race, but were not invited to the WSB debate because they had not reached the required threshold in Georgia’s polls set for the debate.
The next debate will be held Thursday on the WTOC in Savannah, followed by an Atlanta Press Club debate on May 1 broadcast by Georgia Public Broadcasting.
If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the contest will go to a re-election on June 21st. The winner will face Abrams in the November general election.