Toting tired election fraud conspiracies, Republican candidates angle for Governor Kemp’s seat at debate

Sunday's Atlanta Press Club debate was dominated by bogus claims about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election, with the candidates mostly unified behind the fact that no matter what, Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams cannot become governor

Atlanta Press Club Republican gubernatorial primary debate
Governor Brian Kemp and former Senator David Perdue debate on Sunday evening during the Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk Young Debate.

Photograph by Brian Cahn-Pool/ZUMA Press

Hot air filled the TV studio at Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Midtown office during the Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk Young gubernatorial debate Sunday night, as four of the five Republican primary candidates for Georgia governor billowed bogus and played-out claims about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election.

Baselessly slurring President Joe Biden as a “fraudulent pedophile,” educator Kandiss Taylor insisted bad actors “hijacked” the election from former President Donald Trump, and that frontrunner and incumbent Governor Brian Kemp was complicit in the fix.

Tom Williams, a retired software engineer who once worked at Robins Air Force Base, alleged Kemp “put Joe Biden where he is today” by disregarding election law violations that tipped the scales in the current commander-in-chief’s favor—a claim that have been widely debunked by journalists and voting experts since they cropped up two years ago.

Nonprofit leader Catherine Davis and former U.S. Senator David Perdue, Kemp’s most threatening opponent, also echoed those nonsensical beliefs Sunday, while, ironically, touting concerns of rampant misinformation from politicians and the press.

Kemp reiterated that he was as bummed as anyone that former President Donald Trump lost the White House in November 2020, though he said the Election Integrity Act of 2021a controversial new law that imposes restrictions on voting systems and practices—ironed out many of the concerns over election security that, for reasons still confounding political scientists, linger long after the results were confirmed over three separate tallies and upheld by bipartisan officials.

Atlanta Press Club Republican gubernatorial primary debate
The Republican gubernatorial candidates (L-R): Catherine Davis, Brian Kemp, David Perdue, Kandiss Taylor, and Tom Williams.

Screenshot via GPB/Atlanta Press Club

After the debate, Davis and Williams—Kemp and Perdue did not stick around to talk with reporters—even said they wouldn’t trust the results of the race in which they’re running. Despite their skepticism of the elections systems, they encouraged folks to still vote. Every eligible voter should pull the lever when they can, Davis said, “so they can absolutely say they participated in the process that our Constitution guarantees,” even though their votes might be in vain. Williams, too, said voting is important, since, “if you don’t vote, your vote surely doesn’t count.”

Asked whether they’d support the Republican nominee if their bid don’t pan out, most candidates sounded a familiar refrain: Democrat Stacey Abrams can never become governor.

Atlanta Press Club Republican gubernatorial primary debate
Tom Williams

Screenshot via GPB/Atlanta Press Club

Williams said jabs at Kemp are standard politicking, and that he’d back the current governor if he wins the primary. Taylor and Perdue said much the same.

Atlanta Press Club Republican gubernatorial primary debate
Catherine Davis

Screenshot via GPB/Atlanta Press Club

Davis, however, said she’d have to take a hard look at the race post-primary. “I had hoped this debate was going to be showcasing our answers to the many problems plaguing Georgia,” she said. “Stacey Abrams is not the standard by which the voters should measure the next governor of Georgia. You’ve turned her into the boogeyman.”

“The way you get rid of the boogeyman is to turn the lights on,” she added, nodding to the need to actually parse policy ambitions—including her plans to give parents more say in their kids’ education, restrict access to abortions, and bolster “medical freedom” (e.g. the right to not be vaccinated)—rather than hurling ad hominem attacks at the competition.

Early voting is now underway for the May 24 primary election, and Georgians will pick their next governor in November.

Watch the full debate below: