Gov. Brian Kemp did on Tuesday night what just months ago some might have thought impossible: win the Republican primary outright against Trump-backed challenger David Perdue.

Perdue conceded at about 8:30 p.m., when results showed Kemp beating him by about a 3-to-1 margin.

“There's nothing they can ask me to do that I won't do,” he said. “We're going to do everything we can to make damn sure Stacey Abrams doesn't take over the state and let the mob take over our beloved children and grandchildren.”

Kemp’s win in the state’s primary sets an example for races across the country that an endorsement by the former president may not hold as much weight when voters cast their ballots.

The Republican incumbent campaigned on a record he’s carefully crafted during his first term in office where he faced large obstacles including navigating the pandemic and responding to mass social unrest. 

Still, the state’s economy remained strong — which he credits to his refusal to shut down businesses as COVID cases surged — and Republican lawmakers passed a flurry of conservative bills to appease their voters, including a new restrictive abortion law and sweeping election changes.

“For more years of a Kemp administration will mean that you keep more of your hard-earned money,” he said. “Your communities will be safe. Your kids will be in school without fear of partisan agendas in the classroom. Parents will have a voice and we'll keep working to bring good-paying jobs to every corner of our state.”

Kemp, a relative political newcomer, was propelled to victory in 2018 with Trump’s support but became a primary target of the former president’s attacks when he rebuked Trump’s efforts to overturn the Peach State 2020 presidential election.

During his victory speech, Kemp thanked supporters for believing in him and pivoted to the general election fight against Democrat Stacey Abrams.

“Tonight, the fight for the soul of our state begins to make sure that Stacey Abrams is not going to be our governor or the next president,” he said.

Perdue addressed a small crowd 20 minutes away at the Sheraton. After calling Kemp to officially concede and offer his congratulations, he was unapologetic for the criticism he launched at him during the campaign.

“Everything I said about Brian Kemp was true,” he told supporters. “But here is the other thing that is true: he is a much better choice than Ms. Stacey Abrams. So we are going to get behind our governor.”

He pledged he’d do everything he can to keep the governor’s office in Republican hands.

Gov. Brian Kemp and his wife Marty take the stage at his victory party after the May 2022 primary.

Gov. Brian Kemp and his wife, Marty, take the stage at his victory party after the May 2022 primary.

Credit: Riley Bunch / GPB News

Other Republicans weighed in on what Kemp’s blowout win means for the future of the state. 

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a once-rising Republican star turned one of Trump’s harshest critics, said that Kemp “deserves four more years to run our state.”

“At the end of the day, Brian Kemp is going to win because he's been a great leader,” Duncan said. “At the beginning of the primary process, it felt like a Trump endorsement was the end-all, be-all for a lot of these even down-ballot candidates. But the reality is what we've gotten here today, is that voters are now returning back to their senses and realizing that leadership matters."

Duncan opted not to run for reelection, but said Kemp's victory is encouraging for the GOP. Instead of another run for lieutenant governor, Duncan has crafted his own idea of the party’s future which he dubs “GOP 2.0.”

“I think that's really what we're looking for, is not necessarily if Brian Kemp wins today, but by how much,” he said. “And I think every percentage point he beats David Perdue by is another 100 miles in the right direction for the Republican Party.”

Even on the eve of election day, Perdue’s campaign was adamant he would remain victorious. 

At the Wild Wing Cafe in Dunwoody ahead of a pro-Trump event on Monday, Perdue blasted the media present for reporting that there was no significant fraud found in the Georgia 2020 election and reiterated false claims that voting was riddled with rampant fraud.

The Trump-backed former senator had centered his campaign around the false claims perpetuated by the former president. When asked if he will accept the results of the primary election, he answered: “Depends on if there is fraud or not.”

Perdue underscored the importance of the Peach State in the national political arena and called former President Trump’s endorsement “very important.”

“This is a statewide statewide race for governor but it's bigger than that,” he said. “This is a national race for the direction of our country.”

But he denied that his bid has deepened the divide within the Republican party on both the state and federal level.

Kemp will face Democrat Stacey Abrams in a rematch of the 2018 governor’s race.