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Brian Kemp, Herschel Walker sail forward in Georgia GOP primary
05232022 Brian Kemp
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a Get Out the Vote Rally on May 23, 2022, in Kennesaw. - photo by Associated Press

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp won the state's Republican primary for governor on Tuesday, beating back former President Donald Trump's hand-picked challenger.

Still, Trump's preferred Senate candidate, former NFL star Herschel Walker, easily prevailed in his primary, while a Trump-backed candidate to serve as Georgia's chief election officer was still in the running early Tuesday evening. 

Trump personally recruited former Sen. David Perdue to challenge Kemp, who rejected claims of widespread voter fraud in Georgia. Kemp emerged as a powerful fundraiser with a list of conservative accomplishments to blunt Trump's opposition. In the final days of the campaign, he unveiled plans for a $5.5 billion, 8,100-job Hyundai Motor plant near Savannah.

Perdue's allies braced for a lopsided defeat, the only question being whether Kemp would win the 50% majority he needed to avoid a runoff election next month.

"We're not going to have a runoff," said Martha Zoller, a longtime Republican activist and northeast Georgia talk show host with ties to both Trump and Perdue. "It's going to be embarrassing."

The results could raise questions about where power resides within the GOP. While Trump remains deeply popular among the party's most loyal voters, the opening stage of the midterm primary season has shown they don't always side with his picks. Other prominent Republicans, meanwhile, are growing increasingly assertive.

Trump's own vice president, Mike Pence, rallied with Kemp in the Atlanta suburbs on Monday evening.

"Elections are about the future," he told the crowd, adding that "when you vote for Brian Kemp tomorrow, you will say yes to a future of freedom here in Georgia. You will say yes to our most cherished values at the heart of everything we hold dear."

Trump, meanwhile, held a telephone rally for Perdue, describing him as "100% MAGA."

Meanwhile, Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams secured the Democratic nomination after running unopposed.