- Georgia Republicans are voting now to either back Gov. Brian Kemp or Trump-endorsed David Perdue.
- Trump has railed against Kemp for not going along with his false claims of 2020 election fraud.
- Some voters say sticking with Kemp makes more sense to them than making waves to satisfy Trump's demands.
ATLANTA, Georgia — Republicans voting for Brian Kemp in today's GOP primary are openly defying Donald Trump's orders to boot their incumbent governor for not complying with the former president's campaign to overturn Georgia's 2020 election results.
Over the last few days, Insider has spoken with dozens of Republicans across Georgia leading up to Tuesday's primary where Kemp who has the backing of former Vice President Mike Pence is up against Trump-endorsed former Sen. David Perdue.
While many of the voters who talked with Insider would have wished Trump had won the 2020 elections, they said they've since realized there was little Kemp could have done to save the day and that he shouldn't be punished on Tuesday for that.
And although the Republican voters across the state said they appreciated what Trump accomplished during his single term in office, they were willing to break with him by putting Kemp back up for reelection this fall because they're mostly happy about how things are going in Georgia.
"He's not coming in and disrupting," Augusta resident James Carroll, 30, said of Kemp's strategy. "We're going in the right direction as a state. We don't need to change that."
While she self-identified as a "big Trump supporter," Richmond County resident Kathy Price, 78, said she and her husband, Larry Price, 75, simply trusted Kemp more than Trump-endorsed challenger David Perdue.
"He's from Georgia. He's a small business owner. He's conservative," Price said of Kemp's qualifications, adding that, "He comes across as being real honest and a righteous person."
Trump and Perdue have gone after Kemp for properly certifying Joe Biden's win in 2020, portraying him as disloyal and weak for refusing to go along with Trump's baseless election fraud claims.
Kemp has pushed back, without directly attacking Trump, by touting the election reforms he signed into law in 2021, and standing behind the multiple 2020 recounts and audits he oversaw alongside Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger.
For pro-Kemp Republicans, his ability to fend off the attacks from Trump's team and others during his first term in office means he's a battle-tested leader they can trust.
David Gault, a 62-year-old Cobb County resident, said Kemp has mostly been a great leader. Where he fell short, Gault said, is convincing MAGA world that "I did everything I could, legally" about the 2020 presidential race.
"Most of the voters in this state don't even understand that if there's an election issue, it's between the secretary of state and the judiciary," Gault said of the wonky civics issues involved. He added that Kemp "has limited powers" when it comes to inserting himself into local elections — and rightly so.
Gault warns people still holding on to those grievances and wishing for Kemp to meddle in local elections that it could backfire on them.
"If he does it now if there's a Democratic governor and something happens, what are they going to do?" Gault said. "But It's hard to communicate that to many people who are just upset about maybe Donald Trump not becoming president."
In Marietta, Georgia, 63-year-old Patricia Hein said she's learned that Kemp didn't have the authority to fulfill Trump's find-the-votes wishes anyway.
"He was not able to tell Raffensberger what to do because of the Georgia constitution. So was it really the governor's fault?" Hein told Insider.
Cobb County resident Wendy Reffitt, 62, said one of the things she most respects about Kemp is that he's stood his ground against all kinds of attackers.
"I feel like he has done what he feels is best to do, no matter how he is pressured to do so otherwise," she told Insider, adding that Kemp has proven to her that he "really does care about the people of Georgia. Not just one group."
Tuesday's vote will demonstrate whether enough Trump fans have forgiven Kemp for 2020. If they have, he'll likely avoid a runoff in June and head through to an anticipated rematch with presumed Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams in November. Those still holding a grudge, however, could throw off the general election if they stay home this fall as Trump is predicting.
Kemp sounds like he's aware he's not every Republican's dream candidate. But he's betting things will get better after the bitter primary finally ends.
"It's my belief that all Republicans, after Tuesday, are going to unite to beat Joe Biden and the Democrats in November," he told reporters over the weekend.