What to make of Gov. Brian Kemp winning the straw poll, but getting booed when he took the stage at the Cobb GOP’s annual Independence Day celebration on Saturday?
The straw poll saw Kemp win 63%, or 140 votes, compared to former state Rep. Vernon Jones, who received 29%, and teacher Kandiss Taylor, who got 8%.
The three gubernatorial hopefuls were among the long line of candidates who spoke to the crowd at the red, white and blue celebration.
Keep in mind, said Cobb GOP Chair Salleigh Grubbs, that anyone who bought a ticket could vote and that it’s not a scientific poll.
The takeaway for Grubbs is “There are clearly people that wish that Gov. Kemp would come out stronger about election integrity, because that’s the big issue. People don’t believe that our elections are safe. They want to see the governor come out and stand up, and I think the dissatisfaction with the people who booed is just people don’t feel that he’s there to stand for election integrity.”
Election integrity was a theme of the afternoon.
Asked to rank the top 3 issues in order of importance in the straw poll, election fraud came in first, followed by indoctrination in schools and illegal immigration.
“This governor cut and ran on election integrity,” a fired up Jones told the crowd at the Cobb Civic Center as he paced before the audience off the dais and in front of the lectern.
“This governor cut and ran on Donald J. Trump. This governor is the reason why we have two United States Senate seats that we lost. And now, as a result of that, we’ve got Joe Biden, Nancy ‘Hairdresser’ Pelosi and ‘Crying’ Chuck Schumer. And when you look at them, they remind me of the Wizard of Oz: One has no heart. The other has no courage. And you know which one has no d*** brains.”
Jones said he was the only Republican who could beat Democrat Stacey Abrams in the next governor’s race.
“Let Stacey Abrams try to play the race card with me. Whether it’s Ace of Spades or Ace of Hearts, let the Democratic Party play that with me. They can’t do it. Now if y'all want to win, let’s win. You had an opportunity and see what happened in 2020. President Trump doesn’t trust the governor and many of you don’t trust the governor. Now do you want more of that?”
Jones said he was tired of Republican governors talking like Ron DeSantis and walking like Mitt Romney.
He said the liberal media sees Abrams as “a sacred cow.”
“Why is the governor afraid of Stacey Abrams? Why is the governor afraid to call a forensic audit of all 159 counties? ... I’m asking the governor right now to call a 159-county forensic audit. Let the devils come out in the details. There's a dead cat on the end of that line and that cat's got a bunch of kittens.”
Jones pushed back on President Joe Biden calling Georgia’s new election law Jim Crow.
“If you think it’s Jim Crow because Black people can’t afford a free ID — you on the wrong trail. That’s demeaning to every African American in this state (that) we can’t afford a free ID.”
Kemp, who was first to speak, began his talk encouraging Cobb residents to turn out for Republican Devan Seabaugh, who is in a runoff with Democrat Priscilla Smith for the seat held by former state Rep. Bert Reeves.
“Right here in Cobb County, the most important thing that’s going to happen in the next two weeks is we absolutely have to elect Devan Seabaugh,” Kemp said, adding, “We need Devan in the House and we need him to hold that seat in Republican hands.”
(Jones also expressed support for Seabaugh but said, “we all know that there’s a dead cat on the end of that line with that Dominion system and the way the ballots are counted in this state.")
Kemp expressed gratitude to the Trump-appointed justices on the U.S. Supreme Court for upholding a recently-passed law in the Arizona case last week and said that bodes well in the Justice Department suit brought against Georgia’s new election law, a law he signed.
“I want to thank Ed Setzler and other members of the General Assembly that are here today for standing up, every single Republican supporting SB 202, the Elections Integrity Act. We will continue to fight and we will continue to defend that legislation even against ridiculous lawsuits that the Justice Department is bringing to our state.”
Kemp said it was a sad day in the country when the Justice Department was being politicized.
“When the top law enforcement agency in the land, this is their No. 1 priority when we have violent crime in cities like Atlanta, Georgia, and all over the country. We have a crisis at the border and many other things that they could be addressing, and they’re focusing on state election laws, specifically ours, but make no mistake we will fight that fight.”
Kemp listed the progress Georgia’s law enforcement agencies were making in the war on crime, and said “catch and release” does not work.
“Nor does defunding the police, which is why this year we passed a bill not to allow rogue local governments to do that in the great state of Georgia.”
He said Georgia has over 250 members of the Georgia National Guard supporting the border patrol mission in Texas.
In her address, Taylor maintained that Donald Trump had not lost the Georgia election and noted she had issued a press release showing "168,000 breaks of chain of custody of ballots just in Cobb County" in the November election.
Asked about this, Janine Eveler, director of Cobb Elections, told the MDJ, “They are making invalid conclusions from the materials they received in an open records request. They want to see something nefarious.”
Similarly, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger told the Journal last week that while he’s had over 200 investigations opened, almost none of the complaints were found to be legitimate, and those that were, if added up, would not have been enough to change the results.
Others to speak to the party faithful included former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle, who lost to Raffensperger in the last election. Warning of "a crisis of voter confidence" in Georgia, he said over 310,000 Republicans didn’t show in the January Senate runoff “because they had lost confidence in Georgia's elections and as a consequence we lost our Georgia senators, we lost our U.S. Senate and all of that lay squarely at the feet of Brad Raffensperger.”
The solution, he said, was to ditch the Dominion voting system, elect him and turn to hand marked paper ballots.
“I love Cobb County. I love all the volunteers and I think people are ready to fight,” Grubbs said after the program concluded.