Election 2020

Trump-Endorsed Brian Kemp Trounces Casey Cagle in Georgia GOP Governor's Runoff

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp gives a thumbs up after casting his ballot while voting with his wife Marty at the Winterville Train Depot in the runoff election on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, in Winterville, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

In the final stretch of a hotly contested Republican nomination for Georgia’s gubernatorial race, Secretary of State Brian Kemp has defeated Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle.

Most analysts and pundits had hunkered down for a long night, expecting a close race, but within an hour and a half of polls closing, Cagle conceded and Kemp emerged victorious.

The race garnered national headlines for its combative nature, as well as for a damning audio recording that former candidate Clay Tippins released that put Cagle in a negative light. Last-minute endorsements from President Donald Trump, along with other Republican leaders and every single candidate who lost in May’s general election helped swing momentum toward Kemp.

Polling in the last days of the race showed Kemp beginning to pull away, but by the time the runoff election rolled around, Kemp’s supporters showed up in force.

Early results showed Kemp winning in counties where he finished behind Cagle in May. Politico’s results map, using red for Kemp and grey for Cagle, turned red quickly. It didn’t take long for the race to fall Kemp’s way. Decision Desk HQ was the first to call the race, barely an hour after polls closed:

By 8:00 p.m., Cagle was even hanging by a thread in Hall County, his home. Half an hour later, the original front-runner conceded. In an emotional speech, he congratulated Kemp and pledged his support, saying, “We have to rally around him in order to make sure we win in November.”

The race came down to Cagle’s assertion of experience and a proven record versus Kemp’s folksy, humorous ads promising to uphold conservative values, and Kemp’s strategy paid off. He will go on to face Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, a hardcore liberal, in November.