ATLANTA – Georgia Republicans are preparing for a potential rematch between Gov. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams with the launch Monday of a "Stop Stacey" group aimed at thwarting her likely 2022 bid.
The group was formed by allies of Kemp and former Sen. Kelly Loeffler even before Abrams announced whether she'll run again, a sign of deep concern among Republicans about the threat she poses to the first-term governor next year.
It aims to build a national fundraising infrastructure, mobilize conservative supporters, air anti-Abrams ads and promote media narratives targeting the Democrat ahead of her expected campaign against Kemp four years after he narrowly won their bitter 2018 race.
"We will do whatever it takes to expose Stacey Abrams' radical network, highlight her dangerous agenda and ultimately defeat her — and her left-wing candidates — at the ballot box," said Jeremy Brand, a senior strategist with the group, an independent committee. "There is no time to waste: We must stand up, fight back and stop Stacey."
Abrams and her fellow Democrats enter this election cycle on an upswing. Georgia voted Democratic for president for the first time since 1992, and Republicans lost both the state's U.S. Senate seats — and control of the chamber — in stunning January runoff defeats to Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
The Fair Fight voting rights group that Abrams created has become a fundraising juggernaut, amassing nearly $100 million in the two years since she lost the gubernatorial vote to cement itself as by far the most dominant Democratic-supporting fundraising group in the state.
She personally recruited Warnock to challenge and eventually oust Loeffler, a wealthy former financial executive who was hand-picked by Kemp to fill a vacant seat. Should Abrams run, she'll campaign in tandem with Warnock, who faces a 2022 election for a full six-year term.
"Leader Abrams has made no decision about her political future, but here's what I do know: GA Republicans failed … with weak leaders, a disastrous COVID response, and families are suffering," Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams' top aide, said on Twitter.
Kemp is in need of reinforcements. In the last months of his presidency, Donald Trump pressured Kemp to resign and promised to back a primary challenger after the governor refused his demands to illegally overturn the election. That cost the governor support with fellow Republicans.
A recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll underscored Kemp's challenges. His approval rating stands at just 42% and his disapproval is at 51%. More than one-third of Republicans — 36% — disapprove of his performance. That's more than quadrupled from the 8% of Republicans who held a dim view of Kemp in the AJC's January 2020 poll.
"I plan on running in 2022. I'm not worried about any kind of primary fight. We'll be victorious. I personally think it's unnecessary," Kemp told the AJC. "I hope at the end of the day people come our way, but if they don't, we'll get them back after a potential primary."
Abrams is on more solid footing. According to the poll, about 51% of Georgians see her in a favorable light, including 10% of Republicans, while 41% view her unfavorably.
The Stop Stacey group will launch with seed funding of at least six figures from Kemp allies and will seek more financing from state and national Republicans in hopes that rallying against Abrams can unite the fractured GOP.
It's led by some of the same operatives who helped orchestrate Kemp's 2018 victory but are no longer running his strategy.
Kemp hired a new team of consultants to shape his campaign, while his former network is behind the Stop Stacey group.
The group's website, StopStacey.org, echoes the messages that dominated Kemp's 2018 bid, calling her a "radical leftist." It reads, "We have to Stop Stacey and Save America before it's too late!"