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Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue plans to make next year’s gubernatorial race a double referendum on what fellow Republican Brian Kemp has done as governor and what Democrat Stacey Abrams would do if she gets into office.

ATLANTA — Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue plans to make next year’s gubernatorial race a double referendum on what fellow Republican Brian Kemp has done as governor and what Democrat Stacey Abrams would do if she gets into office.

“I like Brian. He’s done OK in most areas,” Perdue, who entered the Republican primary contest against Kemp this week, told Capitol Beat Thursday. “[But] people have lost confidence in this governor.”

Perdue said he decided to challenge Kemp for the Republican nomination because he doesn’t believe the incumbent, who narrowly defeated Abrams in 2018, can pull off a repeat in 2022.

“We have a divided party,” Perdue said. “I think Brian Kemp is responsible. I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought he could pull us together.”

Perdue’s discontent with Kemp goes back to the aftermath of last year’s presidential election, when the governor refused to help then-President Donald Trump overturn Democrat Joe Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia.

Trump and his legal team sought to de-certify the state’s election results, alleging issues with Georgia’s voting machines and the process for verifying signatures on absentee ballots.

Statewide recounts showed Biden the winner and subsequent lawsuits challenging that outcome were dismissed for lack of evidence.

“I asked the governor to call a special [General Assembly] session, not to change the election in November but to fix it before the runoff election,” Perdue said Thursday.

Perdue finished first in the November election against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff but lost in the runoff in early January.

Kemp spokesman Cody Hall denied that Perdue sought a special session ahead of the runoff.

“His campaign — and Perdue himself — knew that a special session could not overturn the 2020 general election and that changes to election rules for an election already underway are not allowed under state law or court precedent,” Hall posted on Twitter.

In order to defeat Kemp and then Abrams, Perdue said he must have a message for voters. He said a top priority he would pursue if elected is a phased-in repeal of Georgia’s income tax. He said nine states including Florida, Texas and Tennessee, don’t levy state income taxes.

“We’ve got to become more competitive for jobs,” he said. “We’re falling behind right now.”

Georgia Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, who is running for lieutenant governor, pre-filed a bill last month to eliminate the state income tax.

The idea drew opposition Thursday from the Atlanta-based Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

Danny Kanso, a senior policy analyst with the institute, said the income tax is the main source of funding for such vital state services as education and health care.

“We’re not talking about a small fraction of the budget here, or something that could be easily eliminated in any way,” he said. “We’re talking about literally the main source of revenue that’s powered the state budget since the mid-20th century.”

If Perdue gets by Kemp in May’s Republican primary, he likely would face Abrams, who appears to have a clear path to the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.

“The failures of the Biden administration are what Stacey Abrams says she wants to bring to Georgia,” Perdue said. “This race is all about who can beat Stacey Abrams.”

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

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