A rift remains between former President Donald Trump and Gov. Brian Kemp even after the governor backed an overhaul of voting laws that responds to a number of the baseless conspiracy theories claiming widespread irregularities plagued last year’s presidential election.
Trump attacked Kemp in a press release Tuesday for supporting legislation that the former president calls an improvement to Georgia’s voting rules but falls short after it stripped away some of the more restrictive proposed changes in earlier versions.
Late last month, Republican state lawmakers pushed through the “Election Integrity Act” they claim will restore confidence in an election system Trump repeatedly said was rigged during his campaign and afterward. It is a sweeping change to Georgians’ ballot box access that Trump initially praised until changing his tone this week.
“Too bad the desperately needed election reforms in Georgia didn’t go further, as their originally approved Bill did, but the Governor and Lt. Governor (Geoff Duncan) would not go for it,” Trump said in Monday’s statement emailed through his Save America PAC. “The watered-down version, that was just passed and signed by Gov. Kemp, while better than before, doesn’t have Signature Matching and many other safety measures, which were sadly left out.
“This bill should have been passed before the 2020 Presidential Election, not after,” Trump said.
Trump’s statement comes days after Kemp and fellow Republicans closed ranks against Major League Baseball’s decision to move the All-Star Game out of Georgia to protest the voting changes. The league announced Tuesday Denver is the new site of the game.
Meanwhile, Kemp continues to defend the new rules against Democrats, voting rights organizations and corporations like Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola for calling new voting rules an attempt to restrict access to the ballot box, especially for Black voters and other minorities.
Kemp said that the new bill creates a more level playing field in elections.
“It expands access to voting, secures ballot drop boxes around the clock in every county, expands weekend voting, protects no-excuse absentee voting,” he said.
Despite his criticism that the voting overhaul should be more restrictive, Trump called upon conservatives to take a stand against businesses that speak out against Georgia’s election regulations that include a government ID requirement replacing the subjective signature match verification system used in absentee voting last year.
“Boycott all of the woke companies that don’t want Voter I.D. and Free and Fair Elections,” Trump said.
But while Trump and Kemp both mock so-called woke businesses criticizing the new voting law, their relationship remains at odds since Kemp refused to call for a special legislative session to challenge Trump’s Nov. 3 loss to President Joe Biden by fewer than 12,000 votes.
Trump and Kemp’s relationship was on good terms for a while after the president’s endorsement helped Kemp win the 2018 Republican primary race for governor. Kemp’s relationship with the former president began to deteriorate after the governor named businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to take over former Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat when he stepped down in 2019 instead of Trump’s preferred candidate, former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.
When Kemp makes an expected bid for a second term next year, Trump has vowed to back his Republican challenger.