Georgia's Brian Kemp is Not Backing Down

In the face of a concerted boycott campaign, Kemp calls on fellow governors to 'stand up and fight'

Brian Kemp
Brian Kemp / Getty Images
April 1, 2021

Georgia governor Brian Kemp is rallying fellow Republicans to "stand up and fight" against corporate cancel culture as he faces what he describes as an "insane" push to boycott Peach State businesses over a voting law passed last week.

He's referring to a progressive pressure campaign that has resulted in companies from Coca-Cola to Home Depot and professional sports powerhouses like Major League Baseball and the Masters—many of which do business with authoritarian China and rely on slave labor in their supply chain—rushing to condemn the legislation and threatening to retaliate by pulling their business. 

Kemp has stared down corporate threats before: In 2019, the Republican faced similar corporate condemnation over a pro-life bill, and now he's pushing back and urging other governors to join him.

"I hadn't ever worried too much about 'cancel culture' with big business. But now that I'm in the position of being governor, it's real. It's insane," Kemp said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon. "My advice to Republican governors is, you better stand up and fight. Because once you give in, the other side is relentless. It's never good enough for them."

The election bill has put Kemp, a former secretary of state who defended the integrity of the 2020 election, in a tough political position. He is working to balance an angry Republican base fueled by former president Donald Trump's unsubstantiated claims of election fraud in the November elections and left-wing protesters and lawmakers, including President Joe Biden, who accuse him of ushering in "Jim Crow on steroids."

Toeing the line between the two contingents will not be easy for Kemp. Though he was the most prominent Republican in the state to defend the results of the November elections, in which Biden narrowly won Georgia, he nonetheless insists election reforms are necessary.

He points in part to Georgia's weeks-long signature audit of absentee ballots, which dragged out the vote counting for roughly two weeks. The new law, by contrast, requires absentee voters to provide their driver's license number or the last four digits of their social security number, eliminating the need for election officials to match signatures. 

"Dealing with [ballot] drop boxes, dealing with the signature audits, how long it took for the votes to be counted, people being bothered while they were in line—all of those things needed to be addressed just for the mechanics of the election," Kemp said. "Forget whether you think the election was fraudulent or misplaced or not."

Kemp, who is up for reelection in 2022, still offers praise for the former president, who labeled him "an obstructionist who refuses to admit that we won Georgia, BIG!" Georgia Republicans will be successful in the midterm elections, he said, running on "a lot of the good things that President Trump did," including "securing the border, being strong on China, having a good economy, lowering taxes."

Democrats have responded to Georgia's Election Integrity Act by pushing their own federal voting bill, H.R. 1, as a reprisal. Biden, for example, said Friday that the "punitive" Georgia law gives his party "a moral and constitutional obligation to act."
At the same time, the president has mischaracterized the Georgia law, falsely claiming that the legislation "end[s] voting at five o'clock when working people are just getting off work." Polling places are open until 7 p.m. in Georgia, and the law did not change voting hours.

Kemp pushed back, arguing that Democrats are working toward an "unconstitutional takeover of elections at the state level."

"That's the whole playbook behind this bill that we passed, is calling it 'suppression.' They know dang well that it's not doing that," Kemp said. "But it's helping them make the argument to everybody else around the country that we need to pass H.R. 1 to undo some of this, which is ridiculous."

For now, the boycott push does not appear to be going away. Biden said Thursday that he "strongly supported" moving the MLB All-Star Game and other sporting events out of Georgia. 

Kemp says he is confident his views will prevail. "I think the more that gets out, the more people are really going to be fed up with this cancel culture and push back on this," Kemp said. "I don't think this is going to get legs, and the reason why is because the truth is on our side."