The statement, said in an interview, was a shot at Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who reluctantly signed the election certificate last November as part of a tight deadline required by law. Kemp, who also last year resisted calls from some in his party for a special session, immediately found himself in the crosshairs of former President Donald Trump and his supporters who peddled unfounded accusations of widespread voting fraud.
Although Kemp has repeatedly said he was following state law, he was critical of the process after an audit turned up 5,900 missing votes in four counties, netting Trump 1,400 votes. Certifying the results opened the door for a Trump-requested recount and multiple lawsuits challenging the results that were either dismissed or withdrawn. After three counts, including one by hand, the results confirmed Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s victory.
Perdue, the Trump-endorsed candidate for governor, lost his bid for a second term in the U.S. Senate to now-Sen. Jon Ossoff in January. He announced Monday he will challenge Kemp in the GOP primary next year, triggering what has already proven to be a bitter contest.
Now, Perdue claims he would not have signed off the 2020 election results. The governor’s signature is one of two at the state level needed to certify the presidential election results after they are turned in by local election superintendents.
From the Axios interview: “Not with the information that was available at the time and not with the information that has come out now. They had plenty of time to investigate this. And I wouldn’t have signed it until those things had been investigated and that’s all we were asking for,” Perdue said.
Investigations by the Secretary of State’s office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the FBI did not uncover evidence discrediting the outcome of the election while also squashing claims about significant illegal counting of ballots ballot harvesting and rigged voting machines.
Perdue also told Axios he pushed Kemp to call a special legislative session not to overturn the election results but to “protect and fix what was wrong for the January election.”
Kemp’s campaign quickly disputed Perdue’s claims. Cody Hall, Kemp’s spokesman, called Perdue “a desperate, failed former politician who will do anything to soothe his own bruised ego.”
“David Perdue lies as easily as he breathes,” Hall said. “Perdue never asked the governor to call a special session. Period. In fact, his campaign – and Perdue himself – asked for there not to be a special session called. At the time, they 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.”
Election law attorney Bryan Sells, who has worked for the Democratic Party of Georgia, agrees with Kemp’s interpretation of the law and said that a governor or secretary of state who does not sign off on the results would likely see a judge ordering them to verify the election or finding them in contempt.
When the governor receives the results from the secretary of state, he is required to certify them, and that starts the clock to contest an election under state law, Sells said.
“But such refusal might have the effect of delaying the results of the election past the deadlines in the Electoral Count Act,” he said. “That would raise the possibility that the will of Georgia’s voters would not be followed in the Electoral College.”
Charles Bullock, University of Georgia political science professor, said Perdue’s comments are signifying that he has Trump’s back and that he doesn’t want to risk losing the support of the former president.
“What he’s doing here is he’s signing in blood that he’s Trump’s man,” Bullock said.
According to early polls, Perdue would have the best shot at winning the May primary with Trump on his side, but that support might backfire if he faces Democratic frontrunner Stacey Abrams in the general election, Bullock said.
“If Perdue ends up being the Republican nominee, then it can be used by Democrats to remind the critical swing vote of white, college educated suburbanites who voted against Perdue and (Sen. Kelly) Loeffler because of their linkage to Trump,” Bullock said.
On the other hand, if Kemp emerges from the GOP primary, his distance from Trump could play out in his favor.
“This works to the advantage of Brian Kemp if Brian Kemp is nominated,” Bullock said. “Because for the voter who says, ‘I generally like Republican policy or maybe like some of the things that Donald Trump does, but I can’t stand him,’ well, there’s no mistaking that Kemp is not Perdue.”
Georgia Recorder Deputy Editor Jill Nolin contributed to this report.
Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.
This article is part of an ongoing series highlighting statements by public officials called The Public Record, where we present recent quotes by public officials or candidates. You may not be able to attend every public meeting or see every occasion where your representatives speak, but you still have a right to know what your representatives and those who hope to represent you have been saying.
“Because public men and women are amenable ‘at all times’ to the people, they must conduct the public’s business out in the open.” -Charles L. Weltner Sr., former Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court