April 29, 2022 7:00am

Kemp/Perdue primary tests the "Trump Effect"

Power Poll respondents see Kemp winning, but are mixed on what results could mean for Trump's hold on the GOP

Photo of Steve Fennessy
Atlanta, GA Correspondent
 

Few battles in politics are as fierce as the ones that unfold during a primary season. But even by those standards, the vitriol between Gov. Brian Kemp and former U.S. Senator David Perdue, who’s trying to upset Kemp to be the Republican party’s nominee in the general election this fall, is setting a new low for animus. Just look at last Sunday, when the two men clashed in the first of three scheduled debates in the lead-up to the May 24 primary. Perdue came out swinging, doubling down on the groundless allegation that President Biden’s victory in Georgia had been, in Perdue’s words, “stolen” and accusing Kemp, who certified the results, as being little more than a useful idiot for the “woke left.”

Of course, recount after recount have demonstrated Georgia’s election results—the same ones that left Perdue a loser to Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff—were untainted. But the “big lie,” as it’s called, retains its catnip appeal to a certain subset of Republicans, egged on by former President Donald Trump. Trump, of course, has endorsed Perdue, along with a slate of other candidates across the country whose animating message is, first and foremost, sowing doubt in the 2020 election results. But is Trump’s endorsement enough to sink Kemp? Not according to our April Power Poll respondents, 94 percent of whom believe Kemp will prevail over Perdue in the primary. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll backs up our respondents’ assertion, with Kemp holding a 26-point lead over Perdue among likely voters. In fact, only one Power Poll respondent out of 132 believes Perdue will pull off an upset of Kemp.

But respondents were divided over what the Kemp/Perdue primary will say about the Trump effect. Seventy respondents believe a Perdue loss will be a clear sign that Trump’s sway within the party is weakening, but 54 believe a Perdue loss will be an anomaly among Trump-backed candidates, and that the former president’s hold on the GOP will tighten.

DISCLAIMER: Power Poll is not a scientific survey. Rather, it focuses only on surveying influential, powerful, significant individuals. In the aggregate, these people comprise much of the leadership structure of the city and influence, directly or indirectly, policy and direction. The results offer up a fascinating piece of intelligence about the city and where it is going. In addition to Atlanta, Power Poll is active in approximately three dozen cities across the country. It is distinctly nonpartisan.

Meanwhile, crime rates may be up across the country, but the city of Atlanta’s homicide numbers are striking even by national figures. In the first quarter of 2022, Atlanta had the third-highest rate of homicide increase of any city in the country. We’re on a pace to far exceed last year’s total of 158, which itself was the highest number since the 1990s. On Tuesday, the Atlanta Police Department issued an unusual public plea in the wake of a weekend in which five teens were shot, asking “Where are all the voices who care so much about broken kids and community safety? Where are the concerned parents and family members while these kids are running the streets late into the night?”

Earlier this month, Mayor Andre Dickens announced the retirement of Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant. Bryant will stay on until June, and Dickens has launched a nationwide search for the next top cop, who will inherit a department that has seen widespread departures among officers in the wake of the tumultuous summer of 2020. The department is several hundred officers short of the 2,000 target often considered the ideal staffing number.

But no matter who Dickens hires, how much influence can he or she have on the city’s violent crime wave? Sixty-four respondents—representing just short of half of all who took our survey—believe the choice can make a significant difference, provided the new chief is given the right resources and political support. Others were less sanguine; just over a quarter of respondents say the choice doesn’t really matter, not unless the city does more to address systemic issues of inequity within the city. Tiffany Roberts, community engagement and movement building counsel at the Southern Center for Human Rights, says it is "imperative that [Dickens] continue to engage and learn so that the city can meaningfully invest in violence interruption. Changing the police chief will not make a difference if the city does not take a new approach addressing root causes and prevention."

One out of five respondents weren’t sure what the answer is, but worry that if something isn’t done, the future of the city is at stake.

Finally, a dose of pragmatism from Power Poll survey takers to wrap up this month’s poll. We are on a road-building binge in metro Atlanta, as anyone who’s idled in traffic (which is all of us) in the past year can see. The AJC calls this “the kind of highway construction boom [metro Atlanta] hasn’t seen since the completion of the Perimeter in 1969.” Thank (or blame) the highway gas tax increase that took effect in 2015. State transportation officials now have billions of dollars of projects either in the works or lined up, including the I-285 interchange at 400, another I-285 interchange (this one at I-20 east of the city), and numerous toll roads. Should we question if that money should instead have gone to mass transit? That ignores the reality, according to 55 percent of Power Poll respondents, who believe we need to acknowledge that we are a car culture, and to ignore expanding capacity on the roads will simply make traffic worse. Just over a third, though, disagree, and believe we should be emphasizing mass transit. Three respondents just want to know who’s getting rich off all this road-building.

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