Speaker Ralston endorses Kemp in Republican primary for Georgia governor

Shortly after Gov. Brian Kemp signed the state's 2023 budget in his hometown, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston endorsed Kemp in the race for governor.

"I'm encouraging all of my friends and people here in this area to vote for Brian Kemp," said Speaker Ralston.  "I'm going to work with him.  Beginning now I'm going to go all out and even into November."

Gov. Kemp faces four challengers in the Republican primary, the most notable of which is former U.S. Senator David Perdue.  Perdue launched his campaign with the backing of former President Donald Trump, who has publicly blamed Gov. Kemp for his loss in Georgia in 2020.

"This is the third governor I've served with, and I can tell you that he's got all the leadership qualities, the great qualities, that the others had and in some instances even better.  He's done a great job," said Ralston. "He's taken a lot of unfair hits, frankly.  You know, I'm a country guy and you can only beat on me so many times or my friends and they've beat on this guy one too many times."

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Gov. Brian Kemp and former US Senator David Perdue are vying for the Republican nomination for Georgia governor in 2022.

Gov. Brian Kemp and former US Senator David Perdue are vying for the Republican nomination for Georgia governor in 2022. (Georgia Office of Governor / US Congress)

The Speaker's endorsement was not always promised.  Back in 2020, Gov. Kemp and Speaker Ralston were on less friendly terms after Kemp asked state agencies to slash their budgets by 6%.

"I'm proud of the common sense savings included in this budget," Gov. Kemp told lawmakers during a budget hearing in 2020.  "I believe that we've shown taxpayers that we're good stewards of their hard-earned money and with this blueprint we will continue to build a state that Georgia will be proud to call home."

"We have taken care of our priorities as a state, but we've done it in a very responsible and conservative way," Speaker Ralston told reporters ahead of the 2020 legislative session.  "I do rankle a little bit when I hear people talk about wasteful spending, because I'm still trying to find it."

The House and Senate paused the session briefly that year to give them more time to review all the proposed cuts.  Speaker Ralston said House members had concerns about cuts to public safety and accountability courts.

"The Governor's budget proposals are conservative and balanced, reflecting our values and vision as a state," said then-Kemp spokeswoman Candice Broce.  "The Governor does not need a lesson in conservatism from the Speaker."  

But that frosty exchange was a distant memory Thursday as Speaker Ralston announced his endorsement.

"Gov. Kemp is my governor, and I'm going to support him," said Ralston.