Secretary of State Brian Kemp will join the the 2018 race for Georgia governor, according to an official with direct knowledge of the Republican’s decision.
It’s unclear when Kemp will formally announce. He declined comment on Monday, though he’s been dropping hints for months that he’ll run and has been lining up staffers and donors.
“I am uniquely positioned to understand the challenges you face when it comes to running your business and, most importantly, having to deal with government red tape,” he said in recent remarks to the National Federation of Independent Businesses. “There are too few business-minded people in office, and you can see how that impacts our government.”
A former state senator, the Athens Republican was appointed by Gov. Sonny Perdue as the state’s top elections official in 2010 after Karen Handel resigned to run for governor and won his first of two four-year terms later that year.
The 53-year-old has long been considered a potential gubernatorial candidate and has tried to raise his profile by calling on Trump to investigate the Obama administration’s apparent attempt to access his office’s computer system. He’s also railed against left-leaning groups that accused his office of voter suppression.
He could be hobbled by a pair of embarrassing elections-related disclosures that took place on his watch. In 2015, his office accidentally sent confidential voter data to political parties and media outlets. Kemp’s office issued a report putting the blame on a staffer fired shortly after the breach.
And in March the FBI launched an inquiry into a suspected cyberattack after state officials received notice that records kept by the Center for Election Systems at Kennesaw State University may have been compromised. Kemp has said he’s confident investigators will track down the perpetrator and called Democrats criticizing his handling of the breach of trying to create a “manufactured crisis.”
The field to succeed a term-limited Nathan Deal in 2018 is wide-open – and remains very unsettled. Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is all but guaranteed to join the race, but Donald Trump’s victory scrambled the plans of other high-profile GOP candidates considering a run.
Several other Republican candidates are openly considering a run, including former Reps. Jack Kingston and Lynn Westmoreland, House Speaker David Ralston and state Sen. Michael Williams. A wealthy businessman running as an outsider is also likely to jump in.
The Democratic side is just as uncertain, though Democrats hope Trump’s election can help them retake the seat for the first time since 2002. House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams is seen as a virtual lock to join the race. And former state Sen. Jason Carter and one-time acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates are considered potential contenders as well.