Mike Pence Defies Trump by Backing Georgia Governor Over Former President's Preferred Candidate

Pence proudly declares support for Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Trump called “the worst” while slamming other Republicans campaigning for his reelection rather than the challenger he endorsed

donald trump; mike pence
Donald Trump (L); Mike Pence. Photo: Getty (2)

Mike Pence is taking sides in Georgia's Republican primary race for governor. And it's not the one Donald Trump is on, widening a rift between the former GOP running mates.

The former vice president declared his support for Gov. Brian Kemp's reelection campaign in a big way on Friday, putting him at odds with Trump, who's endorsed former Sen. David Perdue while relentlessly attacking the incumbent.

Calling Kemp "one of the most successful conservative governors in America," Pence announced he will headline a get-out-the-vote rally the day before the May 24 vote to determine the Republican nominee in November's midterms.

"Brian Kemp is my friend, a man dedicated to faith, family and the people of Georgia," Pence said, according to Politico. "I am proud to offer my full support for four more years of Brian Kemp as governor of the great state of Georgia."

The May 23 rally has reportedly been in the works for several weeks, a source told Politico.

Pence announced it just two days after Trump expressed his displeasure with other prominent Republicans for backing Kemp.

Evan Vucci/AP.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona and Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska were all dubbed "RINOs" in a statement released by the former president on Wednesday.

The acronym, frequently used as an insult by Trump, stands for "Republicans in name only," though Christie made a cheeky suggestion on Twitter that the 'R' could stand for "re-elected" given he, Ducey and Ricketts have all won second terms in their respective states while Trump lost to Joe Biden in 2020 after serving a single term in the White House.

PEOPLE asked a Trump rep for comment on Pence's announcement but did not immediately get a reply.

The former president has reportedly raised money and campaigned for Perdue in Georgia, a state Trump lost in 2020.

And therein lies Trump's issues with Kemp. After the votes were counted and an audit was conducted, the governor certified Biden's narrow win on Nov. 20, adding Georgia's 16 electoral votes to his count.

Trump continues to repeat false claims of election fraud, despite a lack of evidence. In Wednesday's statement, he referred to Kemp as "the worst 'election integrity' Governor in the country."

trump, pence
Donald Trump and Mike Pence. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Perdue, on the other hand, made the so-called "rigged and stolen" election a theme in his campaign. (Perdue also lost in the same election cycle when Democrat Jon Ossoff defeated him in a January 2021 run-off vote for a Georgia Senate seat.)

Pence previously distanced himself from Trump and his falsehoods about the legitimacy of Biden's win.

"Our former president said I had the right to 'overturn the election.' President Trump is wrong," Pence said in February, referring to part of a plan Trump has acknowledged that would have allowed him to remain in the White House if the vice president had rejected the electoral vote count while presiding over a joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

The scheme is now under investigation by a bipartisan committee in the House of Representatives. Trump has long insisted that the inquiry is politically motivated and that he did nothing wrong.

"Mike and I had a great relationship except for the very important factor that took place at the end," the former president told the Washington Examiner in March.

In the interview, he said if he runs again in two years, Pence won't be on the ticket because "I don't think the people would accept it."

Pence might not be available anyway, given that he's reportedly considering his own bid for the presidency in 2024.

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