ATLANTA (CN) — Secretary of State Brian Kemp won the Republican nomination for Georgia governor Tuesday evening, bringing an intense runoff race against Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to a dramatic close.
Kemp, who scored endorsements from both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the final days before the election, won the race with nearly 70 percent of the vote. He will face Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams in the gubernatorial election on November 6.
Abrams is the first black woman to run in a gubernatorial race as the nominee of a major party.
Cagle reportedly called Kemp to concede the election just 90 minutes after the polls closed.
In a speech to supporters at his election party in Athens, Georgia shortly after accepting Cagle’s concession, Kemp immediately narrowed his sights on the fight against Abrams.
“We have earned a clear, convincing victory,” he said. “And we have you to thank for that… And we are moving on to November.”
“Hillary Clinton, George Soros, and Nancy Pelosi all have Georgia on their mind. For months, they’ve been campaigning for Stacey Abrams, the out-of-touch radical liberal who cares more for her billionaire backers than for you all,” Kemp said. “Make no mistake: This is a fight against Stacey Abrams and her radical backers… I ask for you to dig deep. We got to hunker down folks. As we’ve been saying lately, we gotta keep chopping wood.”
Kemp credited his victory in large part to President Trump and Vice President Pence’s endorsements, telling the crowd, “We had the momentum in this race, but those endorsements by the president and the vice president poured gasoline on the fire.”
Kemp received President Trump’s endorsement on July 18. The president tweeted, “Brian is tough on crime, strong on the border and illegal immigration. He loves our Military and our Vets and protects our Second Amendment. I give him my full and total endorsement.”
President Trump repeated his endorsement Tuesday morning.
“Today is the day to vote for Brian Kemp. Will be great for Georgia, full Endorsement!” he tweeted.
During the campaign, Kemp consistently aligned himself with President Trump and described himself as an “unapologetic conservative” and a “politically incorrect conservative.”
Kemp received national attention for his controversial campaign ads, particularly one in which he proudly proclaimed that he owns a “big truck” in case he needs to “round up criminal illegals and take ’em home myself.”
Initially regarded as the undisputed front-runner following his first-place finish in the May 22 primary election, Cagle floundered in the nine weeks leading up to the runoff vote.
Although Cagle received 38.9 percent of the vote in May’s primary election compared to Kemp’s 25.6 percent, polls showed that the tide turned sharply in Kemp’s favor after a series of secret recordings of Cagle surfaced.
The recordings featured Cagle admitting that the gubernatorial primary race became about “who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck, and who could be the craziest,” and acknowledging that he supported “bad public policy” to undercut a political rival’s fundraising.
Despite receiving endorsements from the National Rifle Association and outgoing Gov. Nathan Deal, Cagle scored just 30 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election.
In a tweet posted Tuesday evening, Cagle congratulated Kemp, writing, “You ran a great campaign & Georgia Republicans trust you to carry our mantle forward.”
The Abrams campaign quickly responded to news of the election results with a fundraising notice emailed to supporters. The message warned supporters that Republicans “will coalesce around [Kemp] and pour millions of dollars into his campaign because they know we have the numbers and grassroots support to win in November.”
“If you’re not familiar with Republican Brian Kemp, you will be soon. For now, know this: Kemp is wrong for Georgia families,” the email says.