PERRY, Ga. — When he came to Perry for a rally this weekend, former President Donald Trump endorsed a slate of pro-Trump candidates who are running for office next year.
They include: Congressman Jody Hice to run against current Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, state Senator Burt Jones to campaign to fill Geoff Duncan's seat for Lieutenant Governor, and Herschel Walker to run against Senator Raphael Warnock.
But a position Trump has not endorsed a candidate for: Governor.
While former President Trump showcased his three candidates, he also took jabs at top state officials, including Governor Brian Kemp, who he endorsed just three years ago.
Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan all did not support Trump's attempt to illegally overturn the election results in Georgia.
"Raffensperger. Something really strange with him. Your terrible Lt. Governor who is no longer running because he knew that he wasn't doing the job he was gonna do. And your RINO [Republican Only In Name] Governor Brian Kemp who has been a complete disaster on election integrity," Trump told the crowd Saturday night.
At one point, while attacking Governor Brian Kemp, the former president argued that Kemp's 2018 Democrat opponent would be a better governor.
"Stacey Abrams, who has still not conceded… and that's OK. Stacey, would you like to take his place? It’s OK with me," Trump said.
"Of course, having her I think might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know the truth,” he noted. “Might very well be better."
So how do these attacks impact Kemp’s chances in 2022?
"He’s going in handicapped," said Charles Bullock III, political science professor at the University of Georgia. "He's not going to be on the Trump ticket. Saying that, I don't think that hurts him in the Republican primary because he doesn’t really have a very strong opponent there, but it could be hurtful to him as he goes into the general election."
Bullock says some voters could vote solely for the Trump endorsed candidates and not for Governor if Kemp is the nominee. He says that could tip the election to a Democrat, but he says he anticipates that November will be a close election.
Trump's attacks on top GOP leaders have some state Republicans speaking out. Former Macon Representative Allen Peake tweeted Saturday that he would not support any Trump-backed candidate.
State Rep. Robert Dickey, who represents House District 140, called Trump’s endorsements "premature." Dickey says he's endorsing Governor Kemp for re-election.
But with this, is there a divide in the state's Republican Party?
"I think there probably is. We'll come together though. We always do," Dickey said. "I think Republicans will rally around whoever we pick for these statewide offices including the Governor and Senate, and hopefully we'll turn out to the poll."
"Trump is building a Trump party, much more so than trying to improve the fortunes of the Republican Party, so if he is building his own party, a party according to his image, then it makes sense for him to come out early on and try to shape the nomination process," Bullock said.
Going into the 2022 election, Lieutenant Governor candidate Burt Jones compared the rift to football.
"Your first and second teams are going to fight for the first position, and whoever comes out, and is the nominees... the party needs to get behind," Jones said Saturday in an interview with 13 WMAZ before the rally.
When asked about his relationship with Kemp, Jones said they have a "fine working relationship" but wouldn't comment on Trump's rift with Georgia's governor.
"When I agree with him, I compliment him, and when I disagree with him, I tell him where we disagree, you know, which should be with anybody you know," Jones said. "I can't speak to their relationship. I'd rather not say because whatever the differences in between the two is... that's their differences."
We reached out to Governor Kemp’s office for comment on Trump's statements. He did not respond.