Michelle Cottle at NYT:
The backstory: Some Republican incumbents took offense last year when the Georgia G.O.P.’s Trump-smitten chairman, David Shafer, backed Trump-preferred challengers in the primaries. (Mr. Trump, you will recall, was desperate to unseat several Republicans after they declined to help him steal the 2020 election.) Those challengers went down hard, and Mr. Kemp in particular emerged as a superhero to non-Trumpist Republicans. Even so, scars remain. “That’s a burn that’s hard to get over,” says Brian Robinson, a Republican strategist who served as an adviser to former Gov. Nathan Deal.
The clash also made clear that Republican candidates, or at least popular incumbents, don’t much need the party apparatus anymore. This is part of a broader trend: The clout of parties has long been on the slide because of changes in how campaigns are funded. That got turbocharged in Georgia in 2021, when its legislature, the General Assembly, passed a Kemp-backed bill allowing certain top officials (and their general-election challengers) to form leadership PACs, which can coordinate with candidates’ campaigns and accept megadonations free from pesky dollar limits.
The PAC Mr. Kemp set up, the Georgians First Leadership Committee, raked in gobs of cash and built a formidable voter data and turnout machine. The governor plans to use it to aid fellow Republicans, establishing himself as a power center independent of the state party.
As big-money conduits, leadership PACs can bring plenty of their own problems. But whatever their larger implications, in the current mess that is Georgia Republican politics, they also mean that elected leaders “don’t have to play nice in the sandbox with a group that is sometimes at odds with them,” says Mr. Robinson.
The governor says he will skip the state party’s convention in June, as will the state’s attorney general, its insurance commissioner and its secretary of state. At a February luncheon for his Georgians First PAC, Mr. Kemp basically told big donors not to waste their money on the party, saying that the midterms showed “we can no longer rely on the traditional party infrastructure to win in the future,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.