David Perdue Makes Racist Remarks About Stacey Abrams in Georgia
DUNWOODY, Ga. — Former Senator David Perdue ended his Trump-inspired campaign for governor of Georgia with a racist appeal to Republican primary voters on Monday, accusing Stacey Abrams, the Black woman who is the presumptive Democratic nominee, of “demeaning her own race ” in how she has described the state’s problems.
Speaking to an overwhelmingly white crowd, Mr. Perdue trained his ire on Ms. Abrams, who narrowly lost the 2018 governor’s race to Gov. Brian Kemp, the Republican whom Mr. Perdue is vying to unseat in Tuesday’s primary.
Mr. Perdue’s remarks about Ms. Abrams transcended the typical Republican primary campaign fare about stolen elections and accusations of disloyalty to form President Donald J. Trump. In a state where segregationists once demonized civil rights leaders as unwanted interlopers, and where it remains contentious to discuss how to interpret the nation’s history of slavery and racism, Mr. Perdue cast Ms. Abrams as an outsider in a state that has been her home since high school.
“Did you all see what Stacey said this weekend?” Mr. Perdue said from the stage. “She said that Georgia is the worst place in the country to live. Hey, she ain’t from here. Let her go back to where she came from. She doesn’t like it here.”
Mr. Perdue also injected race into a 2018 remark Ms. Abrams made about her pledge to create jobs in the renewable energy sector.
“People shouldn’t have to go into agriculture or hospitality to make a living in Georgia,” she said in the closing weeks of her 2018 campaign. “Why not create renewable energy jobs? Because, I’m going to tell y’all a secret: Climate change is real.”
On Monday, Mr. Perdue said: “When she told Black farmers, ‘You don’t need to be on the farm,’ and she told Black workers in hospitality and all this, ‘You don’t need to be,’ she is demeaning its own race when it comes to that. I am really over this. She should never be considered material for governor of any state, much less our state where she hates to live.”
Mr. Perdue’s remarks came in response to comments Ms. Abrams made Saturday in which she dismissed Mr. Kemp’s regular line that under his stewardship, Georgia has become the best state in the nation to do business.
“I am tired of hearing about being the best state in the country to do business when we are the worst state in the country to live,” Ms. Abrams said. She added: “When you’re No. 48 for mental health, when you’re No. 1 for maternal mortality, when you have an incarceration rate that’s on the rise and wages that are on the decline, then you are not the No .1 place to live.”
After concluding his remarks on Monday, Mr. Perdue ignored questions about his description of Ms. Abrams and his proposition that she was “demeaning” to Black people, and an aide hustled him off.
The Wisconsin-born Ms. Abrams spent most of her early childhood in Mississippi but moved to Georgia in high school. She graduated from Avondale High School in DeKalb County and Spelman College in Atlanta.
During an interview on MSNBC on Monday evening, Ms. Abrams declined to comment on Mr. Perdue’s remarks.
“Regardless of which Republican it is, I have yet to hear them articulate a plan for the future of Georgia,” she said.
Along with his comments about Ms. Abrams, Mr. Perdue echoed a series of Mr. Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election. Asked if he would accept the results of Tuesday’s primary, Mr. Perdue said it would depend on whether there is “fraud in the election.”
And he took note of the parade of ambitious Republicans — forming Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska and, on Monday night, former Vice President Mike Pence — swarming the state in the final days before Tuesday’s primary to bask in Mr. Kemp’s expected victory.
“It’s a badge of honor is that they’re bringing all these RINOs into the state to support Kemp,” Mr. Perdue said, referring to Republicans in name only. “It just shows the divide that we have in the party.”
Mr. Trump, who declined to host an end-of-campaign rally in Georgia to back Mr. Perdue ahead of what polling suggests will be a heavy defeat, called into Mr. Perdue’s event by phone. He said he was “very disappointed in Mike” and denigrated Mr. Pence and Mr. Christie by saying, “Many of these guys are not people that we’re so fond of anymore because we love our country.”
Mr. Trump predicted that Mr. Perdue would record a surprise victory on Tuesday.
“You’re the best, boss,” the former senator replied. “Thank you.”
Maya King contributed reporting from Atlanta.