|83rd Governor of Georgia|
|Assumed office |
January 14, 2019
|Preceded by||Nathan Deal|
|27th Secretary of State of Georgia|
January 8, 2010 – November 8, 2018
|Preceded by||Karen Handel|
|Succeeded by||Robyn Crittenden|
|Member of the Georgia State Senate|
from the 46th district
January 3, 2003 – January 3, 2007
|Preceded by||Doug Haines|
|Succeeded by||Bill Cowsert|
Brian Porter Kemp
November 2, 1963
Athens, Georgia, U.S.
Marty Kemp (m. 1994)
|Education||University of Georgia (BS)|
Brian Porter Kemp (born November 2, 1963) is an American businessman and politician serving as the 83rd Governor of the U.S. state of Georgia. A member of the Republican Party, he previously was the 27th Secretary of State of Georgia from 2010 to 2018 and a member of the Georgia State Senate from 2003 until 2007.
Born in Athens, Georgia, Kemp is a graduate of the University of Georgia. Prior to entering politics, Kemp owned several agribusiness, financial services and real estate companies. In 2002 he was elected to the Georgia State Senate. In 2010, Kemp was appointed Secretary of State of Georgia by Governor Sonny Perdue following the resignation of Karen Handel to run for the governorship. Kemp was subsequently elected to a full term as Georgia Secretary of State in 2010; he was reelected in 2014.
During Kemp's tenure as secretary of state, his office was affected by several accusations and controversies. In 2015, a data breach within Kemp's office distributed the Social Security numbers and birthdates of over 6.2 million Georgia voters. Kemp was the only secretary of state to reject help from the Department of Homeland Security to guard against Russian interference in the 2016 election. He also implemented Georgia's controversial "exact match" system for voter registration. Critics have described Kemp's actions as secretary of state as an example of democratic backsliding. Kemp denies that he actively engaged in voter suppression.
In 2018, Kemp was a candidate for governor. After coming in second place in the Republican primary, he defeated Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle in the Republican runoff with 69% of the vote. In the general election, he faced Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams. Kemp notably refused to resign as secretary of state while campaigning for governor, a move that some critics claimed constituted a conflict of interest. Following the general election on November 6, Kemp was declared the winner with 50.2% of the vote. Abrams subsequently suspended her campaign on November 16.
Kemp was born in Athens, Georgia, the son of William L. Kemp II. Kemp's grandfather, Julian H. Cox Sr., was a member of the Georgia Legislature. Kemp went to the private Athens Academy until the ninth grade, transferred to Clarke Central High School to play football for Billy Henderson. He graduated from Clarke Central in 1983. He later graduated from the University of Georgia, where he majored in agriculture.
Kemp was a homebuilder and developer before entering politics.
He served as a Georgia State Senator from 2003 to 2007 after defeating the Democrat incumbent, Doug Haines. In 2006, Kemp ran for Agriculture Commissioner of Georgia. He ran second in the primary, but lost a runoff to Gary Black. Kemp initially declared intent to run for State Senate District 47 when incumbent Ralph Hudgens planned to run for Congress in Georgia's 10th congressional district. Hudgens instead ran for reelection, changing Kemp's plans.
In early 2010, Kemp was appointed to Georgia Secretary of State by then-Governor Sonny Perdue. Kemp won the 2010 election for a full term as Georgia Secretary of State with 56.4% of the vote, to 39.4% for his Democratic opponent, Georganna Sinkfield. Four years later, Kemp was reelected.
Kemp rejects the conclusion by the United States Intelligence Community that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Amid Russian interference in the 2016 election, Kemp denounced efforts by the Obama administration to strengthen the security of election systems, including improving access to federal cybersecurity assistance. He denounced the Obama administration's efforts, saying they were an assault on states' rights.
As evidence mounted that Russian hackers were attempting to disrupt the 2016 elections, President Obama directed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to work with states to secure their voting systems as "critical infrastructure." Kemp was the only state election official who declined the help. In a 2017 interview, Kemp denounced the effort as an assault on states' rights, stating, "I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration," adding "I don’t necessarily believe" Russia had attempted to disrupt the elections. In August 2016, amid Russian attempts to disrupt the 2016 elections, Kemp said that an intrusion by Russian hackers into voting systems was "not probable at all, the way our systems are set up" and accused federal officials of exaggerating the threat of Russian interference.
Georgia is one of fourteen states which uses electronic voting machines which do not produce a paper record, which election integrity experts say leaves the elections vulnerable to tampering and technical problems. The 2018 indictment against Russian hackers (as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into 2016 interference) said that the Russian hackers targeted county websites in Georgia.
In December 2016, Kemp accused the Department of Homeland Security of attempting to hack his office's computer network, including the voter registration database, implying that it was retribution for his previous refusal to work with DHS. A DHS inspector general investigation found there was no hacking, but rather it was "the result of normal and automatic computer message exchanges generated by the Microsoft applications involved."
In October 2015, the Georgia Secretary of State's office, under Kemp's leadership, erroneously distributed personal data (including Social Security numbers and dates of birth) of 6.2 million registered Georgia voters. This data breach occurred when the office sent out a CD with this information to 12 organizations that purchase monthly voter lists from the office. The office was not aware of the breach until the following month and did not publicly acknowledge the mishap until the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the class action lawsuit against the office as a result of the data breach. Within a month of the breach becoming publicly known, it had cost taxpayers $1.2 million in credit monitoring services for those whose data had been compromised, and $395,000 for an audit into Kemp's handling of the unauthorized data disclosure.
Kemp drew criticism again in 2017 when it was revealed that a flaw in the State voting system exposed the personal information of all of Georgia's 6.7 million voters, as well as passwords used by county election officials to access voter files, and went unfixed for 6 months after it was reported. After a lawsuit was filed, a server at the center of the controversy was wiped, preventing officials from determining the scope of the breach. Kemp denied responsibility, instead saying researchers at Kennesaw State University, who managed the system, had acted "in accordance with standard IT procedures" in deleting the data.
This article's Criticism or Controversy section may compromise the article's neutral point of view of the subject. (January 2020)
Kemp has frequently been accused of voter suppression. Emory University professor Carol Anderson has criticized Kemp as an "enemy of democracy" and "an expert in voter suppression" for his actions as Secretary of State. Stacey Abrams, a voting rights advocate and Kemp's 2018 gubernatorial opponent, has called Kemp "a remarkable architect of voter suppression." Critics say that voter suppression tactics in subsequent elections have been considerably lessened after Kemp resigned his position as Secretary of State in anticipation of becoming Governor. Kemp denies that he engages in voter suppression.
Kemp introduced a controversial "exact match" policy during his first year as Secretary of State in 2010. Under the system, eligible Georgians were dropped from voter rolls for an errant hyphen or if "a stray letter or a typographical error on someone’s voter registration card didn’t match the records of the state’s driver’s license bureau or the Social Security office." In a 2010 explanation defending the practice to the Department of Justice, Kemp's office said the policy was "designed to assure the identity and eligibility of voters and to prevent fraudulent or erroneous registrations." The policy was initially rejected by the Department of Justice, but allowed to go into place with additional safeguards, though a later lawsuit claimed "it is not apparent that the Secretary of State ever followed the safeguards." The process was halted after a lawsuit in 2016, but the State legislature passed a modified form of the policy in 2017 and the process began again.
These types of "exact match" laws are considered by critics to be a form of voter suppression designed to disproportionately target minorities, and African-American, Asian, and Latino voters accounted for 76.3% of the registrations dropped from voter rolls between July 2015 and July 2017. Critics say that minority names are more likely to contain hyphens and less common spellings that lead to clerical mistakes, resulting in rejection of the registration. In a 2018 ruling against Kemp, District Judge Eleanor Ross said the system places a "severe burden" on voters.
After changes to the Voting Rights Act in 2012 gave states with a history of voter suppression more autonomy, Kemp's office oversaw the closing of 214 polling locations, or 8% of the total number of locations in Georgia. The closings disproportionately affected African-American communities. In majority minority Randolph County, a consultant recommended that 7 of the 9 county polling locations be closed ahead of the 2018 midterm election for failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. After the plan was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union the locations were allowed to remain open. Kemp denied knowledge of the plan, but a slide from a presentation given by the consultant stated "Consolidation has come highly recommended by the Secretary of State and is already being adopted by several counties and is being seriously considered and being worked on by many more." Officials claim the locations were closed as a cost-saving measure.
Georgia has been the most aggressive state in removing registered voters from voter rolls for not voting in consecutive elections. Between 2012 and 2018, Kemp's office cancelled over 1.4 million voters' registrations, with nearly 700,000 cancellations in 2017 alone. On a single night in July 2017, half a million voters, or approximately 8% of all registered Georgia voters, had their registrations cancelled, an act described by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as what "may represent the largest mass disenfranchisement in US history." Kemp oversaw the removals as Secretary of State, and did so eight months after he declared that he was going to run for governor.
By early October 2018, more than 53,000 voter registration applications had been put on hold by Kemp's office, with more than 75% belonging to minorities. The voters are eligible to re-register assuming they still live in Georgia, and they have not died. An investigative journalism group run by Greg Palast found that of the approximately 534,000 Georgians whose voter registrations were purged between 2016 and 2017 more than 334,000 still lived where they were registered. The voters were given no notice that they had been purged. Palast ultimately sued Kemp, claiming over 300,000 voters were purged illegally. Kemp's office denied any wrongdoing, saying that by "regularly updating our rolls, we prevent fraud and ensure that all votes are cast by eligible Georgia voters."
Kemp's office was found to have violated the law before and immediately after the 2018 midterm elections. In a ruling against Kemp, District Judge Amy Totenberg found that Kemp's office had violated the Help America Vote Act and said an attempt by Kemp's office to expedite the certification of results "appears to suggest the Secretary’s foregoing of its responsibility to confirm the accuracy of the results prior to final certification, including the assessment of whether serious provisional balloting count issues have been consistently and properly handled."  Kemp said the expedited certification was necessary to facilitate his transition to the role of Governor.
After Totenberg's ruling thousands of voting machines were sequestered by local election officials on Election Day in 2018, an action that critics say was designed to increase wait times at polling locations. The sequestration of machines disproportionately affected counties that favored Kemp's opponent and caused voters in some locations to have to wait in line for hours in inclement weather in order to vote. Other locations suffered delays because machines had been delivered without power cords. Kemp himself experienced technical problems attempting to vote in the election.
Kemp opposes automatic voter registration, a change that advocates say would help make voting easier for eligible citizens and help prevent voter suppression. In a leaked 2018 recording Kemp can be heard saying that attempts to register all eligible voters "continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote." In a separate 2018 recording made by a progressive group he can be heard saying "Democrats are working hard ... registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines, if they can do that, they can win these elections in November."
On November 4, 2018, 48 hours before his gubernatorial election, Kemp's office of Secretary of State published the details of a zero day flaw in the State registration website, accusing Democrats of attempted hacking for investigating the problem but providing no evidence. Critics say the announcement was further evidence of voter suppression and gave hackers a window of opportunity during which voter registration records could be changed. In response to criticisms of the announcement, Kemp said "I'm not worried about how it looks. I'm doing my job." In a ruling on the matter, Judge Totenberg criticized Kemp for having "delayed in grappling with the heightened critical cybersecurity issues of our era posed [by] the state’s dated, vulnerable voting system" and said the system "poses a concrete risk of alteration of ballot counts." In December 2018, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that Kemp made the hacking claims without any evidence to support the allegations. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said that Kemp may have made the unsubstantiated accusations against Democrats as a ploy and diversion to help him win the election; the "examination suggests Kemp and his aides used his elected office to protect his political campaign from a potentially devastating embarrassment. Their unsubstantiated claims came at a pivotal moment, as voters were making their final decisions in an election that had attracted intense national attention."
As a result of the controversies surrounding the 2018 Georgia midterms Kemp's gubernatorial victory has been referred to by critics as illegitimate, with others, such as Senator Cory Booker, going so far as to say the election was "stolen."
On September 5, 2018, an attack ad was released claiming that Kemp chose not to pursue accusations of sexual assault against therapists employed by Massage Envy during his time overseeing the Georgia Board of Massage Therapy because of donations made by franchisee owners to Kemp's campaign. The offenders were able to renew their Board licenses after the accusations. Republican State Senator Renee Unterman said that there "appears to be a direct connection between campaign support from Massage Envy franchisees in exchange for non-action and suppression" and asked U.S. Attorney B.J. Pak to investigate "what seems to be a quid pro quo scheme being perpetrated through the secretary of state’s office and the Kemp for governor campaign." Kemp said that he had done nothing illegal.
In response to the accusations, a spokesperson for Kemp's campaign asserted that Unterman was "mentally unstable" and suggested she "seek immediate medical attention before she hurts herself or someone else". These remarks appeared to reference Unterman's history of depression, about which she had spoken publicly.[better source needed] In response, Unterman said she would not be "intimidated, blackmailed, belittled, or sexually harassed" into silence by Kemp's campaign. The campaign did not apologize for the remarks.
In March 2017, Kemp announced his candidacy in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election. In a field of six candidates, Kemp and Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle came in the two top places in a six-way Republican primary in May 2018, advancing to a runoff election.
During the runoff campaign, Cagle sought to portray Kemp as an incompetent Secretary of State, whereas Kemp sought to portray Cagle as scandal-prone and corrupt. Cagle frequently criticized Kemp's behavior during the campaign, and accused him of "dirty tricks" and launching a "sexist attack" against one of Cagle's supporters.
During the primary and primary runoff campaigns, Kemp ran sharply to Cagle's right, benefiting from provocative campaign advertising (with a tag line "Yep, I just said that"), as well as by an endorsement from President Donald Trump late in the campaign, which Trump made at the request of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. In the runoff election, Kemp was endorsed by the GeorgiaCarry.org and the Family Research Council as well as by Republican candidates who were eliminated in the primary, Michael Williams, Clay Tippins, and Hunter Hill. Many believe Perdue's support for Kemp was in response to Governor Nathan Deal's endorsement of Cagle.
In the runoff election, Kemp defeated Cagle by a broad margin, receiving 408,595 votes (69.45%) to Cagle's 179,712 (30.55%).
Kemp ran against Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, the minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, in the 2018 general election. During the gubernatorial campaign, Kemp embraced Trump-like policies and themes. Kemp ran on a policy of imposing a state spending cap, opposing Medicaid expansion, and implementing the "strictest" abortion laws in the country. Kemp favors repealing the Affordable Care Act, describing it as "an absolute disaster," and supports litigation seeking to eliminate the law's protections for persons with a pre-existing condition. He has said he would sign a bill of "religious freedom and restoration", vetoed twice by governor Nathan Deal, which would allow refusal of contraception to women or services to LGBT couples on the basis of religious beliefs.
Kemp provoked controversy with a series of video campaign ads in which he set off an explosive device, posed surrounded by rifles equipped with assault-style vertical forward grips, made threats of kidnapping illegal immigrants, and held a shotgun in the direction of a young man playing someone interested in dating one of Kemp's daughters. The lack of proper gun safety in handling the shotgun in the "Jake" ad attracted criticism from the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, which said that the ad "delivers a message perpetuating domestic violence and misogyny while modeling egregiously unsafe behavior," and prompted criticism that the ad depicted irresponsible handling of guns. Kemp's supporters, by contrast, viewed the campaign ad as a "lighthearted portrayal of a protective, gun-wielding Southern father vetting a potential suitor" and Kemp dismissed the criticism, telling critics to "Get over it." Members of Kemp's family spoke out against the ads, but also said that the ads do not accurately reflect their experiences with Kemp.
During the 2018 campaign, former President of the United States Jimmy Carter, as well as a number of Georgia-based organizations, such as the Georgia NAACP and Georgia Common Cause, called upon Kemp to resign as Secretary of State while running for governor, thus ensuring that he would not be overseeing his own election. Kemp declined to do so.
Almost a week before election day, Kemp cancelled a scheduled debate so that he could instead attend a Trump rally in Georgia. Kemp blamed Abrams for the cancellation, saying that she was unwilling to reschedule it. The date of the debate had been agreed-upon since mid-September.
Two days before the election, Kemp's office announced that it was investigating the Georgia Democratic Party for unspecified "possible cybercrimes"; the Georgia Democratic Party stated that "Kemp's scurrilous claims are 100 percent false" and described them as a "political stunt." A 2020 investigation by the Georgia Attorney General's office concluded that there was no evidence for Kemp's claims.
The election was marked by widespread accusations Kemp engaged in vote suppression, a recurring topic in his career.
On December 4, 2018, U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, the incoming chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, announced that he would like to call Kemp before Congress to testify about the fairness of his actions during the 2018 elections. "I want to be able to bring people in, like the new governor-to-be of Georgia, to explain ... to us why is it fair for wanting to be secretary of state and be running [for governor]," Cummings said.
On March 6, 2019, it was revealed that both Kemp and his successor as Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, were under investigation by the House Oversight and Reform Committee for alleged voter suppression in the 2018 elections. Cummings oversaw the investigation as chairman of the committee. Kemp was given until March 20, 2019 to comply with document requests or face a subpoena.
Kemp was inaugurated as governor in a public ceremony in Atlanta on January 14, 2019. In May 2019, Kemp signed into law a highly controversial abortion bill that would prohibit abortions after a heartbeat can be detected in a fetus, which is usually when a woman is six weeks pregnant. During Kemp's election in 2018, many addressed concerns about how voters were treated during the election. Because of these concerns, Kemp signed a law on April 4, which said polling places cannot be changed 60 days before an election and blocks county election officials from rejecting absentee ballots because of mismatched signatures, and when information on a voter registration application doesn't match other government databases, the voter will remain on the rolls.
On July 18, a poll was released that surveyed 487,624 Georgians from April 1 to June 30, 2019, about their opinion on Kemp's performance as governor. The poll showed that, of those surveyed, Kemp had a 52% approval rating, and was ranked as the 22nd most popular governor in the United States. Kemp visited Swainsboro on September 12, to announce the creation of a rural strike team, who's focus is to bring businesses and jobs to rural areas of the state. After Johnny Isakson announced that he would resign from the U.S. Senate on December 31, 2019, Kemp chose businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to fill Isakson's vacancy on December 4. Loeffler was sworn into office on January 6, 2020.
On January 2, Kemp announced that James "Jim" Prine will fill the vacancy of Judge Harry Jay Altman III in the Southern Judicial Circuit superior court.
Kemp is married to Marty Kemp (née Argo); they have three daughters. The family belongs to the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Athens. Kemp's father-in-law was Bob Argo (1923–2016), an Athens insurance executive and longtime member of the Georgia House of Representatives.
In May 2018, Kemp was sued for failure to repay $500k in business loans. The suit is related to Kemp having personally guaranteed $10 million in business loans to Kentucky-based company Hart AgStrong, a canola crushing company. The company is under investigation after making guarantees using assets it did not own and repaying suppliers using proceeds from insurance settlements. An attorney for the Georgia Department of Agriculture has said these actions "may be a felony under Georgia law." 
In October 2018, Atlanta television station WAGA-TV reported that companies owned by Kemp owed more than $800,000 in loans to a community bank where he is a founding board member and stockholder. Such "insider loans" are legal, so long as they are on the same terms as the bank would extend to any other borrower. Kemp's campaign declined to make public the terms of the loan.
|Georgia State Senate 46th District Election, 2002|
|Democratic||Doug Haines (inc.)||17,015||49.3|
|Georgia State Senate 46th District Election, 2004|
|Republican||Brian Kemp (inc.)||29,424||51.6|
|Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Republican Primary Election, 2006|
|Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Republican Primary Runoff Election, 2006|
|Georgia Secretary of State Republican Primary Election, 2010|
|Georgia Secretary of State Election, 2010|
|Georgia Secretary of State Election, 2014|
|Republican||Brian Kemp (inc.)||1,452,554||57.47|
|Georgia Gubernatorial Republican Primary Election, 2018|
|Georgia Gubernatorial Republican Primary Runoff Election, 2018|
|Georgia Gubernatorial Election, 2018|
designed to assure the identity and eligibility of voters and to prevent fraudulent or erroneous registrations
76.3 percent of which were for black, Asian, and Latino voters
may represent the largest mass disenfranchisement in US history
By regularly updating our rolls, we prevent fraud and ensure that all votes are cast by eligible Georgia voters.
Trump-style Republican candidate for governor Brian Kemp
|Georgia State Senate|
| Member of the Georgia State Senate
from the 46th district
| Secretary of State of Georgia
| Governor of Georgia
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for Secretary of State of Georgia
| Republican nominee for Governor of Georgia
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
as Vice President
| Order of Precedence of the United States
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Otherwise Nancy Pelosi
as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
as Governor of New Jersey
| Order of Precedence of the United States
as Governor of Connecticut