Republican Hunter Hill said Sunday he will endorse Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s campaign for governor, giving him the support of the third-place finisher in the final days before the runoff vote.
Kemp hopes the former state senator, who will announce his support at a Tuesday event, will help him gain more traction in the Atlanta suburbs against Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in the July 24 contest.
Long the front-runner, Cagle narrowly trails Kemp in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News poll.
Hill’s decision is no surprise, given the longtime animosity between him and Cagle. Still, Cagle’s campaign hoped he would stay neutral in the contest – and his allies were pressuring Hill to remain on the sidelines.
That’s because Hill, who represented an Atlanta-based state Senate district, performed well in parts of the state where Cagle hopes to dominate.
He finished in second-place to Cagle in Cobb and Fulton counties, edging out Kemp in those vote-rich territories. And he narrowly carried Glynn County, home of a trove of GOP voters and retirees, on his way to capturing 18 percent of the total Republican vote.
The announcement came shortly after Cagle and Kemp wrapped up Sunday’s Channel 2 Action News debate, pummeling each other over issues involving trust and competence.
During the primary, Cagle relentlessly attacked Hill because he favored a showdown against Kemp in the runoff. And Hill’s decision was surely made easier by the secretly-made recording, where Cagle is heard saying he supported “bad public policy” to deprive Hill of key outside support.
While hundreds of local elected officials and state lawmakers have taken sides in this race, most higher-profile Republicans have not weighed in.
U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue are steering clear of the runoff, and so has much of the U.S. House delegation.
Gov. Nathan Deal, meanwhile, recently urged prominent donors in Hall County to support Cagle’s campaign and left open the possibility that he could formally endorse the lieutenant governor.
“I’ve tried to let them run their own campaigns,” Deal said. “But I do have an interest in trying to make sure that whoever my successor is does not go in and undo and destroy many of the great advances that we’ve made.”
Read more recent AJC coverage of the governor’s race: