- Georgia GOP Gov. Brian Kemp spurred 2026 rumors this week when he met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRCC) Steve Daines in Washington, D.C.
- Several Georgia political experts and Republican consultants told the Daily Caller News Foundation Kemp is best positioned to beat Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff in 2026, but they weren’t sure whether the governor would run.
- “It has a fraction of the power that the Georgia Governor has, and while it’s got many amenities to it, it doesn’t include a mansion in Buckhead and a security detail like what he has enjoyed,” Brian Robinson, a veteran Georgia GOP operative, told the DCNF. “As governor of Georgia, he can snap his fingers and make things happen. And the only thing that you can snap your fingers and make happen as a senator is perhaps getting some coffee from your staff — it’s night and day.”
Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp stoked 2026 rumors this week when meeting with key GOP senators on Capitol Hill, and several political experts and operatives in the state weighed in on the governor challenging Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff once his second term ends.
Kemp, who overwhelmingly secured reelection in 2022, made several media appearances this week and met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Steve Daines. Georgia political insiders and GOP operatives told the Daily Caller News Foundation that Kemp would be the best-suited candidate to take back one of the blue seats, but they were split as to whether the governor’s D.C. visit is indicative of his 2026 aspirations.
“I think meetings with Leader McConnell and other Republican senators will fuel the speculation that he’s seriously looking at it. Otherwise, why go have those meetings? This is not a guy who enjoys Washington, or the Georgetown cocktail circuit. I mean, that’s not him, and the fact that he’s there is very telling,” Brian Robinson, a veteran Georgia GOP operative, told the DCNF. “There’s nobody in the ranks of Georgia Republican politics who would hold a candle to his strength as a candidate in 2026.”
The “conversation” of Kemp challenging Ossoff in 2026 began the day after his reelection, Jason Shepherd, a prominent Republican operative in the state, told the DCNF. Shepherd also noted Kemp’s strong fundraising ability and his super PAC that would bolster a campaign in 2026, but believes a potential Senate bid is still very much in the “consideration period.”
The GOP has lost several critical races in Georgia over the last few cycles, and Democrats now control both Senate seats while Republicans hold all other statewide elected offices and both chambers of the state legislature.
Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock ousted Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a 2020 special election, and Ossoff won the seat Kemp is potentially eyeing in the 2020 general, beating incumbent GOP Sen. David Purdue. When Republicans had the chance to take back Warnock’s Senate seat in 2022, GOP candidate Herschel Walker narrowly lost.
All three of the Republicans who lost their Senate bids were endorsed by former President Donald Trump; Dr. Charles Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia, told the DCNF that “Georgia is an anti-Trump state.” Bullock and the other Republican operatives argued that because Kemp wouldn’t run in the Trump-lane, he would be successful in challenging Ossoff.
“A Republican who is Donald Trump himself, or very closely identified with Trump, has a hard time [in Georgia]. A number of them have lost — Herschel Walker, Kelly Loeffler, David Perdue,” said Bullock. “Kemp is not closely associated with Trump. Kemp can, therefore, attract the key swing voting electorate in Georgia, which is white, college educated voters, and those are the folks who in sufficient numbers will vote against Trump.”
Kemp likely spoke with McConnell and Daines about how he could help them flip the Senate back red in 2024, and what states he could visit to help candidates campaign, Jay Morgan, Republican political consultant, told the DCNF.
“Kemp is one of the best-known governors in the country that’s not running for president, so he’s gonna have the time and freedom to get out and help folks,” said Morgan. “He desperately wants to see the party move beyond Trump, and the way to do that is to elect more folks that share his vision for where the country ought to be heading.”
Kemp broke from the former president after the 2020 election when the governor refused to corroborate Trump’s claims that Georgia was stolen from him. The governor has since maintained popularity in the party, and has the ability to appeal to “MAGA voters”, “establishment Republicans” and independents, said Robinson, who called Kemp “Trump-plus.”
In 2018, Kemp narrowly defeated Democrat Stacy Abrams 50.2% to 48.8%, and he was overwhelmingly elected to his second term last fall, beating Abrams by nearly 8 points, according to Ballotpedia. Prior to his governorship, Kemp served as the secretary of state after his time in the state Senate.
John Watson, former chairman of the Georgia GOP, told the DCNF that if Kemp does challenge Ossoff, he’d be “formidable as hell,” but he believes his meetings on Capitol Hill this week were to emphasize to Senate leaders that Georgia must vote red in 2024 to have “any chance” at picking up seats in 2026.
“Knowing Brian Kemp and the level of focus and discipline that he has, that was more around making damn certain that Georgia is won in ’24, because if we don’t keep Georgia red and do our role for the presidential campaign in ’24, that’s just gonna make ’26 all the more problematic,” said Watson.
After the governor met with McConnell on Tuesday, he told reporters that he’s “focused on ‘24: winning Georgia in ‘24 and the White House.” (RELATED: Brian Kemp Stokes 2026 Senate Bid Rumors)
Jay Williams, a Republican political consultant in Georgia, told the DCNF he doesn’t think Kemp will run for Senate in 2026 and argued the governor is just “keeping his options open.”
“Governor Kemp is focused on doing the job Georgians elected him to do last November and ensuring the Republican nominee beats Joe Biden in the Peach State in 2024,” Cody Hall, a spokesperson for Kemp, told the DCNF.
Bullock isn’t convinced Kemp will launch a Senate bid, and argued that going from being Georgia’s governor to being “one of the most junior members” in the upper chamber is a serious loss of power, and told the DCNF that he will likely consult his wife, Marty, and three daughters when making the decision.
“[Marty] might have more interest in his continuing political career than he might,” said Bullock. “So I think he would have serious qualms about running for a Senate term, but Marty might encourage him strongly to do so.”
Robinson echoed Bullock’s sentiment, and argued being a senator is a “step down” from serving as governor. Kemp is likely “raising his profile” by traveling to D.C. and making media appearances to shore up funds for his super PACs, said Robinson, who isn’t sure whether the governor will run or retire from politics and return to the private sector once his second term is completed.
“It has a fraction of the power that the Georgia Governor has, and while it’s got many amenities to it, it doesn’t include a mansion in Buckhead and a security detail like what he has enjoyed,” said Robinson. “As governor of Georgia, he can snap his fingers and make things happen. And the only thing that you can snap your fingers and make happen as a senator is perhaps getting some coffee from your staff — it’s night and day. “
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