An early Donald Trump backer aims for higher office in Georgia

Sen. Mike Crane (left), R-Newnan, and Sen. Michael Williams, R-Cumming, confer in the statehouse. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Sen. Mike Crane (left), R-Newnan, and Sen. Michael Williams, R-Cumming, confer in the statehouse. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

A few of the dominoes in Georgia’s 2018 election scene could soon be toppled over.

The question echoing in Georgia’s statehouse is not just who gets in the governor’s race (and how soon) but who lines up to take their place. And we now have a pretty good clue about one of the more intriguing contests.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has long been seen as a likely candidate for Georgia’s top job, and the jockeying to replace him if he takes the leap is already underway. Some of the loudest whispers we heard were from supporters of state Sen. Michael Williams, the Cumming Republican and businessman who owned a chain of haircut franchises before he was elected on an outsider’s platform in 2014.

In a statement from his campaign strategist, Seth Weathers, Williams staked an early claim for Kemp’s seat if the incumbent doesn’t seek reelection. Here goes:

“Michael isn’t the typical politician that would play coy with your question and not give you a straight answer. This short answer is yes, he is seriously considering it. Over the past few weeks he has heard from many people across the state that are overwhelmingly supportive. When we get closer to the next election, he will make his final decision. Right now he’s focused on the next legislative session in the state Senate.”

This is where it gets interesting. Williams was the first elected state official in Georgia to endorse Donald Trump and is co-chair of his state campaign. (He was also an early backer of that other self-appointed outsider, Sen. David Perdue). And Weathers was Trump’s first Georgia campaign operative, and still has close ties to the campaign.

Win or lose in November, Trump has transformed Republican politics in Georgia. And Williams’ potential candidacy is another signal that Trump’s allies are looking to make a lasting imprint far beyond this year’s contests.


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