Former Vice President Mike Pence vowed to support incumbent Republican governors against primary challenges backed by former President Donald Trump, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Trump, who has lambasted some Republican governors for not being loyal enough or failing to help him overturn the election, is backing primary challenges to incumbents like Gov. Brian Kemp in Georgia.
About half of the 16 Republican governors up for re-election are facing primary challenges from Trump-backed conservatives or the former president’s allies.
But Republican Glenn Youngkin’s win in Virginia, after he sought to distance himself from Trump, has given some of the governors confidence that they can win without Trump’s support.
Pence told the Republican Governors Association last week that he would support incumbents over challengers backed by his former running mate.
“I want to be clear,” Pence said. “I’m going to be supporting incumbent Republican governors.”
Trump has particularly targeted his ire at Kemp, who he blames for not doing enough to help overturn his election loss in the state.
“It’s insane,” Kemp said, lamenting that Trump’s attacks have undermined his conservative credentials.
But Trump is also backing a primary challenge to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a frequent critic.
Trump ally Jim Renacci has also launched a primary bid against incumbent Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who blamed the Capitol riot on Trump.
Trump is also backing right-wing Idaho Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s primary challenge to sitting Gov. Brad Little, and is courting primary challenges to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, blaming her after a state commission blocked him from holding a rally at a World War II battleship.
The Republican Governors Association plans to spend millions to defend incumbent governors and some Republicans are vowing to fight back against primary challengers.
“They’ve been through the trenches like nobody else,” Sununu told the Journal. “When the pandemic hit, no one had ever experienced anything like that. They did a phenomenal job and to try to play politics after that—with those records of success—is a shame.”
Democrats see the rift as an opening.
“These extreme primary challengers are going to push Republican governors further to the right and out of the mainstream,” Democratic Governors Association spokesman David Turner told the outlet. “The political environment is only going to improve for Democrats.”