It seems counterintuitive: Brian Kemp appears to have paved the way for his opponent, former Sen. David Perdue’s cousin, former Gov. Sonny Perdue, to be named chancellor of Georgia’s university system.
Why is this important: The person who runs Georgia’s university system oversees 26 public colleges and universities, 48,000 faculty and staff, more than 341,000 students, and a budget of nearly $10 billion.
What is happening: Kemp, who appoints the Board of Regents that oversees the university system and selects its chancellor, replaced four regents skeptical of Perdue’s appointment with four who might be more supportive.
Catch up fast: The AJC first reported Perdue’s possible candidacy for the job nearly a year ago.
- Perdue, who served as agriculture commissioner in the Trump administration, told the newspaper last summer that he “has always been interested in higher education” and wanted to bring more conservative values to the position.
Yes, but: The idea sparked student protests. And SACS, the accrediting agency for the university system, sent a letter to the regents warning of the risk of political interference in the chancellor’s search.
State of play: A Kemp ally who agreed to speak anonymously said Perdue was “uniquely qualified” to lead a large organization like the university system and that Perdue is aligning himself with the governor to maintain a tight budget and streamline the operations of the system.
- To note : Sonny Perdue nominated Kemp for Georgia’s secretary of state in 2010 and successfully lobbied former President Donald Trump to endorse Kemp in 2018.
Philip Wilheit, a recently retired regent who hasn’t asked for a reappointment, tells Axios he loves Sonny Perdue, but said, “I don’t think he’s qualified to be chancellor of the university system.”
- Wilheit said he was concerned about the effect Perdue’s appointment would have on programs, funding and personnel.
The plot: A source close to Kemp and Sonny Perdue told Axios that the former governor isn’t really supportive of his cousin David’s campaign.
- Another source close to Sonny Perdue pointed out that Perdue can’t possibly enter the race if he wants to become chancellor. “His desire to serve the state of Georgia, if asked, supersedes any political calculation,” the source said.
What he says : David Perdue tells Axios that his cousin “is in an awkward position” because of the Chancery search. “But I stayed out of it, and I think he stays out of my little dog fight here.”
And after: A formal interview process with chancellor candidates, including Perdue, which is expected to begin this week.