Get PolitiFact in your inbox.

Brian Kemp
stated on July 5, 2010 in a Cobb County Republican Party breakfast speech June 5:
Says his GOP challenger, Doug MacGinnitie, "hadn’t voted in a Republican primary for almost 20 years until 2008.
true false
By Willoughby Mariano July 4, 2010

Secretary of State Brian Kemp says challenger didn't vote in Republican primaries

There's no shortage of sniping in the Republican primary for Georgia secretary of state. Candidates have traded accusations of political careerism, incompetence and dishonesty for months.

This time around, seven-month incumbent Brian Kemp and opponent Doug MacGinnitie are squabbling over their voter registration histories. Kemp said in a speech posted on YouTube that MacGinnitie failed to vote in Republican primaries for two decades. MacGinnitie countered by posting a commercial that says Kemp's record shows he voted for Democrats.

They have both accused each other of "hypocrisy."

The brawl made its way from the Internet to the airwaves when reporter Lori Geary confronted the rivals on WSB-TV June 28. They repeated their attacks and piled on a couple more.

A separate Truth-O-Meter item will focus on MacGinnitie's attack on Kemp. This one addresses Kemp's attack on MacGinnitie.

Kemp bashed his rival during a Cobb County GOP breakfast June 5. His campaign posted a recording of Kemp's speech on YouTube.

"I’ve got a solid conservative record. But when you look at my opponent, he doesn’t tell you that he hadn’t voted in a Republican primary for almost 20 years until 2008," Kemp told the crowd.

That's a long time for a Republican to opt out of voting Republican. We requested MacGinnitie's voter history from the Georgia secretary of state, which keeps voting records.

Records show that MacGinnitie voted 23 times in Georgia since 1988. Six were in the Republican primary process: in 1988 for president; 1996 for president; 1996 in the general primary runoff; 2000 for president; 2008 for president; and 2008 in the general primary.

MacGinnitie voted twice in Democratic primaries: the 1988 general primary runoff; and the 1992 presidential primary. In those races, he was using the "Rush Limbaugh playbook" -- voting for the weakest Democrat to boost Republican chances for victory, his spokesman said.

Six votes in Republican primaries is a bit more than none. We contacted the Kemp campaign for an explanation.

They said that while MacGinnitie did vote in presidential Republican primaries, he didn't start voting in state Republican primaries until 2008, when he was gearing up to run for higher office.

This is a major failing on MacGinnitie's part, a Kemp campaign consultant contended. In areas such as their opponent's heavily Republican neighborhood, the party primary can be even more important than the general election because Democrats are such a long shot.

"In those areas, the state Republican primary is the entire election. It decides who wins, not the general election," campaign consultant Joel McElhannon told PolitiFact Georgia in an e-mail.

What's worse, MacGinnitie sat on the sidelines at a time when local and state Republicans needed supporters, McElhannon said. For much of the past 20 years, the party was in the midst of a resurgence that made it possible for the GOP to dominate Georgia politics for the first time since the Reconstruction.

MacGinnitie's spokesman acknowledged that his candidate's voting record has room for improvement.

It's correct that primaries often decide elections in areas that lean heavily toward one political party, and MacGinnitie did not vote in state and local races that were important to the Republican Party. But the attack Kemp made on MacGinnitie has serious problems.

During the Cobb breakfast, Kemp could have told voters that MacGinnitie did not vote in a state Republican primary for 20 years. This would have been accurate. Instead, he said his opponent did not vote in a "Republican primary." There's no mention of state primaries.

Kemp's campaign countered that most Republican voters in party strongholds understand that "Republican primary" means "state Republican primary." They added that typically, Kemp does specify in speeches and campaign e-mails that he is talking about state Republican primaries, not national ones.

Yet Kemp's speech in Cobb was not a one-time misstep. His campaign has made the same inaccurate claim over and again. A flier and list titled "Doug MacGinnitie's Documented Lies" his own campaign e-mailed to PolitiFact Georgia contained the same accusation.

We rule Kemp's statement False.

Featured Fact-check

Our Sources

YouTube, "Kemp Sets Record Straight About Doug's Hypocrisy," posted June 9, 2010

YouTube, "Brian Kemp’s Record," posted June 23, 2010

WSB-TV, "Secretary of State's Race Heading Up," June 28, 2010,

E-mail and interview, Joel McElhannon, campaign consultant, Brian Kemp for Georgia Secretary of State, June 30, 2010

Interview, Brandon Phillips, spokesman, Doug MacGinnitie for Georgia Secretary of State, June 29, 2010

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Election '92: The Republicans," March 4, 1992

Georgia Secretary of State, voter registration voter history, received June 30, 2010

Brian Kemp for Secretary of State campaign flier, "Compare the Record," received June 30, 2010

Brian Kemp for Secretary of State document, "Doug MacGinnitie's Document Lies," received June 30, 2010

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Willoughby Mariano

Secretary of State Brian Kemp says challenger didn't vote in Republican primaries

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up