Kemp and Abrams Attack and Counterattack in Rematch for Georgia’s Governor
"Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Stacey Abrams, the Democrat he narrowly beat in 2018, spent four years preparing for a rematch. They came to the stage ready. So did Shane Hazel, a Libertarian.
Monday’s debate lineup included Senate contests in Ohio and Utah. See our coverage of the J.D. Vance-Tim Ryan debate, and read 5 takeaways from Utah.
Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia and Stacey Abrams, the Democrat he narrowly beat in 2018 who is challenging him again in 2022, have spent the last four years preparing for a rematch.
Both Kemp and Abrams both talked extensively about Kemp tonight. Kemp made a pitch for four more years by repeating lines about Georgia’s economy and outlining what he’d do with a second term. Abrams criticized Kemp’s leadership, especially on housing and gun violence.
Kemp and Abrams used their closing statements to attack each other. Kemp, once again, for a statement Abrams has made on the campaign trail, and Abrams for Kemp’s record governing Georgia. It was a final summation of how each of them comported themselves for the last hour.
Hazel once again calls for the elimination of public education. That’s the purist Libertarian position, but probably not a terribly popular one statewide.
Kemp and Abrams just had a rather substantive discussion about gun laws in Georgia — a far meatier conversation than we have seen in other debates about this topic. It reflected both deeply held beliefs and an actual depth of knowledge from each candidate.
The year most often mentioned in this debate is 2020. It encompasses lots of what Kemp has run on this year: eschewing public health guidance during the pandemic and supporting law enforcement during a nationwide call for police reform.
It is interesting that Brian Kemp keeps arguing about Abrams’s record, when she hasn’t been in office since January 2017. He’s using her campaign statements as a stand-in for an actual record.
Abrams is taking the opposite approach of most Democrats running for office this year who are arguing that things are going pretty well, given that Joe Biden is the president. Abrams just blamed Kemp for a laundry list of ills in Georgia — rising crime, higher home prices, more gun violence — that most Republicans elsewhere try to blame Democrats for.
For whatever else is happening during this debate, it is serving as a clear view of the competing visions of the state presented by Kemp and Abrams. Kemp’s argument is that things are going great, while Abrams keeps speaking to a populace — primarily people of color — who feel left behind under Republican leadership in the state.
A sore spot for Georgia Republicans is the 2020 U.S. Senate election that Kelly Loeffler lost. Loeffler was appointed by Kemp. Asked if he regrets that appointment, he says no and laments Republicans’ lag in grass-roots turnout strategies.
One of Abrams’s political tricks is speaking about a world that doesn’t really exist. Asked how she’d enact her proposals with a Republican-controlled State Legislature, she says, “I don’t believe there is staunch opposition.” That is wishful thinking.
The back-and-forth between Kemp and Abrams on Georgia's excess money that was allocated for Covid-19 relief is one of the clearest distillations of their differences. Kemp has proposed using it for tax relief. Abrams has advocated putting it toward new state programs.
The debate has moved on to a discussion about public education in Georgia, which is likely to be a point of strength for Kemp. He used a budget surplus this year to give all of the state’s public school teachers a $5,000 bonus.
Kemp and Abrams brought their campaign-trail message to the debate stage tonight. The difference, now, is that Kemp is bringing his second-term plan, too.
It’s clear midway through this debate that Kemp and Abrams still loathe each other. They have their talking points and rebuttals down pat in addressing each other, but both were thrown off-balance when confronted by the Libertarian candidate, Hazel.
While Abrams used her question to Hazel to attack Kemp, Kemp does not, instead trying to defend himself against Hazel’s attacks.
In asking Kemp if he wants to “apologize” for his handling of the pandemic, Hazel, the Libertarian, is trying to hit a nerve. The pandemic has been a major part of the governor’s campaign message — he was one of the first governors to re-open Georgia businesses, against public health guidance, in 2020.
Given an opportunity to question Kemp, Abrams asks him if he has any plans to decrease a racial equity gap for minority-owned businesses. Kemp pivots to his record of re-opening the state’s businesses and schools during the pandemic.
We’ve waded into a pretty policy-heavy portion of the debate, which has shifted to China and its alleged involvement in Georgia’s agricultural industry. In this portion of the debate, where candidates get to ask one another questions, Abrams has posed hers to the Libertarian candidate, Hazel, about China.
Kemp has long tried to tie Abrams to the movement to defund the police. His first question to her in the second round of the debate is about how many members of law enforcement have endorsed her. “Unlike you, I don’t have the luxury of relying on slogans to describe my position on public safety,” she responds.
Hazel could have a significant impact on the election if he, as other Libertarians have in past races, pulls votes away from Kemp and forces Abrams and Kemp into a runoff if no one gets at least 50 percent of the vote.
There is also a third candidate in this debate: a Libertarian, Shane Hazel, who apparently last ran for office as a Republican.
Abrams continues to attack Kemp’s stewardship of Georgia’s elections during his tenure as secretary of state. “We need a governor who believes in the right to vote,” she says. Kemp responds by stating that voter turnout has increased in each election and accusing Abrams of lying about his record.
The next big question of the night is to Abrams, on her now-infamous 2018 nonconcession speech, in which she acknowledged Kemp’s win but said she would not concede because of the state’s voting laws. Asked if she would concede the 2022 race if she lost, she says she would "always acknowledge the outcome of elections” but would not stand down in her push against unfair voting laws.
Abrams gets the obvious question — after refusing to concede her 2018 loss to Kemp, would she commit to accepting the 2022 results? She gives a patented response, saying the system was unfair. “I will always acknowledge the outcome of elections,” she says.
Kemp just got a question on whether he would back further restrictions on abortion. He says he would not and pivots to the economy, which he says he is more focused on.
Voting rights dominated the 2018 race for governor, when Kemp was serving as secretary of state and Abrams was working to engineer a new Democratic turnout strategy in the state. That’s not the case four years later — abortion and the economy have been the issues animating this year’s campaign.
Kemp enters this debate with a lead over Abrams: Most Georgia prognosticators consider him a significant favorite at this point in the campaign.
The Atlanta Press Club is hosting tonight’s debate as part of its annual weeklong series of forums for all statewide offices. It hosted one for the U.S. Senate on Sunday night. The Republican nominee, Herschel Walker, did not attend.
ATLANTA — When they meet on the debate stage on Monday evening, Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a Republican, and Stacey Abrams, his Democratic opponent, will mount a rematch from the 2018 campaign for governor.
Their 2018 debate took place during Georgia’s early voting period, as it is again this year, against the backdrop of heightened attention to voting rights and access to the ballot. As Georgians took to the polls, many complained of hourslong lines and faulty voting equipment. According to an investigation by The Associated Press, thousands found their voter registrations in limbo as they tried to cast ballots. A majority of them were Black.
Georgia’s incumbent governor, Brian Kemp, will meet his Democratic opponent, Stacey Abrams, on the debate stage tonight in their first matchup since the 2018 governor’s race. The debate will begin at 7 p.m. Eastern.
When Georgia flipped blue in the 2020 election, it gave Democrats new hope for the future. Credit for that success goes to Stacey Abrams and the playbook she developed for the state. It cemented her role as a national celebrity, in politics and pop culture. But, unsurprisingly, that celebrity has also made her a target of Republicans, who say she’s a losing candidate. Listen to Thursday’s episode of The Run-Up to learn what Stacey Abrams’s playbook is and why the Georgia governor’s race means more to Democrats than a single elected office.
With less than a month to go until Election Day, candidates in the most competitive races of this midterm season are hashing out their differences in debates. Read about those that have taken place so far, and see where and when to watch the events to come.
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