At Georgia Debate Stacey Abrams, Brian Kemp Clash Over Abortion, Crime
Georgia’s gubernatorial candidates on Monday night debated their views on abortion, the economy, crime, voting, and education, among other issues in Atlanta ahead of the midterm elections.
Gov. Brian Kemp (R-Ga.), the incumbent, faced Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams and Libertarian nominee Shane Hazel.
Kemp said he “would not” go beyond his 2019 bill banning abortions in Georgia once a fetal heartbeat is detected at around six weeks. He said he’d rather focus on tackling inflation, high gas prices, and economic pressures which he attributed to Democrat policies.
Abrams, who lost the gubernatorial race to Kemp in 2018, framed Kemp’s stance on abortion as denying women “access to reproductive care,” and as extreme.
“He’s denied women … access to reproductive care. The most dangerous thing facing Georgia is four more years of Brian Kemp,” she said.
Georgia’s abortion law provides exceptions to the ban in cases of rape, incest, and if the pregnant woman’s life is at risk.
Kemp said his decision to reopen the state’s economy amid the pandemic put Georgia in a strong financial position. He also reminded voters that he’d delivered billions in tax relief and rebates to millions of Georgians, including cutting a gas tax.
The incumbent governor pointed to the financial pressures and economic difficulties Americans face under President Joe Biden’s management of the U.S. economy as an example of how bad things can get when “Democrats have complete control.”
“My desire is to continue to help them fight through 40-year-high inflation and high gas prices and other things that our Georgia families are facing right now financially because of bad policies in Washington, D.C., where President [Joe] Biden and the Democrats have complete control,” he said.
Georgia was among the first states to ease COVID-19 restrictions, the Republican reminded voters, saying he resisted widespread mask mandates and school closures.
“Our economy is incredible … we are the ones that’s been fighting for you when Ms. Abrams was not,” Kemp said.
Abrams argued she’s got the better long-term plan for Georgia’s economy, pledging to lift wages for teachers, expand Medicaid, increase access to state contracts for small and minority-owned businesses, provide grants (“not loans”) to law enforcement, and broaden access to college aid paid for by gambling.
The Democrat nominee also asked the Libertarian candidate, Hazel, how he’d handle the Chinese Communist Party buying up Georgian farmlands, given the state has military bases. Hazel said that the state had no right to tell anyone who they could or couldn’t sell their property to.
Voting Rights and Crime
Abrams, who has challenged her 2018 election loss to Kemp in the courts for four years, said she’d accept the outcome of the midterms if defeated.
The Democrat has been accused of denying the outcome of the 2018 elections and was criticized by Republicans for giving a concession speech in which she vowed to challenge the outcome and refused to use the word “concede.”
“I will always acknowledge the outcome of elections, but I will never deny access to every voter because that is the responsibility of every American to defend the right to vote,” she said.
On the topic of ballot access and voting rights, Abrams accused Kemp of “assiduously” denying access “to the right to vote” when he was secretary of state. Kemp rejected the accusation, saying he established an online voter registration system.
Kemp told voters that despite Abrams claiming new election integrity laws would be “suppressive,” the state had a “record turnout” for its May primaries for both Republicans and Democrats. He also noted the 2018 gubernatorial elections saw “the largest African American” voter turnout in the country.
“In Georgia, it’s easy to vote, hard to cheat,” Kemp said.
Kemp said he had numerous endorsements from sheriffs and law enforcement while noting Abrams’s criticism of police. Abrams has defended against criticism that she is anti-police.
Abrams told voters that it’s possible to support law enforcement while holding police accountable at the same time.
Libertarian Says Republicans, Democrats Use ‘Force and Coercion’
Hazel, who didn’t get asked as many questions as his Republican and Democrat opponents during the debate, accused both the Republicans and Democrats of using “force and coercion” against Americans to achieve their policy goals.
The Libertarian said that although he ran for Congress as a Republican in 2018, he had “gone back” to his roots.
“We believe in freedom. We saw what the Republican party was. We saw what the Democrat Party was. They are force or coercion,” Hazel said.
“No matter what they talk about, it’s force and coercion. Whether it’s a certificate of need for hospitals, whether it is taking guns away from law-abiding citizens. It is always force and coercion at the point of a gun from the Democrats and Republicans.”
The debate took place on Monday night after 19 days of early voting began in the state, ending on Nov. 4.
Kemp and Abrams are scheduled to meet for a second debate on Oct. 30.