Five takeaways from the second Georgia gubernatorial debate

Five takeaways from the second Georgia gubernatorial debate


Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams faced each other her second and final gubernatorial debate Sunday night, just over a week before Election Day, amid a record high early voting.

They quarreled over the economy of the state, abortion rights, and, as a sign of the national implications of race, over whose party should be blamed for the country’s woes.

Kemp has led in most polls of the race, but Abrams — who brought her race to within a few thousand votes in the 2018 runoff — has a strong support base and has successfully helped mobilize Democrats in her and other senior Democrat campaigns Candidates including President Joe Biden and Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in their 2020 campaigns.

This year, 36 states will elect the governor, 20 – including Georgia – are being defended by Republicans. The state legislature is controlled by Republicans, who, with Kemp’s approval, passed an abortion law three years ago banning the procedure from as early as the sixth week of pregnancy, with some exceptions. Now that Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court, this law is in force and more restrictions could be on the way.

Abrams heavily criticized Kemp on the issue, noting his refusal to say clearly whether he would sign new Republican legislation against abortion rights. Kemp, in turn, repeatedly tried to steer the conversation back to the economy — particularly inflation, yet Georgia’s relative prosperity — and tried to portray Abrams as a progressive radical bent on disappointing the police. (Your position is considerably more complicated.)

Here are five takeaways from the second gubernatorial debate in Georgia:

Is Georgia booming, as Kemp says, or nearing catastrophic bankruptcy, as Abrams argued?

The candidates painted very different portraits of the state’s economic situation, with Kemp pointing to higher wages and low unemployment – attributing inflation to inflation, which he attributed to Washington’s Democratic policies – while Abrams highlighted a low minimum wage and Kemp’s refusal to To accept Medicaid expansion funds under Obamacare as twin albatrosses borne by the Georgian working class.

Kemp summarized his view at the beginning and end of the debate. Its closing statement hailed “the lowest unemployment rate in our state’s history,” “the most people ever worked in our state’s history,” and “economic opportunity, regardless of your zip code or neighborhood, because we were focused on strengthening the… rural Georgia and more.”

Abrams saw something dramatically different.

“The economic pain that people are feeling is real,” Abrams said. “As governor, not only will I cut costs, I will put more money in the pockets of working Georgians and the middle class, but I will not give tax cuts to the rich and powerful.”

Kemp argued that the state’s one-off billion-dollar tax credit this year was only possible because of his maneuvering during the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, when he was one of the first to reopen stores, and pointed to a recent gas tax holiday emblematic of his work to make life more affordable for middle-class voters.

Where that failed, he tried to shift the blame north — to the White House.

“The problem (that Georgians face) is that (wages) are not increasing fast enough to keep up with Joe Biden’s inflation,” Kemp replied when Abrams questioned his account of the state’s economic health.

In a way, the abortion debate has stalled in Georgia. The state has a law on its books passed three years ago that bans the trial after about six weeks. And with the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, it’s in effect now.

But Abrams and the debate moderators had another question for Kemp: If re-elected, would the Republican sign further legislative restrictions if there are no federal restrictions?

Kemp didn’t give a straight yes or no answer, saying he didn’t “want to prejudge any particular law without seeing exactly what it does,” before adding, “It’s not my desire to go back. to move the needle further.”

“He didn’t say he wouldn’t,” Abrams replied — underscoring the uncertainty that exists around the issue, which moderators noted remains divisive in the state, where more than half of the Respondents in a recent poll support his support for abortion rights.

Abrams justified her argument with concerns about women’s privacy and health, describing abortion as “a medical decision” that should only be made by “a doctor and a woman, not a politician.”

In a back-and-forth of limits and exceptions, Kemp described his own wife’s miscarriage and the difficulties they encountered in having children (he now has three daughters).

“It’s a tragic, traumatic situation,” he said of miscarriage, bucking Abrams’ warning that the state under the control of the GOP could end up investigating women they suspect of having obtained an abortion. Kemp denied that women were ever penalized for undergoing the procedure.

Abrams, trying to tie the issue to wider concerns about access to health care in the state, noted that under the state’s current law, the ban kicks in “before most women know they’re pregnant” — a particularly troubling fact given the declining number of OB-GYNs in Georgia.

They don’t run for governor, but they rank first for many in Georgia.

For Democrats, it’s GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker who has become a symbol of what his critics call Republican hypocrisy on issues like abortion, law enforcement support and business acumen.

On the Republican side, President Joe Biden is the boogeyman of choice for most economic issues, with GOP candidates and their running mates tirelessly trying to tie Democratic candidates to the president and the rising inflation that has occurred during his tenure.

“Americans are suffering right now because of a disastrous political agenda by Joe Biden and the Democrats who completely control Washington DC,” Kemp said when his economic record was attacked.

Abrams, in turn, called for Kemp’s support for Walker during her abortion campaign.

“(Kemp) refuses to defend us, and yet he defended Herschel Walker by saying he didn’t want to be involved in his running mate’s personal life, but doesn’t mind being involved in women’s personal medical decisions.” be Georgia,” said Abrams.

Walker, who has repeatedly said in the past that he supports a total abortion ban with no exceptions, faces allegations from two women who say he pressured them into having abortions. Walker has denied her claims.

During their first debate, Abrams said Kemp shouldn’t get too much credit for following the law and not giving in to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to reverse his 2020 loss in Georgia.

This time there was less talk of the period two years ago — and there was little mention of Trump all night — but voting rights, particularly a new law called SB 202, came under severe scrutiny from Abrams.

“The right to vote is sacred to me. … It is an abomination, SB 202, that has allowed racists and white supremacists to challenge citizens’ legal authority to vote,” she said.

In response to news of the record turnout for early voting, Abrams argued that “the fact that people are voting despite SB 202 is not because of it.”

Kemp accused Abrams, as he did in their first debate, of trying to “manipulate and scare people at home,” and defended the state as a place where it’s “easy to vote and hard to cheat.” be.

When asked, both candidates said they would accept the results of November’s election regardless of the outcome – a question particularly notable because it has become a staple of campaign debates across the country following the 2020 election.

The crime debate, both nationally and in statewide races, tends to follow similar trajectories.

Republicans accuse Democrats of being soft on criminals and hard on the police, often invoking the short-lived movement to “defund the police” against their opponents. Democrats are pushing back, touting their support for law enforcement before turning to GOP opposition to new gun restrictions.

And so it continued on Sunday night in Georgia.

“Check the records because Ms. Abrams was asked on CNN would she disappoint the police? And she said yes, we need to reallocate resources. That means disappointing the police,” Kemp said.

Abrams denied the allegation, saying Kemp “lied again” about her record — which is, in fact, more nuanced — before turning to the Republican’s record on easing gun restrictions.

“Guns are the number one killer of our children. We have the ninth highest gun violence rate in the nation. Domestic violence with guns has increased 18% under this governor, and his response was to weaken Georgia’s gun laws,” Abrams said.

In reality, both Abrams and Kemp went out of their way during this campaign to highlight their support for law enforcement. Abrams has proposed $25 million in state grants to local authorities to boost police officer wages, while Kemp has repeatedly touted his support from top law enforcement officials, the vast majority of whom have backed his campaign for a new term.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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