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?
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