Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp clashed in testy exchanges Monday on questions on the economy, education and guns during the first of two scheduled debates in Georgia’s gubernatorial election.
Education and crime dominated discussions during the hourlong Atlanta Press Club debate, which also featured Libertarian Shane Hazel, but candidates traded jabs over issues like voting rights and gun control.
“Brian Kemp does not have a plan,” Abrams said of the governor’s handling of minority-owned businesses. “It was only until July of this year that he finally acknowledged that there might be a problem. He said we might need to study it. I would tell him to cheat off my paper. I know the answer.”
Abrams presented her vision for the state as one of helping to keep it safe from a variety of threats, especially the horrific mass shootings that have been carried out in schools across the nation.
“These are communities that want to be safe,” Abrams said midway through the debate, highlighting Kemp’s latest gun law, which allows for permitless carry around the state. “They don’t want to have to carry weapons. … We can protect the Second Amendment and second graders.”
Abrams, who narrowly lost to Kemp in 2018 by about 55,000 votes, has pushed back on the campaign trail that Kemp’s vision of a prosperous Georgia is leaving people behind.
“This is a governor who for the last four years has beat his chest but delivered very little for most Georgians,” she said. “He has weakened gun laws and flooded our streets, he has weakened our privacy rights and women’s rights … the most dangerous thing facing Georgia is four more years of Brian Kemp.”
Under Kemp’s leadership, Georgia’s Republican-controlled legislature has passed a number of laws that polling suggests most voters oppose — such as loosening gun restrictions and an abortion law that virtually outlaws the procedure after about six weeks into pregnancy.
Voters more closely align with Abrams’ stances on these issues, although polls of likely voters show her trailing by several points. The Democrat argues that the surveys fail to capture a crucial part of the electorate: unengaged voters and newly registered voters, two groups that her campaign is heavily targeting this election.
As of September, Abrams reported raising more than $85 million between her campaign and the One Georgia committee, while Kemp has hauled in more than $60 million — dwarfing the roughly $48 million the two collectively spent in 2018.
Early voting is now underway in Georgia, where more than 100,000 people voted in person Monday by 4:15 p.m., according to the Secretary of State’s office, shattering the previous first day record of 72,000 set in 2018.
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