Georgia’s gubernatorial candidates Democrat Stacy Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp faced-off on Tuesday (10/23) night on the future of healthcare in the state, DACA and the breakout star of the race: voter suppression.
During the Lodermilk-Young General Election Debate Series: Governor presented by the Atlanta Press Club current Secretary of State Kemp painted Abrams as a radical more fit for California than Georgia carrying on a farce of voter suppression.
Abrams accused Kemp of not only purging thousands off of the voting rolls, but also voter intimidation for having a woman arrested for assisting her blind father with casting a ballot, raiding the offices of organizations to stop them from registering voters and creating an atmosphere of fear.
Kemp absolutely denied engaging in any form of voter suppression charging that the minority participation in Georgia is up 23 percent, there are a million more people on Georgia’s voter rolls today than when he took office, the record turnout in the last presidential election and even now referring to early voting.
Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor and overseer of the state’s electoral process came under fire for allegedly suppressing 53,000 votes in recent years. He has been hit with multiple lawsuits of voter suppression including the organization founded by Abrams, “New Georgia Project.”
On the eve of Georgia’s gubernatorial debate, pictures of Abrams burning the Georgia State flag during a protest in 1992 on the steps of the state house surfaced adding more smoke to an already highly contentious race for governor. At the start of the debate Abrams addressed the issue.
From voter suppression to criminal justice reform here are the 10 takeaways you need to know about the race for governor in Georgia.
- Stacy Abrams said that her actions of burning the state flag was wrong, but it was a peaceful protest. “Twenty-six years ago as a college freshman I along with many other Georgians including the governor of Georgia was deeply disturbed by the racial divisiveness that was embedded in the state flag. I took an action of peaceful protest, I said that that was wrong and ten years later, my opponent Brian Kemp actually voted to remove that symbol.
- Brian Kemp believes he can be impartial as a candidate on the ballot for governor as the state’s overseer of elections. “I took the oath of office to serve as the secretary of state and that’s what I’m going to continue to do. Anybody that knows about elections in Georgia know it’s our county election officials that are actually holding the election…I’m doing the exact same thing that Democrat Cathy Cox was doing when she was running for governor.
- Abrams said she is bullish on Medicaid expansion and it’s a day-one priority. “I spent 11 years as a state legislator and seven as the democratic leader — this is one of those solutions where you work across the aisle. The problem [medicaid expansion] has been plaguing the state of Georgia for more than a decade. Rural Georgia is losing hospitals at an alarming rate and because of that lost we have companies leaving and we have people without access to healthcare, with the expansion of medicaid we can save rural hospitals, cover more than half a million Georgians, and invest in all of those communities to the tune of 3 billion dollars including the creation of 56,000 jobs 60 percent of which are outside the Atlanta metro area. I know it works, it’s been a proven solution that even Governor Mike Pence did in the state of Indiana.
- Kemp does not believe DACA recipients who pay taxes should have access to Georgia’s colleges and universities. “I’ve run a campaign of putting Georgians first and that’s what I plan to do. Unlike Ms. Abrams who wants to give the Hope Scholarship and free college tuition to those who are here illegally — I think that is the wrong position to go. We need to continue to fight for our own people in our own state that are citizens of our state.
- Kemp says Abrams wants a government-takeover of the healthcare system. “It’s a plan that will make your current insurance illegal, you will not be able to choose who your doctor is and in her book she says you’ll have to raise income tax and cut funding to medicaid and medicare to pay for this plan,” Kemp said. Abrams rebutted saying, “Unfortunately my opponent does not have a plan for healthcare other than saying trust your insurance companies. He has said that he will protect pre-existing conditions, however, his previous records show that he has voted against protections.”
- Abrams says Kemp is not fit to be governor of Georgia. “Mr. Kemp’s record as secretary of state, a business owner and a legislator demonstrates that he does not deserve a promotion in the state of Georgia. This is someone who has had to be held accountable to do his basic job, he’s been sued by the military for refusing to allow soldiers overseas to cast ballots. He was sued by non-profits for his failure to process properly thousands of registrations. He accidentally twice released the information of six million voters making them liable for identity theft. And he owes half a million dollars to a friend that he conveniently forgets that he owes.”
- Kemp calls Abrams on $50,000 tax bill from the IRS even though she is a tax attorney. “When you’re putting politics over the taxes you owe I think that does make you unfit to be governor,” Kemp said. “I very proudly take care of my parents, my niece and my grandmother. I know you can defer your taxes but you cannot defer cancer treatment payments for your father. I owe taxes to the federal government and I pay those taxes. I’m on a payment plan, I am current and I never walked away from my responsibilities,” Abrams responded.
- Abrams and Kemp have drastically different plans for rural Georgia’s economy. “Unfortunately, there is no way to bring companies back to communities without stabilizing those communities first. It’s not chicken and egg, but horse and cart and the cart is medicaid expansion. It will create 60,000 jobs in Georgia, 60 percent of which are outside the Atlanta metro area. It will provide access to healthcare and stabilize those economies, beyond that I’m the only candidate with a plan to invest in small businesses in South Georgia. I believe we should create a 10 million dollar small business financing fund that will help small businesses get the capital they need,” Abrams said. Kemp rebutted, “Expanding a broken government program is no answer to solving a problem, nor is taking 10 million dollars of taxpayer money and start loaning it out. I can assure you that small community-based banks know full well how to loan money out to hard working Georgians better so than the government.”
- Kemp will go full force after the Mexican Drug Cartel in Georgia. “I’ve got two plans to go after drug cartels and street gangs. I’ll also work with our local law enforcement and prosecutors. We’ve got to raise awareness, I’ll work with the attorney general to create a strike force in counties that don’t have resources to go after cartels and gangs to give them what they need to solve that problem…I will fight this good fight.
- Abrams plans to decriminalize being poor starting with the elimination of the cash-bond system statewide. “In states that have imposed this system, they have seen return rates that are equal to those who have access to cash-bail. They are also seeing that poor people aren’t losing their job and being forced out of the economy because of crimes they may or may not have committed. Criminal justice reform cannot stop in 2018. We must continue to fight for it.”
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Sarafina Wright is a political correspondent for EBONY.com. Previously she served as the editor of the WI Bridge and staff writer at the Washington Informer in Washington, DC, covering business, education, health and politics. She attended Howard University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. When she’s not writing professionally she can be found blogging at www.sarafinasaid.com. Sarafina can be reached at email@example.com.