With less than a week until election day and record-high early voting, Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams were squared off in their second and final gubernatorial debate on Sunday night. They argued about abortion rights, the state’s economy, and, in a sign of the race’s national ramifications, which party should take the fall for the nation’s problems.
Kemp has been ahead in most polls, but Abrams, who narrowly missed forcing a run-off in their 2018 race, has a strong base of support and has been successful in mobilizing Democrats for both her campaigns and those of other prominent Democratic candidates, such as President Joe Biden and Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in their 2020 bids.
This year, there are 36 states with governor elections; 20, including Georgia, are supported by Republicans. Republicans, who currently hold control of the state legislature, approved a bill outlawing abortion up to six weeks into a pregnancy three years ago with Kemp’s approval. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade has put that law into effect, and other restrictions may be coming.
Abrams harshly attacked Kemp for failing to clarify whether he would support new anti-abortion rights Republican legislation. Kemp, for his part, kept attempting to bring up the economy, notably inflation and Georgia’s seeming prosperity despite it, while portraying Abrams as a radical progressive who wanted to defund the police. (Her situation is far more challenging.) Here are five lessons learned from Georgia’s second gubernatorial debate:
Comparing two economies
Georgia is prospering, as Kemp claims, or is it on the verge of a catastrophic bust, as Abrams argued? Kemp highlighted higher wages and low unemployment, while Abrams singled out Georgia’s low minimum wage and Kemp’s refusal to accept Medicaid expansion funds under Obamacare as two economic albatrosses being carried by the state’s working class. Kemp blamed any pain on inflation, which he attributed to Democratic policies in Washington.
Kemp summarised his position at the start and the end of the discussion. The lowest unemployment rate in our state’s history, the highest employment rate in our state’s history, and “economic opportunity, no matter your zip code or your neighbourhood, because we’ve been focused on strengthening rural Georgia and many other things” were all praised in his concluding remarks.
Abrams saw a noticeably different thing.
The economic anguish that Americans are experiencing is genuine, according to Abrams. “As governor, I would not only reduce expenses but also put more money in the hands of middle-class and working Georgians; nevertheless, I will not do it by cutting taxes for the powerful and the wealthy.”
When the Covid-19 pandemic was at its worst, and he was among the first to reopen businesses, Kemp claimed that his manoeuvring was the only reason the state could receive a one-time billion-dollar tax credit this way year. Kemp also cited a recent gas tax holiday as an example of his efforts to make life more affordable for voters in the middle class.
He attempted to place the blame north on the White House when that failed.
Abrams pressed Kemp on his portrayal of the state’s economic predicament, to which Kemp replied, “The difficulty (for Georgians) is (wages are) not going up fast enough to keep up with Joe Biden’s inflation.”
Future abortion rights are still a contentious topic.
In a way, Georgia’s abortion discussion has come to a stop. A three-year-old law in the state forbids the operation after around six weeks. And it’s currently in force thanks to the Dobbs ruling by the Supreme Court.
However, Abrams and the debate moderators had another query for Kemp: in the absence of any federal constraints, would the Republican, in the event of reelection, sign more limitations into law?
It’s not my goal to go back, to go move the needle any farther, Kemp said after stating that he didn’t want to pre-judge “any single piece of legislation without actually seeing exactly what it’s accomplishing.”
Abrams’ response highlighted the ambiguity surrounding the matter. As the moderators emphasized, it continues to be contentious in the state, where more than half of those surveyed recently support abortion rights. Abrams focused her defence of abortion as “a medical decision” that should only be made by “a doctor and a woman, not a politician,” citing privacy issues and women’s health as critical points.
In a debate regarding restrictions and exceptions, Kemp described his wife’s miscarriage and their challenges when trying to have children (he now has three daughters).
In response to Abrams’ warning that the state would wind up looking into women who have them on the off chance they might have had an abortion, he called miscarriages “a horrible, traumatic occurrence.” Kemp rejected the idea that women would ever face the consequences of getting the operation.
According to Abrams, the restriction under existing state law takes effect “before most women know they’re pregnant,” attempting to connect the issue to broader worries about access to healthcare in the state. This is particularly concerning given the declining number of OB-GYNs in Georgia.
Herschel Walker versus Joe Biden?
Many people in Georgia are thinking about them even though they are not candidates for governor. For Democrats, it’s Herschel Walker, the Republican candidate for the Senate. He has come to represent what his detractors claim to be Republican hypocrisy on matters like abortion, support for law enforcement, and economic savvy.
President Joe Biden is the go-to bogeyman for most economic concerns on the Republican side. GOP candidates and their proxies never stop trying to link Democratic nominees to the President and the skyrocketing inflation that has taken place under his administration.
When criticized for his economic performance, Kemp responded, “Americans are hurting right now because of a horrible policy plan by Joe Biden and the Democrats that have complete control of Washington, DC.” In response, Abrams criticized Kemp for backing Walker during their argument over abortion.
“(Kemp) refuses to defend us, yet he defended Herschel Walker,” Abrams said. “He says he doesn’t want to be engaged in the personal lives of his running mate, but he doesn’t mind being involved in the personal medical choices of women in Georgia.”
Two women have accused Walker of pressuring them to get abortions, although Walker has repeatedly stated that he supports a complete ban on all abortions with no exceptions. Walker has refuted these allegations.
Voting rights are still a hot topic.
Abrams argued during their first debate that Kemp shouldn’t be given too much credit for upholding the law and resisting former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his Georgia 2020 loss.
Voting rights, and particularly a new law known as SB 202, were harshly criticized by Abrams during the debate. There was less discussion of the election from two years ago this time, and there was virtually any mention of Trump during the entire night. “I hold the right to vote in high regard. According to her, SB 202 is an abomination because it has allowed racists and White supremacists to contest the legitimacy of voters.
Abrams claimed that “the fact that people are voting is despite SB 202, not because of it” in response to news of record early voting turnout. Like in their first debate, Kemp defended the state by saying it’s “easy to vote and hard to cheat” while accusing Abrams of attempting to “manipulate and scare people at home.”
The question is noteworthy mainly because it has evolved into a mainstay of nationwide campaign debates in the wake of the 2020 election. When asked, both candidates responded that they would accept the results of the November election, regardless of the outcome.
The debate over crime tends to take similar turns nationally and in statewide elections, but Kemp and Abrams see different causes for this. Republicans frequently use the short-lived “defund the police” movement as ammunition against their rivals, accusing them of being tough on crime but lenient on the police. Democrats respond by stating their support for law enforcement before shifting the conversation to the GOP’s resistance to additional gun control measures.
On Sunday night, Georgia experienced the same thing.
“Check the record because Ms Abrams on CNN was questioned about whether or not she would defund the police. She then acknowledged that resources need to be redistributed. Defunding the cops is what that entails, Kemp added. Abrams refuted the assertion, claiming Kemp was “lying again” about her record, which is more complex, before bringing up the Republican’s track record of easing gun laws.
“Firearms most frequently kill our youngsters. In terms of gun violence, our state ranks tenth in the nation. In reaction to the 18% increase in gun-related family violence under this governor, Georgia’s gun restrictions were loosened, according to Abrams.
Actually, throughout this campaign, Abrams and Kemp have both made an effort to emphasize their support for police enforcement. While Kemp frequently touts his support from top law enforcement officials, most of whom have endorsed his campaign for a new term, Abrams has proposed $25 million in state grants to local agencies to raise police officer wages.