Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams, the Democrat he narrowly defeated in 2018 and who will challenge him again in 2022, have spent the past four years preparing for a rematch.
Monday night’s debate in Atlanta, the only time during this year’s Georgia governorate campaign that the candidates would appear on the podium together, was a demonstration of the political zest the two had against each other. Both Mr. Kemp and Ms. Abrams were familiar with the other’s file – Ms. Abrams on Mr. Kemp’s term as governor (and before that, Secretary of State and Senator), and Mr. Kemp largely on statements made by Ms. Abrams as a candidate and as the main democratic political organizer of Georgia.
The debate, which also included a libertarian candidate, Shane Hazel, with a low opinion poll, was a substantive hour during which Mr Kemp and Ms Abrams demonstrated the stark differences between them. Few undecided voters watching would be confused about how either one would like to govern.
Each candidate survived the debate without making any major mistakes, although Ms Abrams at one point apologized for “my outburst” after interrupting Mr Kemp.
Here are five key points from the debate:
President Biden is making it difficult for everyone.
Republicans across the country paint President Biden’s America as an inflation and crime-scarred hellscape that can only be saved through conservative policies. But not in Georgia.
Mr. Kemp described his state, after nearly four years of leadership, as a place with a booming economy, new businesses taking up residence and fully funded police forces adept at tackling local crime.
Everywhere else, Democrats are arguing that things are going pretty well right now. Trillions of dollars in new federal spending kept the economy afloat and helping keep people in work. But not in Georgia.
The state of the 2022 midterm elections
Now that the primaries are over, both parties are turning their attention to the general election on November 8.
Ms. Abrams flipped through a laundry list of local ailments she told Mr. Kemp attributed, including rising crime, rising house prices and the Chinese government buying up large swaths of the state’s farmland.
“We live in a state of fear,” she said. “And this is a governor who has bragged for the past four years, but has done little for most Georgians.”
For any candidate, taking the opposite direction from their national party carries a risk. The sunny days-are-here approach of Mr. Kemp goes against the message that Republican voters hear in their compartmentalized media environment. But Ms Abrams, who is lagging behind in the polls, rules out any help from Mr. Biden or National Democrats by stressing to voters that things are dire.
Mrs. Abrams is ready to talk about race.
Ms. Abrams would be the first black female governor of a state if elected, and she hasn’t been shy about the role race plays in Georgian politics. Early in the debate, an exchange of views on crime and policing gave her an opportunity to underline that dynamic.
Mr Kemp has sought to tie Ms Abrams to the police punishment movement since she supported police reform at the height of protests against police brutality in the summer of 2020. During the second round of the debate, when candidates can ask for one another question, he asked her how many members of law enforcement in Georgia had supported her campaign. She replied by suggesting that the support of Mr. Kemp came from long entrenched centers of power in the state.
“I don’t have the luxury of being part of a good old boys’ club where we don’t focus on the needs of our people,” Ms Abrams replied, referring to the state’s history of electing white men. .
She has used similar language in recent ads, including one running today in Georgia telling what she would do with the state’s $5 billion budget surplus. “I’ll never be part of the old boys’ club, but that’s okay,” she says.
Mr Kemp would like to discuss the pandemic.
It almost didn’t matter what the question was – Mr. Kemp tried to give the answer that he will reopen Georgia’s businesses and schools in 2020 earlier than any other state.
When asked about racial inequalities, the local economy, the expansion of Medicaid or what to do about a state budget surplus, Mr. Kemp reminded viewers that he was rushing to open up the state’s economy to federal public health experts. — and even President Donald J. Trump at the time — thought it was wise.
Mr Kemp said Georgia was the first state to reopen the “small parts” of the state that were closed during the pandemic. “Our recovery has been as good as any other state in the country. We have had two record years of economic development because of our business environment, working with the General Assembly to ensure that we put Georgians first and Georgian companies and Georgian workers first.”
For Mr. Kemp, this tactic served a dual purpose. It allowed him to attack Ms. Abrams for preaching prudence that is now out of step with an electorate that is largely transgressing pandemic borders, and it left him with elements of his political base that are still loyal to Mr. Trump. remember it was him, Mr. Kemp, who most agreed with them on what to do in response to Covid.
Mr Kemp and Mrs Abrams really disagree on gun policy.
In a debate in which many policy discussions took place, a debate on firearms provided a clear view of the position of each candidate.
Kemp signed a law in 2022 that allows anyone in the state to carry a firearm without a license. Ms. Abrams has made that law one of her main critiques of the governor’s policy agenda, saying it endangers Georgians and could lead to more mass shootings like the one of 2021, where a gunman killed eight people when he killed it. opened fire at several Asian spas. Mr. Kemp defended the law, saying it helps vulnerable people defend themselves, including black Americans and women, two groups he cited.
“The criminals are the only ones who have the weapons,” he argued, defending against “local governments blocking concealed weapons licenses.”
He went on to claim that any person who bought a firearm was subject to a federal background check—a point Ms. Abrams was quick to correct, noting that buying guns at private sales and gun shows didn’t require background checks. She later apologized to Mr. Kemp for the interruption.
Yes, a libertarian named Shane Hazel also runs.
We’ve seen it before, we’ll see it again: A little-known candidate made a memorable appearance during a debate that was almost entirely about the others on the podium.
Add Shane Hazel from Georgia to a list of the Rent-Is-Too-Damn-High man and the time Jim Webb casually said he killed someone.
Before his prime-time debut, Mr. Hazel was last seen with 28 percent in a 2018 Republican primary for a seat in the suburban Atlanta House. He spent his speaking time Monday calling on Georgia to adopt a purist libertarian philosophy: ending public education, eliminating virtually all police functions, legalizing drugs and stopping property taxes. It was a performance that often confused Mr Kemp and Mrs Abrams when he made references to “Austrian economics” that few inexperienced libertarian principles would understand.
Still, Mr. Hazel could play an outrageous role in the election. Georgian law requires a winner to get at least 50 percent of the vote. If mr. Hazel draws enough votes from the two leading candidates – and, more plausibly, from Mr. Kemp – this could force them into a runoff in December and campaign for an extra month. If there is another debate then Mr. Hazel not be there.