Photo Credit: Savannah Cole
Democrat Stacey Abrams accused her Republican opponent, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, of trying to suppress minority turnout to win the governor’s race during a recent appearance in Athens.
Abrams spoke at two local bars, Hendershot’s and Wayward Lounge, on Thursday, Oct. 11, the day after the Associated Press reported that Kemp’s office had not processed 53,000 voter registration applications because of minor discrepancies, such as accents in names, between the applications and other documents. Seventy percent of those would-be voters are black.
Abrams, the former House minority leader who’s been running voter registration drives for Democrats for years, is no stranger to sparring with Kemp. Her organization, the New Georgia Project, previously filed a lawsuit against the secretary of state’s office over a similar issue.
“I know what his tricks are,” Abrams said. “He’s a one-trick pony when it comes to voter suppression. It’s not going to work this time.”
Abrams told a crowd of hundreds packed into Hendershot’s and lined up outside that Kemp is “shook” because they’re neck-and-neck in the polls. The latest, an AJC/WSB poll released earlier that day, showed Kemp leading by less than two percentage points—within the margin of error. Abrams said he’s counting on black and brown voters to sit out the election, and white people not to vote for a black woman.
“He knows I’m not offering some gimmicks to get teachers to think I care about them,” she said, referring to Kemp’s plan to spend $600 million on teacher raises. “I’ve been with them from the beginning...
“He knows I have a plan so when students graduate from college, they don’t graduate saddled with debt, they graduate soaring on opportunity.”
Abrams rolled through a litany of progressive positions: acknowledging that climate change is real, proposing 45,000 new jobs in sustainable energy, investing in transit, expressing support for undocumented immigrants (“Humanity doesn’t require paperwork.”) and saying she believes Christine Blasey Ford, who accused recently confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault. She criticized Kemp for supporting a “religious liberty” bill that would allow Christians to refuse to serve LGBTQ customers, and predicted he’d go after Muslims next.
Abrams said she would support small businesses: “If Hendershot’s wants to franchise, they’ve got a partner in the governor’s office… Not everybody can borrow a half million dollars from a good friend and not pay it back.” A Georgia investment company has sued Kemp, alleging he failed to pay back a $500,000 loan to invest in a Kentucky agriculture company.
She also said she supports accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid, although that’s up to the legislature, which will remain in GOP hands next year, not the governor.
“I learned basic math,” the Texas and Yale law graduate said. “If somebody gives you $9 for a dollar, you take the $9.”
And she repeated two other fixtures of her stump speech: the story of how she was turned away from a reception for high-school valedictorians at the governor’s mansion because her family took the bus, and the tale of her brother Walter, who dropped out of Morehouse College because he became addicted to drugs and was diagnosed as bipolar in prison, then relapsed because he couldn’t find work or pay for his medication after being released.
“We all know Walter,” she said, “and if you don’t know Walter, you probably are Walter.”
Her brother’s experience shows that Georgia needs health care and criminal justice reform, Abrams said. “We can’t be a state of retribution,” she said.
“We have to be a state of redemption.”