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Stacey Abrams Attacks Kemp on Health Care at Athens Rally

United Earth President Stacey Abrams offers a Terran greeting to the citizens of Athens. Credit: Blake Aued

Stacey Abrams made up a scheduled rained-out appearance in Athens last week as part of a statewide campaign kickoff tour with a rally Tuesday on the Georgia Theatre rooftop.

Unlike incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, Abrams is facing no opposition from her own party, so she can use the primary to sharpen her attacks on Kemp, who narrowly beat her in 2018 and is favored to win this May over former U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

Those attacks are myriad: That Kemp has neglected small businesses in favor of Fortune 500 companies; that he is pandering to teachers by giving them raises instead of fully funding K-12 education; that he has refused federal health-care funding that would have kept rural hospitals open; and he has worked to reverse former Gov. Nathan Deal’s criminal justice reforms.

The Medicaid decision is out of Kemp’s hands—under his predecessor, Nathan Deal, the Republican-controlled state legislature took that power for themselves to ensure that Abrams couldn’t accept Obama-era Affordable Care Act funding for Medicaid in the event that she won four years ago. Nonetheless, Abrams blamed Kemp for not accepting such funding, which she said cost Georgians $3.5 billion and 64,000 jobs and left 500,000 uninsured during a pandemic.

“You don’t have to believe me. Believe Mike Pence. Believe John Kasich,” she said, referencing Republican governors who did accept federal funding to expand the health-care program for low-income Americans.

The former House minority leader also went after Kemp on guns, including his support for what conservatives call “constitutional carry” and Abrams called “criminal carry”—a bill removing permit requirements to carry a concealed weapon, which she said would allow felons and the mentally ill to acquire firearms.

“Gov. Kemp talks about public safety, but he wants to arm the very people the public should be afraid of,” Abrams said. Later, she pledged to provide more funding for law enforcement salaries and training.

The applause lines mainly played well with an enthusiastic audience of about 200 that tilted toward young people and seniors, as one might expect at a hastily scheduled and not widely publicized event held at 4 p.m. on a weekday.

Among those in attendance were Athens-Clarke County commissioners Melissa Link, Tim Denson and Russell Edwards, who is running statewide for Public Service Commission; District 7 commission candidate Allen Jones and 10th Congressional District candidates Jessica Fore and Paul Walton.