SOUTH GEOGRAPHIA (Associated Press) — CLAYTON Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia is a staunch conservative.
When campaigning for reelection in November, he can use the Republican tax cuts as a selling point. The majority of pregnant women don’t find out they’re pregnant until after the sixth week, but he helped pass a law prohibiting abortions after that point. He oversaw changes to Georgia’s election law that could make it more difficult for some citizens to exercise their franchise.
And if there is any lingering doubt about his qualifications, Kemp is quick to point out that he is the first modern Republican governor in Georgia who was never a Democrat.
Some Democrats have praised Kemp for his willingness to defy Donald Trump and approve Joe Biden’s presidential electors for 2020. This support was evident in the Georgia primary election in May, when a sizable portion of Democrats voted Republican to help Brian Kemp defeat his Trump-backed opponent.
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee, needs those voters for the general election. She does not pull any punches as she argues that voters owe Kemp nothing for his stand against efforts to rig the American presidential election.
Abrams says, “Let me be clear” at the end of her half-hour long campaign speech. Not committing treason does not make you a hero.
Abrams’ supporters roar at the line, indicating that they are concerned that Kemp’s treatment of Trump will win over enough moderate voters to swing the election in her favor.
After Kemp and Georgia’s Republican secretary of state certified Biden’s victory in the state, which had been a Republican safe haven since 1996, Trump publicly criticized them.
Kemp never directly contradicted Trump’s false claims that Biden’s win was fraudulent, instead sticking to a matter-of-fact defense that he was acting within the law. Trump’s most diehard supporters were outraged by his tactics. However, this was also a means by which Kemp subtly positioned himself as a moderate force within Trump’s party, allowing the governor to forge a coalition in November consisting of his own core supporters and key swing voters.
With this delicate balancing act, Kemp narrowly defeated Abrams in 2018, and the balance will help Democrats win over Georgia in 2020.
Both Kemp and Abrams are under intense pressure to win the narrow middle, which Democratic strategist Tharon Johnson describes as “a base-plus strategy for Republicans and a base-plus strategy for Democrats.”
Only about 4 million votes were cast in the 2014 election, and Kemp won by a slim 55,000 margin. Out of 5 million votes cast, Biden won with a margin of victory of just over 12,000. Two months after the presidential election, about 4.5 million Georgians participated in runoff elections for the United States Senate, with Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff emerging victorious by margins of 2% and 1.2%, respectively.
Despite Trump endorsing David Perdue’s opponent in the Republican primary in Georgia, Brian Kemp won with nearly 74% of the vote in a record-breaking turnout election this past May. It’s possible that Perdue’s more than 262,000 votes in such a close state could cause Kemp some concern.
As one local GOP officer in Rabun County put it, “there are still plenty of election deniers in our party,” and both Kemp and Abrams have been holding events there recently. When asked if he was one of them, Henderson responded, “No, but Kemp has to deal with them.”
Data from data firm L2 was analyzed by the Associated Press and showed that more than 37,000 people who voted in the Democratic primary in Georgia two years ago voted in the Republican primary in May, an exceptionally high number of crossover voters.
That got Kemp some much-needed attention from Abrams’ camp and gave him the anti-Trump boost he never actively sought.
Johnson summed up the situation by saying, “Both sides have similar concerns.”
Because of this, Abrams’s belief that Kemp might be rewarded for not aiding Trump in preventing an election has caused her much consternation.
At a stop in Republican-dominated north Georgia, she told reporters that Kemp is “being lauded for not committing treason.” She also mentioned some of Kemp’s other accomplishments, including the signing of a bill prohibiting abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy and the passage of a concealed-carry law that increased the right to possess firearms.
Abrams told the press, “it is wrong to suggest that Brian Kemp is some form of anti-Trump moderate.” As the saying goes, “He is not. Contrary to popular belief, he is not merely a fiscal conservative. He is a religious extremist on the far right who is using Georgian law to impose his views.
The NAACP president in heavily Democratic DeKalb County in metro Atlanta, Lance Hammonds, said he is aware of the crossover votes in May and is working to educate voters about Kemp’s full record.
If I had to evaluate his performance as governor, I’d say he’s done an okay job,” Hammonds conceded. But, he said, “there are plenty of gaps,” citing Kemp’s opposition to Medicaid expansion as an example.
Hammonds differentiated Kemp’s relatively quiet handling of Trump from that of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who has been critical of the ex-president and testified before the congressional panel looking into Trump’s role in the insurrection on January 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol.
According to Hammonds, while Raffensperger “stood up,” Kemp “still followed the party line.” That’s not political bravery, that’s cowardice.
In fact, unless prompted, Kemp avoids discussing Trump altogether. That’s a big about-face from 2018, when he beat out Trump in the Republican primary and won the endorsement of the sitting president. Instead, Kemp tries to tie Abrams to Biden and inflation by bringing up his opposition to prolonged statewide business closures and mask mandates during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. He is also labeled “extreme” by her, which is how Kemp describes her.
Nonetheless, Kemp lays out his plan for the upcoming election.
During a recent stop in Rabun County, where he received 80% of the vote in 2018, Kemp said of the GOP base, “We saw what happened” with Democrats’ wins in 2020 and 2021. We must band together, he warned, and evacuate everyone. Then he made a bold proclamation: “We’re going to go after that middle.”
The governor refused to acknowledge the potential effects of the 2020 drama until speaking with reporters later. He claimed that Trump supporters praised him for signing a 2021 law that changed the state’s election system in response to Democratic victories. The law limits the number of absentee ballot drop boxes to the most populous counties and shortens runoff campaigns to four weeks. As a result of both changes, Democrats will have to adjust their voter outreach strategies.
When asked if he thought he could win over undecided voters by supporting a resolution to ratify Biden’s victory, Kemp said, “People want elected officials that are going to abide by their oath of office to protect the law and the Constitution of this state and the Constitution of the United States.” My guess is that the vast majority of people fall somewhere in the middle and find that to be incredibly reassuring.
Indeed, he continued, “There are probably a lot of people who won’t vote for me who appreciate it, too. However, I’ve made an effort to maintain coherence.
Visit https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and https://twitter.com/ap politics for complete coverage of the midterms.
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