Politics

Georgia GOP Candidates Spar Over Each Other’s Records In Debate

Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidates, from left to right, Casey Cagle, Hunter Hill, Brian Kemp, Clay Tippins and Michael Williams wait for their debate to begin Thursday in Atlanta.
Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidates, from left to right, Casey Cagle, Hunter Hill, Brian Kemp, Clay Tippins and Michael Williams wait for their debate to begin Thursday in Atlanta.
Credit John Amis / Associated Press

Immigration and gun rights were among the major issues debated Thursday night by the five Republican candidates for Georgia governor. But as the candidates share similar views on issues, they spent a good portion of the debate sparring over each other’s records and background.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, questioned Hunter Hill, a former state senator, about his record on abortion and gun rights.

“When you run in Buckhead you obviously talk one way and that is that ‘we don’t need any more pro-life laws placed on the books,’ but you also had a C rating from the NRA as well,” Cagle said. “How can Georgians trust you with that record?”

“Well, I appreciate you coming out and at least taking responsibility for the attacks you’ve been leveling against me — that’s good — but the reality is that it’s false,” Hill responded.

Several candidates took turns to attack Cagle, who’s a frontrunner in the race. During the portion of the debate where candidates ask questions of each other, Secretary of State Brian Kemp used the opportunity to make Cagle the subject of his question to businessman and opponent Clay Tippins.

“I just wanted to know outside of Lt. Gov. Cagle’s government paycheck, how do you think he makes the rest of his living?” Kemp posed to Tippins.

“Usually, I’ve got good answers to questions. I really couldn’t tell you the answer to that, to be honest with you,” Tippins responded. “I’ve said earlier, I think after 28 years, Casey Cagle is bought and paid for.”

Cagle said the accusation that he was “bought and paid for is absolutely wrong.”

Hill questioned Cagle’s commitment to religious liberty after religious freedom legislation failed in the past legislative session. Cagle responded that the current governor vetoed a religious liberty bill last year and indicated that he would veto it again.

Michael Williams, a state senator, questioned Kemp’s support for President Donald Trump and touted himself was the first elected official in Georgia to come out and endorse Trump. Kemp responded that he supports the president and “appreciates what he’s doing.”

Primary Election Day is Tuesday. If no candidate gets the majority of votes, the top two will head to a Republican runoff in July. The general election is in November.