Party heavyweights cheer for Abrams and Kemp to land knockout in countdown to Election Day
Gov. Brian Kemp and his rival Stacey Abrams are crisscrossing the state in the last week of voting in hopes of rallying supporters to the ballot box.
Kemp enters the homestretch with a lead in recent polls that show him potentially winning a second term without a runoff in his rematch with Abrams, who narrowly lost in 2018. But when asked about his apparent advantage Tuesday, he downplayed the significance, saying “nothing’s guaranteed in politics.”
“I’ve told people we don’t need to believe polls, we don’t need to believe the media. Don’t believe politicians. Just get out there and work. The ultimate poll is going to be this coming Tuesday,” Kemp told reporters.
The Abrams campaign has argued the polling does not reflect Georgia’s electorate today and has pushed back on polling that they argue assumes the state is more right-leaning than it is.
Both candidates are benefiting from last-minute boosts from high-profile national figures. Former President Barack Obama held a spirited rally for Abrams Friday, and Former Vice President Mike Pence campaigned with Kemp in the northern metro Atlanta area Tuesday.
“I am here because I believe in Gov. Brian Kemp,” Pence said in Cumming. “But I’m also here because Stacey Abrams can never be governor of the state of Georgia or lead an administration anywhere else in America.”
Pence didn’t say whether he had plans to campaign for Republican senatorial candidate Herschel Walker, but said he supports “the whole ticket” in Georgia.
Pence supported Kemp in the primary, coming to Georgia on the eve of the May election to help seal Kemp’s victory over a Republican challenger who had the backing of former President Donald Trump. Pence is also positioning himself as a potential presidential contender in 2024, though he said Tuesday he is “completely focused on 2022.”
The pair shared the stage Tuesday afternoon in the parking lot of the Cumming Cigar Company in conservative Forsyth County, where early voting turnout is already high. When the crowd was asked if they had voted yet, most of the hands shot up.
Statewide, about 1.8 million Georgians had already voted as of Monday, which is 34% higher than the same point in 2018, according to GeorgiaVotes.com. This week is the last chance to vote early ahead of Election Day Tuesday.
The governor and Pence later appeared together in Gainesville, and the governor is set to campaign with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in northwest Georgia Wednesday and stump with former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie later in the week.
Kemp focused his attacks Tuesday on pandemic-era policy contrasts with Abrams and touted the overall strength of the state’s economy – themes that have been central to his re-election message. Pence praised Kemp’s handling of the pandemic.
“Georgia was not one of the first states to reopen its economy and end the shutdowns. Georgia was the first state in America to open up again, and Gov. Brian Kemp led the way,” Pence said to applause.
“No one in Georgia’s history has done more to create jobs, cut taxes, restore sanity to your schools, put criminals behind bars, protect the unborn and secure all the God-given liberties enshrined in the Constitution of the United States than Gov. Brian Kemp,” he said.
Abrams’ closing arguments
Shortly after Kemp’s event, Abrams took the mic inside a Marietta brew pub, where she teased her rival over Pence’s visit.
“Let me tell you a little secret about Mike Pence,” she said. “When he was governor of Indiana, he expanded Medicaid in his state. He accepted the money. He created 30,000 new, good-paying jobs, and they did not lose six hospitals in the last four years.”
Standing in front of a collection of brewing equipment, Abrams was flanked by U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff and Democratic attorney general candidate state Sen. Jen Jordan, whose Atlanta district includes part of Cobb County.
The crowd stood shoulder to shoulder near the bar, whooping and applauding as Abrams recited campaign promises, including better access to affordable housing, teacher pay raises and stricter gun control.
Abrams said she would use Georgia’s record budget surplus to help all Georgians, while she argued Kemp plans to help only those who have already found success.
“We’ve got 6.6 billion ways to invest in the state of Georgia,” she said. “Right now, the state of Georgia has $6.6 billion sitting in its coffers. That’s after we pay every bill we’re supposed to pay this year, that’s after we put 15% into a rainy day fund. That’s after we’ve accounted for population growth, that’s what we’ve got left.”
Abrams reiterated her charges of voter suppression against Kemp, arguing that the state’s 2021 election overhaul turns voters away, which Republican state officials deny.
One of the largest applause lines of the evening came in response to Abrams’ pledge to restore abortion rights in the state.
“He is coming after your body,” she said. “He’s coming after your future. He is coming after our rights, and it is time to tell him, ‘hands off our bodies, hands off our laws.’”
“It took a man to break the promise of Georgia, it’s going to take a woman to put it right,” she added.
That line resonated with Angie Tate, an executive assistant from DeKalb County who said her top issues were womens’ rights and affordable housing.
“You can have your opinion, but when your opinion becomes a law to tell me what I can do, no. I can’t. No,” she said. “That’s the No. 1 issue. That’s scary. We’re going into the Handmaid’s Tale, where people are being forced to have children.”
Jordan, who has pledged to fight the state’s abortion law if elected, urged the women in the crowd to vote early and volunteer to make phone calls and knock on doors.
“Women need to take hold of their political power, they need to use it,” she said. “They need to understand that they hold the key in this election. And while almost a million women have voted, it is not enough, period, hard stop. If the women who cared about people’s individual rights, if the women cared about the future of the children of this state, if the women knew the kind of power they held with their vote, we can win this, and we can win it outright on Tuesday.”
Ossoff agreed, dismissing recent polls with a reminder of his and Sen. Raphael Warnock’s wins two years ago.
“I want you to remember as there’s so much chatter in the closing days, that folks who made their living or make their reputation predicting the outcomes of elections said there was no way that a 33-year-old Jewish son of an immigrant and a Black pastor who holds Dr. King’s pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church were going to win those two races in the state of Georgia,” he said. “But they didn’t understand you. All of us in this room, writing postcards, chipping in what we could, making phone calls, knocking on doors, taking our destiny into our own hands, and exercising our power as citizens. Well, now we have that opportunity and that obligation again, with one week — one week until the polls close.”