POOLER — Democrat Stacey Abrams refrained from engaging her Republican rival for Georgia governor or his supporter-in-chief — President Donald Trump — as she kicked off her campaign for the general election Thursday far from the state's Democratic base in Atlanta.
The Democrat, who is seeking to become the first black woman elected a U.S. governor, focused on jobs as she visited a union apprenticeship program for ironworkers near Savannah. It was Abrams' first campaign appearance since Secretary of State Brian Kemp became her Republican opponent by winning a Tuesday runoff with a big endorsement from Trump.
Largely out of sight since she won Georgia's Democratic primary May 22, Abrams said she was returning to the campaign trail well outside Atlanta to assure residents across the state that she wants them to prosper as much as those living in the "economic engine" of Georgia's capital city. Atlanta is home to major corporations such as The Coca-Cola Co., the Home Depot, as well as the world's busiest airport.
"I'm not running to be the governor of Atlanta," Abrams said. "I'm running to be the governor of all of Georgia."
Abrams showed discipline in discussing her plans for job growth — such as finding funds to nearly triple the number of apprenticeships for blue collar workers in the state — while avoiding any mention of Kemp or Trump.
Asked by a reporter about how she plans to defeat Kemp, Abrams replied: "I'm going to win that election." She also dodged a question about Trump, who on Wednesday used Twitter to call Abrams an "open border, crime loving" candidate.
Kemp, who handed a crushing runoff defeat Tuesday to GOP Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, also planned to return to campaigning Thursday evening. He was to appear at a unity rally in greater Atlanta as Republicans try to recoup from a bruising runoff.
Meanwhile, Abrams was willing to discuss her policy differences with Republicans.
While promoting small business growth, Abrams promised to ensure Georgia is "an open and inclusive state" and to fight any proposals that would "take us backwards or would discriminate against Georgians" — a reference to past attempts by GOP lawmakers to pass so-called "religious liberty" bills that critics say would let businesses deny service to LGBT people.
She also said she would oppose "programs that use our law enforcement to enforce federal immigration laws." And while never mentioning Trump by name, Abrams said new tariffs on U.S. trade partners are hurting workers — from farmers in rural Georgia to dockworkers at the booming Port of Savannah.
"Tariffs are an important conversation," Abrams said. "But creating a trade war unnecessarily makes no sense, especially when Georgians are being harmed every single day."