In his Friday morning campaign bus stop at Anderson’s General Store in Statesboro, the Republican candidate for governor, current Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, gave no slack on Democrats, and particularly his opponent, having ideas worth considering.
Instead, he said that Stacey Abrams, the Democratic governor candidate and former Georgia House of Representatives minority leader, has a “radical agenda.” Kemp called Abrams’ ideas “extreme” and claimed that, despite her calls to expand Medicaid, she wants to cut both Medicare and Medicaid. Before speaking in these terms about her, Kemp first talked about doing business and making friends over the years in Bulloch County.
“You know, all politics is local,” he said, standing in front of the agribusiness-themed store with his wife Marty and their three teenage daughters. Around them were GOP lieutenant governor candidate Geoff Duncan and his family, along with other candidates and U.S. Sen. David Perdue.
Kemp said he has known the Andersons for at least 30 years and mentioned other Bulloch County residents he has called on in business and as a state official. He noted that he has worked with the area’s legislative delegation for 15 years, naming state House Majority Leader Jon Burns, Sen. Jack Hill and Rep. Jan Tankersley, all unopposed Republicans who were present.
“That’s why we’re here, because we’ve been listening to you, we’ve been working for you, and we’ve been working with people that represent you at the local level, your county commissioners and other people,” Kemp said. “That is how government is the best, when it’s closest to the people.”
“You know, President Obama and Oprah and all these other people that are coming in from across the country – Elizabeth Warren, Maxine Waters, Cory Booker – these are the people that led the fight against Justice Kavanaugh,” Kemp continued. “These are the people that don’t understand what our values are, yet they are trying to change them.”
Only Kemp linked Abrams’ national endorsers to the U.S. Senate fight over the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. But Duncan had also mentioned former President Obama and media executive and talk show host Oprah Winfrey coming to Georgia for Abrams.
“Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama are campaigning for the other side,” Duncan said. “I think I like our draw. We’ve got Mike Pence and Donald J. Trump campaigning for us.”
Vice President Pence had appeared on stage with Kemp in Savannah Thursday, and President Trump is scheduled to visit Macon with Kemp on Sunday.
At Anderson’s General Store, Perdue, who is not up for election this cycle, was the ranking Republican. He and Burns, U.S. Rep. Rick Allen and Duncan spoke before Kemp, setting the theme that Georgia is doing fine economically and has no need to change course.
Between 100 and 200 people gathered for the 8 a.m. campaign stop on the final day for early voting before the general election Tuesday. Five other GOP statewide candidates attended by did not address the crowd.
Claims about Abrams
Noting that the campaigns recently filed required financial disclosures, Kemp said that Abrams had raised $4 million and that more than half of it came from out of state.
“But make no mistake, my opponent is running the most dishonest campaign that Georgians have ever seen, and there’s a reason for that,” Kemp said. “She’s having to lie about me to run from her extreme agenda of higher taxes, bigger government and make no mistake, her plan to expand Medicaid, she really means to cut it and cut Medicare and raise your taxes to have a radical government takeover of healthcare. She’s written that in her own book.”
He alleged that Abrams “wants government benefits, welfare and free college to those that are here illegally.”
“Now, I know that we need to have a robust guest-worker program for our farmers and our agribusiness people, but we cannot give free college to people that are not citizens of our state. It will bankrupt the system,” Kemp said.
“She’s also asking illegals, people documented and undocumented, to be part of the Blue Wave and to vote for her in this election,” he said, adding that this would be illegal.
Kemp then spoke positively of several policies he hopes to pursue, but circled back to claims about Abrams.
“As governor I’ll invest in public education and give our teachers a well-deserved pay raise,” Kemp said. “We will lower taxes, not raise them like she wants to do. We will lower healthcare premiums, and we will make sure that we protect the HOPE scholarship and don’t give it to people that are here illegally.”
As fathers, he and Duncan know how important school safety is and “will continue to work to keep our kids safe at school,” Kemp said. He said they will fight for “conservative values including the 2nd Amendment” and asserted that Abrams “wants to confiscate your guns.”
But the Republican leadership’s main mission will be “to keep Georgia working,” Kemp said.
What she’s said
The Medicaid expansion Abrams has called for – in a previous Statesboro Herald interview and her Oct. 16 campaign visit to the Georgia Southern University campus – is the expansion proposed, with majority federal funding, in connection with the Affordable Care Act. Thirty-three states and the District of Columbia adopted the expansion, but Georgia and 16 other states have not.
Also on Oct. 16, Abrams said that Kemp had taken her comments about undocumented immigrants out of context and that she believes “in the right of legal citizens to cast a ballot.”
But on HOPE, she said she wants all qualifying students who finish high school in Georgia to be able to use the scholarships at Georgia’s colleges and universities. Because a 1982 U.S. Supreme Court ruling bars public high schools from excluding students based on immigration status, this would open the scholarship to undocumented students.
During the Georgia Southern visit, Abrams told reporters she wants to repeal the “campus carry” law allowing guns on university and college campuses, but she did not suggest confiscating guns.
Before Kemp got back on the bus, a Statesboro Herald question to him was, are there some things that Democrats want to see, some things they are concerned about, that he thinks should be addressed.
“You’re talking about, like, ideas that they have?” Kemp said. “Not many when, I mean look, Stacey Abrams is no Zell Miller Democrat, she is no Jason Carter Democrat, she’s no Roy Barnes Democrat, she’s no George Busbee or Joe Frank Harris Democrat. She has an extreme agenda. I can’t really think of anything that I agree with her on policy-wise.
“We are going in the right direction and we need to continue to go that way,” he said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.