PEACHTREE CORNERS, Ga. (AP) — The Georgia voters’ gubernatorial choice became readily apparent as Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams returned to the campaign trail Thursday, where their approaches proved just as different as their starkly contrasting policies.
The Georgia gubernatorial race is set to be among the most closely watched of the November midterms.READ MORE: Atlanta Underground Film Festival draws fans to RoleCall Theater at Ponce City Market through Aug. 21
Georgia Republicans wasted no time burying a contentious GOP runoff for governor and turning their attention to a common opponent: Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams and the “radical liberals” they say are trying to steer Georgia wrong.
Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the GOP nominee for governor, headlined a Republican “unity rally” Thursday night in a half-full ballroom at a hotel in Peachtree Corners, a suburb north of Atlanta.
U.S. Senator David Perdue, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson and sitting Gov. Nathan Deal were all in attendance. So too was Kemp’s opponent in the bruising GOP runoff, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who spoke in favor of the man he had days earlier called incompetent and devoid of ideas for the state.
Kemp said that the race wasn’t about the “big truck” he has featured in television advertisements, but was a battle for the very soul of the state.
One after one, the speakers framed the race as a battle for the soul of the state against liberals, who they say are largely outside Georgia, trying to steer the state wrong.
“The march to socialism will not come through the state of Georgia,” Perdue said after calling Abrams “the most radical liberal.”
“We have one mission tonight and that is to defeat Stacey Abrams and keep Georgia red,” Kemp boomed at the rally. “She’s backed by billionaires and socialists that want to make Georgia into California,” Kemp said, to loud cries of “NOOOOO” back from the audience.
Abrams, meanwhile, refrained from engaging Kemp or President Donald Trump as she kicked off her campaign for the general election Thursday in Pooler, Georgia, far from the state’s Democratic base in Atlanta. She said she wants to meet voters “in every part of the state.”READ MORE: Marvin Sapp attends Atlanta red carpet premiere of “Never Would Have Made It” biopic
The Democrat, who is seeking to become the first black woman elected a U.S. governor, focused on jobs Thursday by touring an apprenticeship program for ironworkers near Savannah. It was Abrams’ first campaign stop since Republican Brian Kemp won a Tuesday runoff to become her opponent.
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.
“I’m not running to be the governor of Atlanta,” Abrams said. “I’m running to be the governor of all of Georgia.”
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.
But Abrams, a former state House leader, was willing to discuss her policy differences with Republicans.
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 various “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.”MORE NEWS: Local LGBTQ+ advocates, health official respond to increase in monkeypox cases