Abrams on Kemp’s pay hike plan: He ‘cannot be trusted to keep his promises’

Stacey Abrams is the Democratic nominee for Georgia governor. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

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Stacey Abrams is the Democratic nominee for Georgia governor. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Democrat Stacey Abrams laced into her Republican opponent’s $600 million plan to increase teacher pay raises, saying that Brian Kemp “cannot be trusted to keep his promises” as she slammed his record on education issues.

Departing from a strategy that largely avoided attacking Kemp, Abrams told an Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial board meeting that the Republican has "never demonstrated solidarity with teachers and he has never demonstrated any real interest in their success" until polling in the race for governor tightened.

“I don’t even think trust but verify works here. He cannot be trusted and you cannot verify that he’s going to do it,” Abrams said. “But you can look at my record as a legislator and as a candidate and see I’ve been consistent in my push for increasing pay for teachers.”

The secretary of state grabbed headlines last week when he proposed giving Georgia public school teachers a permanent $5,000 annual pay raise without raising taxes or fees to finance them, which he's said is crucial to help the state retain more educators even if it strains Georgia's fiscal bottom line.

Abrams took her criticism a step further, pointing to Kemp's interview in a recently-uncovered deposition about litigation involving a delinquent loan for a struggling agriculture project in which he invested. Kemp's campaign has said he's one of many investors and that the company is working to repay the debts.

"This is someone who has made pledges and by your own reporting said, 'I don't recall' 91 times,'" she said. "I am fairly certain after the heat of this election has passed, that teachers need to worry that he'll tell them what he told his friend who loaned him $500,000 – that he doesn't recall his pledge."

Kemp’s campaign pointed to her opposition to a 2017 measure that would allow prosecutors to charge people soliciting a victim of sex trafficking with human trafficking violations.

“The voting record doesn’t lie but Stacey Abrams does,” said Kemp spokesman Cody Hall. “Brian Kemp has a plan to increase teacher pay, invest in public education, protect the HOPE scholarship and keep our children safe. He will do the right thing even when no one is looking.”

Abrams said she didn’t vote on the legislation because it included mandatory minimum sentences that would limit judges’ discretion, and said she was “deeply disappointed by the disingenuous nature” of the attacks on her stance.

"I do not believe he thinks I'm weak on issues when it comes to support of human trafficking," Abrams said. "We may disagree about how we get there, but I'm disappointed he'd argue there's a lack of authenticity or integrity to my work."