Gov.-elect Brian Kemp arrives at a press conference. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

In new year, Kemp faces new attacks from Democrats 

The race for governor has been over for weeks, but Georgia Democrats have hardly scaled back attacks on Gov.-elect Brian Kemp. 

Stacey Abrams has continued to assail the Republican in fundraising appeals and in media interviews. One of the state’s most prominent Democrat’s, outgoing party chair DuBose Porter, labeled him a “morally corrupt man” who cheated to win.

And the state party unleashed a wave of digital ads this week reminding voters of Kemp’s troubled investments in a struggling agricultural firm and the legal case centering on his outstanding loans. 

Taken together, they’re an ear-splitting signal that Georgia Democrats don’t intend to allow Kemp any honeymoon period when he takes office on Jan. 14 even as the incoming governor proclaims “it’s time to put politics behind us.” 

For the state party, which is set for a Jan. 26 election for a new leader, it’s an edgier approach. The party pummeled Gov. Nathan Deal ahead of his 2014 re-election bid, but largely avoided all-out assaults against him during his second term. 

Not so for Kemp, who faced relentless criticism for his refusal to resign as secretary of state while running for Georgia’s top office. Abrams, who ended her race without conceding, has led the charge by painting Kemp as the “architect of voter suppression” – a note she’s continued to amplify weeks later. 

“Make no mistake: Our fight didn’t end when the polls closed on Election Day, and it won’t end when Brian Kemp takes office as governor next month,” Abrams wrote to supporters shortly before the new year. “We must continue on. Because the antidote to injustice is progress.” 

The state party’s new ads highlight the roughly $10 million in loans that Kemp has promised to cover for Hart AgStrong, a northeast Georgia agricultural firm that’s faced financial turmoil since a costly expansion to Kentucky. 

A lawsuit from a well-connected financier who claims Kemp has failed to repay a $500,000 loan he negotiated for Hart AgStrong is still pending. Financial records show two other loans, totaling $600,000, were due in late December. 

“Those shady loans that haunted him during the election? They still haven’t been paid. That’s right. He hasn’t made a single payment,” the narrator says. “Kemp is liable for $600,000 in loans at the end of this month. Will he pay them, or will he pad his pockets with free money?”

Kemp’s office did not immediately comment on the status of his loans; we’ll update when we get one. The Georgia GOP invoked Abrams’ financial difficulties, including the roughly $54,000 she owed to the Internal Revenue Service. She’s on a payment plan to settle the debt. 

“We thought about posting a similar tweet calling for Abrams’ unpaid tax bill, but decided Georgians deserved at least one politics-free night in 2018,” said Georgia GOP executive director Carmen Foskey. 

“The election is over, though you wouldn’t know it by the Democrats’ inability to let it go.” 

Watch the ad here:

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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