Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams takes the stage May 22, 2018, to declare victory in the primary on Election Night in Atlanta. If elected, Abrams would become the first African American female governor in the nation.

On the Georgia trail: A tougher-talking Abrams and ‘condescending’ ag remarks

Brunswick - Not so long ago, Stacey Abrams avoided many direct attacks on Republican Brian Kemp even as he pummeled her relentlessly. Not anymore. 

At campaign stops this week, she repeatedly laced into her GOP rival over a slew of his policies. 

On his $600 million plan to raise teacher pay? “I’m not going to make false promises to our teachers because a gimmick is a gimmick no matter when you do it,” she said in Brunswick. 

On his record in the state Senate? “I got legislation through in the minority and he didn’t get a thing done in the majority,” she said in Hinesville.

On his stance on minimum wages: “Not only does he not believe in a living wage, he doesn’t believe in a living wage for law enforcement,” she said in Kingsland.

And on his support of “exact-match” laws that left more than 50,000 voter registrations in pending status? It’s part of a “larger pattern of incompetence” that she assailed during her bus tour.

“We will not let him take their votes away. We will not let him win,” she said in Statesboro. “Because we are better than that. We are the cradle of the civil rights movement.”

The harsher rhetoric is no surprise. Poll after poll shows the race is in a statistical tie, and Abrams is trying to energize her core supporters – and mobilize others who rarely cast ballots in midterms – with the start of early voting.

Nor is it one-sided. Kemp has blasted Abrams from the moment he won the runoff, with ads and campaign trail broadsides labeling her a “radical” and “extremist” who takes her cues from California and New York. 

At her stops, Abrams invokes these attacks as evidence of her appeal. 

“We can win this election. I believe the appropriate hip-hop term is, ‘They are shook,’” she says to a cheering crowd in Statesboro. “Because that’s why they’re saying crazy stuff all the time.”

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Stacey Abrams’ bus tour has also given Brian Kemp some new fodder for his own closing message. 

He seized on Abrams’ comments on Tuesday night in Statesboro, where she addressed a crowd of many students about her economic policy. 

Said Abrams: 

“I want to create a lot of different jobs. Because people shouldn’t have to go into agriculture or hospitality in Georgia to make a living in Georgia. Why not create renewable energy jobs? Because, I’m going to tell y’all a secret: Climate change is real.”

Kemp needs to run up big margins in Georgia’s agricultural heartland to win November’s vote, and his campaign treated these remarks as a timely gift. 

It sent out a blaring press release invoking his trip to tour damage from Hurricane Michael in southwest Georgia while she was on the national TV rounds.

“Stacey Abrams’ brash and condescending comments undermine our most valued industries and disparage hardworking Georgians in every corner of our state,” said Kemp spokesman Cody Hall. “We need a governor who backs Georgia farmers – instead of attacking them during a crisis.”

Abrams’ aides immediately saw her remarks as a potential issue, and she posted a tweet shortly after the remarks that she was speaking more broadly about diversifying the state’s economy.

Her campaign followed that up by spotlighting her economic development plans and her statewide jobs tour

In a statement, her spokeswoman called Kemp’s broadside an “absurdly misleading attack” and railed against his support for religious liberty legislation, his opposition to Medicaid expansion and his investment in a struggling agriculture firm accused of defrauding farmers.

“It is clear that Brian Kemp's go-to tactic has become lying about Stacey Abrams’ bold plans and detailed policy proposals in order to cover up the fact that he has none of his own,” said Abigail Collazo, the Abrams’ spokeswoman. 

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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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