Kemp tells Cobb Chamber that he’s fought for local businesses during voting law uproar

Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at a press conference at the Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, as he and his supporters blast Major League Baseball's decision to move the All-Star game from Georgia over the state's new voting law. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at a press conference at the Capitol on Saturday, April 3, 2021, as he and his supporters blast Major League Baseball's decision to move the All-Star game from Georgia over the state's new voting law. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday briefly addressed a news report about a virtual meeting of roughly 100 chief executives and corporate leaders over the weekend to discuss state voting bills, including the bill Kemp signed into law on March 25 that put Georgia at the forefront of national criticism and praise.

According to a Washington Post article, executives from major airlines, retailers and manufacturers and one NFL owner talked about how best to oppose the laws, seen by some voting rights advocates as discriminatory.

The report, published Sunday, was based on the accounts of four people who were on the call. The business leaders debated withholding donations to politicians who support the bills and possibly investments in states that pass measures that restrict access to the ballot box.

Kemp seemed to dismiss any concern about the meeting, saying it didn’t concern Georgia.

“I don’t think it was about the new voting law,” Kemp told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution minutes after he delivered the keynote address at Cobb Chamber’s annual luncheon. “They were mainly talking about a path forward.”

Furthermore, Kemp told the AJC that such meetings of business leaders were common and that no specific direction had been decided.

While Georgia became the first state to substantially overhaul of its election laws, Cobb County suffered the brunt of the economic backlash when Major League Baseball announced it was moving its July All-Star Game out of Truist Park, home of the Atlanta Braves, to another state.

Kemp assured a crowd of roughly 300 business leaders and elected officials at the luncheon Monday that he had worked tirelessly to combat disinformation about the law. He said that the MLB’s decision didn’t take into account “the consequences on hardworking Georgians in this community.”

“I want you to know that I’ve spent the last two weeks on the road and in more than 60 interviews standing up for our business community and letting the world know just how bad a decision that was,” Kemp said.

The law includes new identification requirements for casting absentee ballots, an earlier deadline for requesting absentee ballots and limitations on the use of ballot drop boxes. It expands early in-person voting for general elections, but reduces it for runoffs.

Republicans argue that the new law restores election integrity. However, voting rights advocates say that it represents a step backward for the Georgia and warn that it will disproportionately impact Black voters in densely populated areas.

When MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that baseball was moving the game, he cited the league’s opposition to “restrictions to the ballot box.”

Kemp’s speech lasted roughly 12 and a half minutes. Less than one minute was devoted to the voting changes. Kemp also spoke about lawmakers repealing the citizen’s arrest law, passing a tax cut and increasing funding for public safety, education and healthcare.

Cobb Commission Chairwoman Lisa Cupid, a Democrat and the first Black woman elected to her position, said that she was pleased that the governor had toned down his past rhetoric.

“It’s important to us that as a county, as a state, that we are doing whatever we can to come together to move beyond the decision that happened here,” Cupid said. “I’m happy that it wasn’t used as a topic to divide us.”

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