Stacey Abrams appeals to Hispanic voters in DeKalb campaign stop

Stacey Abrams drew a bright line between herself and opponent Brian Kemp at a Monday campaign event on Buford Highway, focusing on immigration policy and other issues that affect Latino communities.

“I have an opponent who has signaled he does not care about all of Georgia. Who has said in his commercials that he does not value or respect the humanity of all Georgians,” the Democratic gubernatorial candidate said of Kemp, a Republican who aired an ad in which he said he would “round up criminal illegals” in his pickup truck if he had to.

Kemp has distanced himself from his provocative commercials from the primary campaign, trying to appeal to a broader audience by highlighting his teacher pay hike plan and assailing Abrams' criminal justice policy.

Hours after a Landmark poll showed Abrams and Kemp in a statistical dead heat, Abrams said Hispanic voters would be key in clinching the election.

“The Republicans are in a dead heat and they know they’re in trouble because they’re not counting on you,” Abrams said. “They’re not including you in their polls, they’re not including you in their advertisements and they’re not counting on you to vote, but I am.”

After delivering a seven-minute speech, Abrams engaged in a question-and-answer session with attendees.

A recent Georgia Tech graduate asked Abrams what she would do to ensure students who were brought to the U.S. without authorization as children would have access to the HOPE scholarship. That decision is made by the governor-appointed Board of Regents, Abrams said, and as governor, she would appoint regents who would allow so-called DREAMers to receive the HOPE scholarship to Georgia’s colleges.

Kemp has said he wouldn't "reward illegal behavior with handouts, perks and scholarships" and warned that expanding the program could bankrupt the lottery-funded program.

The event at Plaza Fiesta, a mall largely populated with Latino-owned businesses, was a meet-and-greet pegged to Hispanic Heritage Month, which began Sept. 15. Abrams enumerated her proposed policies that touch Hispanic and immigrant communities, from preventing wage theft to opposing a state constitutional amendment making English the official language of Georgia, a bill she fought as a freshman state representative.

A crowd gathered to hear Abrams speak late Monday afternoon in the mall’s atrium, supporters ranging in age from late teens to mid-70s. Ricardo Newball, 76, wore a Panamanian flag pin on his jacket and sat in the front row to see Abrams. Hers is the first campaign the Buckhead retiree has ever volunteered for; he connected with her story of “coming from the bottom up.”

Annie Boze Delgado, 37, came to Plaza Fiesta to learn more about Abrams. After the event, Boze Delgado felt confident that she and Abrams shared similar values.

“She recognizes that every member of our community is valued,” the Clarkston resident said. “She has the guts to do what needs to be done to make Georgia better for everyone.”

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Abrams speaks to the AJC’s editorial board: