Screenshot of ad

Abrams, Kemp both face heat in ads involving sex offenses

State Republicans are out with another ad assailing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams for voting against a sex offender crackdown.

The ad began airing in the Atlanta television market Wednesday night and is funded by the Georgia Republican Party.

Dueling ads suggest Abrams and GOP rival Brian Kemp have been soft on sex offenders, charges both candidates deny.

The plot

The new ad opens with a woman, identified as a mother of three named Jessica, driving. Her young son is in a car seat in the back seat.

“I drop my kids off at school every morning. I say a prayer and put them in the trust of others,” she says. “It’s one of the hardest things a mom has to do.”

She goes on to say that Abrams voted to allow sexual predators to work next to schools and child care centers and even take pictures of “our children without our consent.”

“I don’t know what Stacey Abrams was thinking,” she says, looking directly into the camera. “But I do know she’s too extreme for Georgia.”

The context

The 30-second spot targets Abrams’ opposition to two GOP-backed bills in 2008. House Bill 908 would have reinstated a range of restrictions that limited sex offenders from living, working or loitering within 1,000 feet of places where children congregate, including schools and churches. The other, Senate Bill 1, was originally proposed to prohibit registered sex offenders from photographing children.

HB 908 was pushed by Republican lawmakers as an answer to a Georgia Supreme Court ruling in 2007, striking down broader restrictions that were hailed as the toughest in the nation.

Some Democrats and civil liberties groups said the bill was too onerous. For instance, when school bus stop locations can change from year to year. These groups also expressed fear that the legislation could drive many sex offenders to desolate areas where few services are available.

The provisions of HB 908 were later tacked on to SB 1 , which ultimately cleared both chambers and was signed into law by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Abrams’ backers are currently airing ads that suggest Kemp, in his capacity as secretary of state, failed to crack down on massage therapists accused of sexually assaulting customers. Kemp has vehemently denied the claim, saying his office has only administrative oversight and cannot suspend or revoke any massage therapist’s license. He has said that authority is limited to the state’s massage therapy licensing board.

The response

Abigail Collazo, an Abrams campaign spokeswoman, called the GOP’s new ad “a disgusting attempt to mislead Georgians.”

“The bills referenced here are nothing more than Band-Aid bills,” she said.

Collazo said Abrams “is the only candidate in the race for governor with a proven track record of working across the aisle to protect children, attain justice for survivors and increase penalties against human trafficking.”

“Meanwhile,” she said, “Brian Kemp’s office ignored 96 percent of the sexual assault complaints made against massage therapists over three years when he could have stopped them.”

See the ad here.

Check out other ads in the race.

Read the minority report on House Bill 908.

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