Screenshot of ad

New GOP ad goes after Abrams for not voting on sex trafficking bill

State Republicans are out with a new television ad attacking Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor, saying she walked out on two legislative votes to crack down on sex trafficking in Georgia.

The 30-second ad, titled “Walked,” began airing Wednesday in the Atlanta television market. Funded by the Georgia Republican Party, it continues a recent trend by both Abrams and GOP rival Brian Kemp of using “real people” in their campaign ads.

The plot

The ad opens with a woman, identified as a mother of two named Kayla, addressing the problem of sex trafficking.

“Three hundred fifty-four Georgia children are sold for sex every month,” she says as viewers see the photo of a young, anguished girl. “It can happen to anyone, anywhere.”

As a mom, her mission is to protect her children, she says.

“That’s why I can’t vote for Stacey Abrams,” Kayla says, looking directly into the camera.

She then charges that Abrams walked out on her job, instead of voting for a bill that would have cracked down on human trafficking.

“Stacey Abrams walked out on Georgia’s children. She’s too extreme for Georgia,” Kayla says as the picture fades.

The context

The ad claim may have a familiar ring.

Last month, state Rep. Bert Reeves, a Kemp backer, charged that Abrams “deliberately avoided taking a public position” on House Bill 341, a measure he sponsored in 2017 to crack down on sex trafficking. He said Abrams did not vote on the measure even though she was at the Capitol at the time of the vote. Reeves also said he had listened to Abrams’ guidance and “accommodated her requests” to try to ensure that the bill had bipartisan support. The measure allowed prosecutors to charge people soliciting a victim of sex trafficking with human trafficking violations.

In response to Reeves’ claims, an Abrams spokeswoman said that the candidate opposed the legislation because it limited the discretion of judges.

Abrams, then the Democratic leader in the state House, was one of the few lawmakers who skipped both votes.

Reeves wrote in an op-ed in The Marietta Daily Journal that he saw Abrams leave her seat to begin “hovering near the side door” once the voting started.

“She lacked the guts to vote no,” he said at a press conference at Kemp’s campaign headquarters. “And her judgment on this issue should give all of us concern.”

Here’s House Bill 341, which Reeves sponsored. It received final passage in the House on March 28, 2017, with 169 yes votes, seven House members not voting and four members excused from voting. Here’s the roll call of that vote, showing  Abrams not voting. The record also shows Abrams did not vote when the bill initially passed the House and was sent to the Senate earlier that month.

After Reeves’ press conference last month, spokeswoman Abigail Collazo said Abrams opposed the bill because it would have “tied the hands of judges” who, instead of politicians, “should be the ones making sentencing decisions.”

“Abrams was proud to work with Governor (Nathan) Deal to reform our criminal justice system — important reforms that Brian Kemp would oppose,” Collazo said.

The response

In response to the release of the ad, Collazo said: “Instead of explaining to Georgians why he refuses to expand Medicaid, the Brian Kemp campaign is doubling down on their ugly and false ads attacking Stacey Abrams. Leader Abrams’ record is clear: She has always worked to protect Georgia’s women and children, and she supported numerous pieces of legislation to crack down on human trafficking and support survivors of violence. This false and misleading ad is just another sign of the Kemp campaign’s growing desperation to distract from their lack of concrete plans to improve the lives of Georgia families.”

Watch the ad

Read about Reeves’ press conference.

See other ads from Kemp-Abrams race.

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