Georgia’s two candidates for governor — Democrat activist Stacey Abrams and incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp — debated in Atlanta on Monday.
Each politician boasts a long career in state-level politics. Kemp won his first state senate election in 2002. Abrams became Atlanta’s deputy city attorney the same year, and she won her first statehouse race in 2006.
So, the two candidates focused more on their records… although they also addressed national issues.
In fact, the marquee candidates saved their most heated rhetoric for broad issues like gun crime and election laws.
Kemp and Abrams rekindled their long-standing feud over voting rights, with Abrams accusing Kemp as governor and previously as secretary of state of trying to make it harder for some Georgians to vote.
Abrams said, however, that she would accept the outcome of the November election after Republicans criticized her for acknowledging Kemp’s 2018 victory but refusing to use the word “concede.”
“I will always acknowledge the outcome of elections, but I will never deny access to every voter, because that is the responsibility of every American to defend the right to vote,” she said.
Abrams told said earlier this month in an interview with ABC News that she would “not question the outcome of the election” but might “question the process.”
In fact, Abrams has repeatedly used the words “rigged,” “cheated,” and “stolen” to describe her 2018 loss.
Take a look —
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) October 17, 2022
Perhaps the old rivals’ most personal clash came on crime and public safety. Kemp, as he has with his campaign ads, spent considerable effort painting Abrams as an enemy of law enforcement, arguing she has no support from Georgia sheriffs and police. She retorted that it’s possible to support “justice and safety” at the same time and said Kemp has made Georgia more dangerous by making it legal to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
Earlier Monday, Kemp rolled out a fresh set of anti-crime proposals, including increasing mandatory prison sentences for recruiting juveniles into a gang to at least 10 years and making it harder for judges to quickly release suspects who have been arrested.
“That’s what we’re doing, going after street gangs,” Kemp said.
Libertarian candidate Shane Hazel also appeared at the debate. In Georgia, a candidate must win more than 50 percent of the vote in order to win outright. In other words, a three-way race with Hazel may force the governor’s race into a runoff election.
In Georgia, early voting began Monday, the day of the debate. Election Day will take place 19 days later on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Take a look at these highlights —
Georgia’s incumbent Republican governor Brian Kemp, Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams and Libertarian Party candidate Shane Hazel clashed on gun control, voter rights laws and racial justice in a debate ahead of November’s midterm elections pic.twitter.com/U8PghlyNHy
— Reuters (@Reuters) October 18, 2022
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.