Categories: Breaking News

Brian Kemp wins the rematch against Stacey Abrams

It was a more decisive conclusion than four years ago, when neither candidate achieved an outright victory in a tight race. After 10 days of limbo, Abrams ended his campaign without conceding defeat, saying a “suppression system” helped Kemp prevail by about 55,000 votes.

This time, he dialed Kemp around 11 p.m. Tuesday to congratulate him on his victory, a call that came before the networks had projected his victory.

Beyond their personal history, the two candidates had very different views on virtually every policy, with sharply contrasting agendas for the economic, public safety, health care and education issues that dominated the race.

Kemp’s victory marks a remarkable turnaround for a governor who wasn’t even the overwhelming favorite to win his party’s nomination, let alone defeat Abrams, a former Georgia House Minority Leader and civil rights activist of vote that he almost stopped preparing for another run after his defeat in 2018.

Over a six-month period, Kemp thwarted Donald Trump’s quest for revenge by upsetting his hand-picked rival, former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, in the Republican primary and then defeated a widely viewed Democratic star in his party as a possible White House. candidate

“Well, it seems the reports of my political death have been greatly exaggerated,” Kemp said in a fiery victory speech to cheering supporters.

The midterms ended Abrams’ historic quest to become the nation’s first black woman elected governor, and leaves her at an uncertain crossroads as she ponders her future in politics.

After his defeat in 2018, his national profile soared; senior Democratic leaders begged her to run for the United States Senate, and many saw her as a serious candidate to be Joe Biden’s running mate. He repeatedly said he dreamed of running for president.

His next step after two consecutive statewide losses to Kemp in his home state is unclear.

“While I may not have crossed the finish line, we will never stop running for a better Georgia,” he told Democrats in downtown Atlanta.

Although Kemp’s allies were brimming with confidence in the final weeks of the race, his re-election bid was never as inevitable as recent polls suggested.

A year ago, Kemp was regularly heckled at GOP meetings by activists upset over his rejection of Trump’s demand to void the 2020 presidential election. The former president called Kemp a “total failure” and even think he preferred Abrams to win the state’s highest office.

Trump persuaded Perdue to run against Kemp shortly after his loss to Democrat Jon Ossoff, part of a tandem of Republican losses in the January 2021 primary that flipped control of the Senate. Perdue centered his bid on loyalty to Trump and his lies about widespread voter fraud.

But Perdue ended up helping Kemp more than it hurt him. Using the broad powers of his office, Kemp worked with GOP lawmakers to cut income taxes, loosen gun restrictions and pass other measures to bolster his support with conservatives and independent voters.

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Perdue’s far-right stances made Kemp look more moderate, by contrast, and gave the governor an opportunity to appeal to voters who encouraged him to take on Trump. He also tried not to alienate the “Make America Great Again” base by insisting he wouldn’t “say a bad word” about the former president.

Kemp’s 52-point victory over Perdue, and the failures of many other Trump-backed challengers in the GOP primaries, silenced the former president’s critics. With polls showing overwhelming GOP support for the governor, Kemp was free to try to broaden his base of support.

Thanks in part to the new fundraising rules, Kemp amassed about $70 million to promote his Abrams disc and bat. While the Democrat still angered him, he poured resources into grassroots infrastructure to compete with Abrams’ prized get-out-the-vote apparatus.

Although Democrats hoped the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade flipped the race, Kemp barely talked about the anti-abortion limits that polls showed were generally unpopular among likely Georgia voters.

In his second debate last week, however, Kemp did not say whether he would sign more restrictions on abortion in a second term. That fueled fresh warnings from Democrats that he intended to go beyond the state law banning the procedure as early as six weeks.

The governor preferred to keep his focus on the state’s economy, blaming Biden and Abrams, the architect of his 2020 victory in Georgia, for decades-high inflation and an uncertain financial climate.

He reminded voters of his decision to lift economic restrictions in the first weeks of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, suspended the state gas tax to lower energy prices and closed deals for major Hyundai and Rivian car plants.

It was his policies, Kemp told the crowds, that protected Georgians from more economic pain. And while he didn’t make many campaign promises, he did promise to dip into the state’s surplus to fund a $2 billion tax refund in a second term.

“There’s a disaster in Washington right now that’s hitting middle America right now and hurting hard-working Georgians,” he told supporters in a rural town, “and that’s what I’m going to focus on.”

Credit: Christina Matacotta for the AJC

Credit: Christina Matacotta for the AJC

While Kemp focused her campaign energy primarily on her first-term record, Abrams unleashed a firestorm of proposals to bring what she called “generational” change to Georgia.

He promised to roll back anti-abortion limits and roll back pro-gun laws. He pledged to pass many of the initiatives his 2018 campaign relied on, including Medicaid expansion and an overhaul of criminal justice policies.

And he laid out plans to dip into the state’s more than $6.6 billion surplus and legalize casino gambling to raise teacher pay, fund new higher education scholarships and promote more economic equality .

Kemp has long called for more caution with the extra money, saying Abrams’ agenda would lead to higher taxes. He will now have four more years to implement his project in a politically divided state that is sure to remain a consequential battleground.


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