A fire alarm going off a few minutes into the live debate for Georgia’s governor was probably the most unpredictable part of the night. It’s the first time the three candidates shared the stage ahead of the Nov. 6 election, and the candidates largely stuck to campaign talking points.

GPB's Stephen Fowler reports on the Georgia gubernatorial debate held Tuesday, Oct. 23.

Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp reminded viewers about his plan to stop street gangs, Democrat Stacey Abrams continued her push for Medicaid expansion, and both major candidates sparred over voting rights in the election.

At a campaign stop last week, Abrams said that undocumented and documented people were part of a so-called “blue wave” of support in Georgia, and Kemp accused her of wanting non-citizens to vote for her in the election.

Abrams denied the claim, and brought up numerous voter rights lawsuits brought against Kemp during his tenure as secretary of state.

“We took you to court in 2016, and a federal judge said that you illegally canceled 34,000 registrations,” Abrams said. “You used the exact same system ­– the exact match system – that is under dispute right now.”

Georgia state law requires voters whose registration application does not exactly match either the state Department of Driver Services database or the federal Social Security Administration database to be placed on a “pending” list. As of Oct. 17, that list includes more than 46,000 people who can still vote if they bring their proper ID to their county elections officials to rectify the problems.


Kemp countered Abrams’ claims by pointing to Georgia’s record-setting voter registration, adding it is “easier to vote and hard to cheat” in elections.

“If you look at the numbers, minority participation in Georgia is up 23 percent,” Kemp said. “We have a million more people on our voter rolls today than we had when I took office….”


Libertarian candidate Ted Metz, who has a fraction of the name recognition and the fundraising totals of his two opponents, said voter suppression isn’t a big issue, but having only two parties in state government is.

“There are more people that are more interested in hearing a third voice than voting for team red or team blue,” Metz said. “So again, I don't think [voter suppression] is as large of an issue as it's being blown up to be.”

Watch the full debate below: