LISTEN: Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams continues to push on issues like health care and infrastructure as she crisscrosses the state. Her so-called “One Georgia” tour is focusing on rural counties leading up to Election Day. GPB’s Sofi Gratas reports from Putnam County on what resonates with residents. 

Over 70% of Putnam County voted for Gov. Brian Kemp in 2018. But Abrams is making a point to visit small towns like Eatonton as part of her ongoing strategy to permeate conservative territory. Earlier this week, her campaign made stops in Valdosta and Waycross. 

“We know that small towns made the difference in 2020 and 2021,” Abrams said. While a great deal of attention was paid to those who didn't vote in North Georgia, we saw dramatic increases in voter participation across South Georgia and in rural Georgia.”

For crowds like the one in Eatonton, Abrams focus is on Medicaid expansion. She says her plan to insure more Georgians would also invest billions back into the state and help fund more jobs. 

“Y'all should clap for that because those jobs are coming here,” Abrams said to the crowd. 

That matters to John Reid, mayor of Eatonton. 

“When you are asking people to go out there and work for themselves, there needs to be a way to take care of them,” Reid said. “And right now, the system does not allow for that.” 

Full Medicaid expansion has been Abrams’ guiding star this election season. Georgia is one of a dozen states that have not passed full expansion of the program under the Affordable Care Act. Last month, a federal judge in Brunswick rejected President Biden’s block on Kemp’s partial Medicaid expansion plan, which sets forth work requirements for 50,000 people now eligible. 

Under full Medicaid expansion, an estimated 500,000 Georgians would gain coverage.

At the Eatonton event, Abrams blamed the upcoming closure of Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center on the decision to limit Medicaid expansion. 

“Thousands of people are going to lose their jobs,” Abrams said about the closure of the Level 1 trauma center, slated for Nov. 1. “And sadly, more people are going to lose their lives.” 

A different aspect of health care access resonated with some attendees at the Eatonton event — abortion rights. 

Patricia Hurt was born and raised in Eatonton, and identifies as a Christian. 

“I don't believe in abortion,” Hurt said. “That's my choice. But I believe everybody should have his or her own choice.”

For Hurt, the legislative decision to ban abortions in Georgia past about six weeks of pregnancy isn’t just an issue of health care; it’s an issue of democracy. Abrams said if elected, she would repeal House Bill 481 in favor of a less restrictive law. 

Leading up to Election Day on Nov. 8, recent polling puts Kemp ahead of Abrams by four points. The economy and abortion access are leading issues in that poll from Emerson College.