Governor's race voter guide: Kemp, Abrams on the issues
Are you having a hard time keeping up with everything that’s been promised on the campaign trail? Here’s a breakdown of where the major candidates for governor fall on top issues.
In 2019, Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law one of his most prominent campaign promises: House Bill 481, a strict abortion law that outlawed most abortions when fetal cardiac activity is detected — or around six weeks of pregnancy and often before a person knows they are pregnant. HB 481 was tied up in courts for nearly three years until the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Shortly after, Georgia’s abortion law was then allowed to immediately take effect.
The incumbent governor has largely dodged mention of the law on the campaign trail in 2022, but said during the Atlanta Press Club debate that he would not seek any further restrictions on abortion-related care or birth control.
After the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn federal abortion protections, the Democrat has made abortion rights a cornerstone of her 2022 campaign. Abrams has promised to repeal Georgia’s strict abortion ban as she describes the procedure as a “medical decision” to be made exclusively between a person and their doctor. Abrams has said she would protect the right to an abortion up until the point of fetal viability without endangering the life or health of mother — medical experts recognize that as around 23 weeks.
Abrams is hoping that anger over Georgia’s abortion law will fuel her base and potentially win over some swing voters.
Kemp used the 2022 legislative session to push significant gun legislation across the finish line. Georgia lawmakers passed permitless carry — or so-called “constitutional carry” — that does away with the state permit requirement for legal gun owners to carry a concealed handgun in public. Second Amendment enthusiasts praised the legislation as a small change that does away with an undue burden on gun owners.
Democrats have criticized Georgia’s new permitless carry bill as a dangerous move during a time when gun violence has spiked to record levels. Abrams has promised to reverse the law as well as the state’s 2014 gun law that made it legal to carry guns in a wide variety of settings. She said she plans to work to pass new restrictions such as a state red flag law and closing background check loopholes for private weapons sales.
Kemp touts the state’s $6.6 billion surplus on the campaign trail as a result of his economic-focused policy decisions during the pandemic not to shutter Georgia businesses. However, he’s been against spending the reserves on large-scale efforts to boost state services which he says will raise taxes on Georgians. Instead, the Republican has proposed a $1 billion refund to taxpayers — a rebate of $500 for joint filers and $250 for single filers. He also plans on including another $1 billion one-time property tax break that will save homeowners $500 on average.
Abrams’ bid for governor features a variety of big-spending projects to utilize the state’s excess dollars to boost state agencies. Abrams dubs the extra dollars a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to make heavy investments in areas of the state such as law enforcement funding, teacher pay raises and full Medicaid expansion. She has also proposed an about $1 billion refund to Georgia taxpayers.
Kemp has stuck to the common Republican position that full Medicaid expansion under the Obama-era Affordable Care Act would be too costly and inefficient for the state. Instead, the governor took a different approach and offered his own set of Medicaid waivers that sidestep requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Only one component of his plan — a reinsurance program — has taken effect. A partial expansion that hinges on uninsured Georgians completing a work requirement has been tied up in a legal battle with the federal government.
If the program moves forward, it would cover about 50,000 Georgians, compared to the estimated 500,000 that full expansion would insure.
Abrams is campaigning on the promise of full Medicaid expansion as arguably the most prominent issue of her bid for governor. The Democrat launched her first statewide tour in front of a shuttered hospital in Randolph County and tied the issue to other topics like rural economic growth. Abrams has called her Republican opponent’s position on health care “callous.” But even if elected, the Democrat would face an uphill battle passing initiatives like full Medicaid expansion through the Republican-dominated legislature.
Abrams has also promised to address the exorbitant cost of insulin for diabetic Georgians.
During his first term in office, the Republican governor made good on a 2018 campaign to dole out a $5,000 teacher pay raise to boost educator salaries across the state. His new education priorities include $25 million in grants toward addressing pandemic-related “learning loss” by putting more dollars toward programs including tutoring, non-traditional staff and bolstering existing services.
Kemp has also proposed another $25 million to help recruit counselors for schools statewide and $15 million as part of a grant program to help aspiring teachers offset certification costs.
The Democrat has outlined a series of education proposals that includes one to boost teacher salaries to about $73,000 over four years and instituting a minimum $50,000 starting salary. The plan would come with a $1.65 billion price tag. Abrams has also proposed an overhaul of the state’s funding formula and a plan to increase the number of slots and funding for the child care assistance program.