On Nov. 8, 2018, Georgians will choose either to breathe new life into the hateful politics of the past or to embrace the more democratic politics of the future. Only Stacey Abrams, who would become the first black female governor in the U.S., can move Georgia forward.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp is on the Republican ticket after running a primary campaign in the style of George Wallace, appealing to Georgians’ suspicions of undocumented immigrants much like Wallace appealed to Alabamians’ fears of blacks. His opponent, former Georgia General Assembly Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, won her primary through a campaign similar to former President Barack Obama’s; she courted oft-overlooked, even previously unregistered, minority voters.
Kemp’s primary victory has significantly increased the stakes of this election given his record of voter suppression. Kemp’s office purged 35,000 individuals from Georgia’s voter rolls using software that disproportionately targeted minority voters. He previously launched investigations into organizations designed to register minority voters, charging some volunteer activists with crimes they would only be acquitted of after losing their jobs. Kemp’s indiscretions are in addition to both his negligence regarding the security of Georgia’s voting machines in 2016 and the release of 6 million Georgians’ Social Security numbers to the public in 2015.
While Kemp continues erecting barriers to the ballot box for many Georgians, Abrams has worked to tear them down. She created the New Georgia Project in 2013 to register thousands of previously unregistered but eligible minority voters — and to counter the policies of Kemp, whom she has called a “remarkable architect of voter suppression.” A cynic could make the argument that Abrams is just acting in her political best interests, as the voters she is trying to recruit would likely vote for her party. The same person might argue that Kemp’s strategy is also purely a political gambit meant to secure the governor’s office. The difference is that Abrams, while she might be acting in self interest, is also acting in the best interest of American democracy; only she is trying to make Georgia’s government responsive to the state’s changing demographics. Meanwhile, Kemp is trying to earn a majority of votes from a minority of voters.
Abrams’ experience as minority leader who has had to reach across the aisle qualifies her for the governor’s office. She served in wake of the 2008 Great Recession, which forced the state to make tough spending decisions. Abrams compromised to preserve full-day pre-kindergarten while cutting HOPE Scholarship funds, a decision that earned her criticism from other Democrats but was better than the cuts Republicans had originally proposed.
On the issues, Abrams stands far above Kemp. The pair’s largest split is their concern for Georgia’s economy. Kemp has promised to sign a state Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA), modelled after the one that imperiled North Carolina’s economy until it was repealed. The bill cost North Carolina $600 million in lost business, after companies like PayPal, Deutsche Bank and Alphabet halted investments and the NBA pulled its All Star game out of the state. In Georgia, past considerations of RFRA pushed the film industry to threaten to pull out of the state. But Kemp’s misguided policies aren’t the only reason Abrams would be better for the state’s economy, as she has also released specific plans to foster growth: the Jobs for Georgia Plan, which encourages small business hiring and increases infrastructure investment, and the Georgia Economic Mobility Plan, which aims to ensure that every Georgian feels the benefits of that increased economic activity by establishing a Georgia Earned Income Tax Credit and by creating a Cradle to Career Savings Program for families.
Beyond business, Abrams aims to improve Georgians’ access to healthcare. Her platform runs counter to the conservatives’ wishlist, as she prioritized taking advantage of the Affordable Care Act’s federal Medicaid expansion that would ensure healthcare access to approximately 473,000 uninsured Georgians. Neither Gov. Nathan Deal nor Kemp have any intention of embracing the Obama-era legislation. Though Kemp has proposed alternative plans to help rural communities, without federal aid rural communities will continue to struggle unnecessarily. This is because Medicaid benefits the people who need it most: low-income families and children in rural communities. Georgia’s rate of uninsured children has been steadily rising since 2008, and it currently sits at 93 percent.
On election day, Georgians must turn out to support Stacey Abrams to protect the integrity of the state’s democracy and to ensure that its economy continues to grow; the mere prospect of a Kemp regime is frightening. Though the recent Republican vice-grip on the South seems discouraging, polling averages give Abrams a good chance. Republicans have given us no choice but to turn Georgia blue.
Editorial Board members Andrew Kliewer and Shreya Pabbaraju recused themselves from writing this editorial because they have worked on the Abrams campaign.
The editorial board is composed of Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Boris Niyonzima, Shreya Pabbaraju and Isaiah Sirois.