Stacey Abrams is working for Georgia governor for the second time

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams is charging through Georgia condemning Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for signing legislation expanding gun rights and restricting the ability of transgender athletes to compete in school sports.

Mr Kemp, meanwhile, is wielding the legislature in a series of bill-signing ceremonies that will deflate former Senator David Perdue’s main challenge and increase the chances of the governor getting a rematch with Ms Abrams in November.

Ms. Abrams rejoices at the prospect.

“The second time is the charm, because at this moment we have an opportunity to tap into both the enthusiasm and the energy, but also the deep pain and disappointment of so many Georgians,” she told the Washington Times after a recent campaign rally. “Yes, getting through COVID has been easier for some, but there are so many Georgians who are struggling with economic challenges, healthcare challenges and just the unease of believing their problems are not being addressed.”

Her 2018 campaign ignited Democrats and made her a national celebrity. She lost around 50,000 votes to become the first black woman to be elected leader of a state.

The campaign also heralded the 2020 presidential campaign, albeit with a twist: It was Ms. Abrams, a Democrat, who complained about voting issues in 2018. In fact, she has never officially retired from the race, although she does acknowledge that Mr. Kemp is the rightful winner.

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Georgia also voted for one Democrat for president and two Democrats for the Senate, boosting expectations for the party this year.

Ms Abrams, 48, said Democrats’ odds were improving.

“We have a new constituency,” Ms. Abrams said. “More than 1.5 million Georgians have been registered to vote and we know that if we do the right thing and reach out and engage, they will vote for us and we will win in November, and we offer clear roadmaps for success. “

Ms. Abrams served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017 and was minority leader for six years. She founded the New Georgia Project in 2013 to register thousands of young and minority voters across the state.

She has spent the four years since her last campaign building her reputation as a suffrage advocate, though she has not campaigned to become Joseph R. Biden’s running mate in 2020.

Republicans argue that those four years have given voters a closer look at the nature of Ms. Abrams’ leadership, and it hasn’t been to their benefit.

“From demanding mask requirements and closing businesses in Georgia to refusing to condemn the Defund the Police movement and lying about the integrity of the election, Stacey Abrams has been on a quest for more money and power since 2018 used at every turn for the crazy politics of the extreme left. said Tate Mitchell, a spokesman for Mr Kemp’s campaign.

Maddie Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Republican Governors Association, said Ms Abrams’ aspirations for national office would drag her party down as well.

“Stacey Abrams was very clear from the start: she wants to be president,” Ms. Anderson said. “This time, Georgians see through their current vanity project and stepping stone to the Oval Office: the candidacy for governor.”

Ms Abrams’ supporters say she has been a leader and inspired Democrats across the state. They say she deserves credit for Democrat accomplishments in the 2020 Senate and presidential elections, and they hope she can keep the momentum going.

“I think it was partly thanks to Stacey’s efforts that we were able to get Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock into the Senate, where they’re really making a difference by helping drive the Biden agenda,” said Sharon Greene. “So I hope the tide stays blue in Georgia.”

“She was so very close last time, and I think she continued to solidify that base among Democrats who, frankly, were very depressed [before her 2018 campaign]’ said the 75-year-old Democrat.

Ms. Abrams, who vacated the field in the Democratic primary, has November firmly in sight.

Mr Kemp must survive a challenge from Mr Perdue, whose most prominent supporter, former President Donald Trump, says the governor bears some of the blame for his loss of Mr Biden in the state.

Mr Perdue lost his seat to Mr Ossoff in the 2020 election.

To overcome this headwind, Mr. Kemp, 58, has strengthened his right flank.

He has pushed a series of bills through the Republican-controlled state legislature that he says will give parents more say over the school curriculum, including a Parents’ Bill of Rights and rules on teaching race and “divisive concepts.” “.

He also signed bills that would allow gun owners to carry guns in public without a concealed gun license, restrict abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, and authorize an oversight committee to bar transgender athletes from participating in sports teams involved in the birth does not correspond to their gender.

The governor also signed into law what may be the largest income tax cut in state history.

This law has puzzled Ms Abrams, who has declined to say if she would seek to reverse the tax cuts if elected.

She slammed Mr Kemp for relaxing gun laws and said he introduced right-wing politics into schools. She said the governor was showing he didn’t trust the state’s educators.

“Reg. Brian Kemp signed legislation that will put our teachers in the courtroom, not the classroom,” Ms Abrams said during a campaign review. “He made it legal to lie to our kids because when you say you can’t talk about ‘divisive concepts,’ he says, ‘Don’t tell the truth about who we are.'”

Some dividing lines from four years ago remain.

Ms. Abrams is committed to fully expanding Medicaid. Mr. Kemp has pushed a more limited expansion that the Biden administration has rejected. Mr. Kemp does not support state college tuition for young illegal immigrants known as Dreamers. Mrs. Abrams does.

“If you graduate from high school in Georgia, you should invariably be able to go to college in Georgia,” she said at a campaign stop, adding that the top students should also be eligible for taxpayer-funded scholarships. “If you can make it through the gauntlet, you deserve the award.”

Mr Kemp signed an election bill that clarifies voting procedures, restricts some generous pandemic guidelines like wide-ranging ballot boxes and calls for stricter ID requirements for postal votes. The governor says he restored the integrity of the process, but Ms Abrams says he made it harder for non-white voters to cast ballots.

The governor leads polls against Ms. Abrams. He also has a solid lead in polls against Mr. Perdue in the May 24 Republican primary. Mr Kemp needs to win the majority to avoid a runoff in June.

Analysts are not surprised by Mr. Kemp’s strength. They say the undercurrents of this year’s election are the opposite of 2018, when voter disgust at Mr. Trump helped unite Democrats.

Now it is Mr. Biden who is campaigning in office and serving as a drag on Democratic candidates, including Ms. Abrams.

“She’s going to have to fight things like inflation, gas prices, food prices and Biden’s unpopularity,” said Charles S. Bullock III, a professor of politics at the University of Georgia. “If I had to invest money now, I would bet on the incumbent because he also has a lot to run on.”

Mr Bullock said Ms Abrams will benefit from raising money “like John D Rockefeller”.

Ms. Abrams has also improved her personal finances, which provided fodder for her critics in 2018. Her net worth went from $109,000 to more than $3 million.

Mr. Trump released an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report last week that said Mr. Kemp’s worth has increased by more than $3 million since he took office.

Barring one major upset, the gubernatorial race will be held alongside a blockbuster showdown pitting Mr Warnock, who won his seat in a 2020 special election, against former Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, who has never been to the public has run for secretariat.