Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp defeated challenger Stacey Abrams on Tuesday in a rematch of their 2018 race.
Kemp, who was a developer before serving as a state senator and secretary of state, clinched another term despite attacks from former President Donald Trump that threatened to snuff out support in his own party.
Kemp, 59, seemed on shaky ground among Republicans after the 2020 presidential election, when Trump blamed him for not doing enough to overturn President Joe Biden’s narrow win in Georgia. Trump helped lure former U.S. Sen. David Perdue into a primary challenge to Kemp, whom he called a “complete and total failure”.
But Kemp motored away from Perdue during the GOP primary, winning nearly 74% of the vote. Kemp patiently explained his election actions to Republicans even as he used his office to sign conservative-pleasing bills loosening gun laws, cutting taxes and banning “divisive concepts” in schools.
During the campaign, Kemp highlighted his stewardship of the state economy and his decision to relax public restrictions early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also gave billions in tax breaks and handouts using federal and state money. Kemp pushed laws to suspend the state gas tax, give $1 billion of state income tax refunds and even give $350 to every person in the state on public assistance. He also pledged another income tax break and a property tax break if reelected, portraying the cash as helping Georgians “fight through 40-year-high inflation and high gas prices” that he blamed on Biden, Abrams and other Democrats.
Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams conceded to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday night. Watch her concession speech in the player above.
Nearly half of Georgia voters say the economy is the most pressing issue facing the country, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of more than 3,000 voters in the state.
Roughly a third of Georgians say their family is falling behind financially. A majority of those voters cast ballots for Kemp and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker.
The slight proportion of voters – about 1 in 10 – who say their families are getting ahead financially were more likely to vote for Democratic candidates, including Abrams and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Rising costs were named as a top concern among the state’s voters, with roughly 9 in 10 saying the inflated prices of groceries, gas and other goods were an important factor in how they cast ballots. Among those who said they considered inflation in their voting decision, roughly half said the cost of groceries and food was the most important factor.
Abrams, a lawyer whose 2018 loss to Kemp helped launch her into Democratic stardom, would have been the first Black woman to serve as a governor in the United States if she had won.
Abrams raised $85 million through Sept. 30, but even Kemp’s $60 million would have by far been a record for a governor’s race in Georgia, as he sought to build a national fundraising base. And Abrams’ financial advantage was never enough to run away with the race – Kemp has led in polls throughout.
Kemp launched frequent attacks on Abrams, accusing her of not supporting police. A sizable majority of voters identified crime as a factor in their how they cast ballots, AP VoteCast found. More than 8 in 10 voters described it as an important issue. And roughly 8 in 10 Georgians say they’re concerned about crime in their own communities.
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