And the Republican repeatedly returned to a common refrain during Sunday night’s debate: “Looks like Miss Abrams is going to attack my record because she doesn’t want to talk about her own record.”
It was the second and final showdown between the two Georgia gubernatorial candidates before Election Day, amounting to a 2018 rematch. Abrams, despite his national profile and fundraising chops, has still trailed Kemp in the polls by a margin much wider than the 1.4 percentage point she lost four years ago. If Abrams’ campaign was hoping for a definitive moment of debate that would turn the election needle around, it likely came away disappointed.
Kemp repeatedly sought to convince viewers that Abrams was seeking to defund the police, citing a 2020 cable interview in which Abrams said she was in favor of reallocating some police resources to other areas. Kemp has already used this clip in commercials this cycle.
He also reiterated, as he did in the first debate, that Abrams is a board member of a nonprofit organization that is not opposed to the “defund the police” movement.
“I believe in public safety. I didn’t say and I don’t believe in defunding the police either,” Abrams countered. “He lies again. And I never said I believed in defunding the police. I believe in public safety and accountability. And I want you to look at my record, 11 years in the state legislature.
And at other points in the debate, hosted by WSB-TV, she highlighted the work she’s done through other nonprofits, like paying off medical debts for 68,000 Georgians and the installing Wi-Fi hotspots to provide internet access to over 100 parts of the state.
Abrams criticized Kemp for signing a new gun law that makes it easier to carry a concealed weapon in Georgia, arguing that the new gun law cost the city of Atlanta the opportunity to host the Midtown Music Festival due to public safety concerns.
Kemp countered that other big events have taken place in Atlanta since the law was passed, noting that the Democratic National Committee is currently scouting the city of Atlanta to host the 2024 convention.
“If things are so bad, why should they be? Kemp asked.
Additionally, the two have argued over abortion and inflation, with both candidates trying to tie the other to more controversial members of their respective parties. Abrams said Kemp ‘stands for Herschel Walker, but will not stand up for the women of Georgia’, referring to the Republican Senate candidate who opposes abortion access but has been accused of paying for abortions of two ex-girlfriends.
And on inflation, Kemp grouped Abrams with President Joe Biden, whose approval ratings have remained underwater for months and is not viewed favorably when it comes to handling economic problems, according to a regular POLITICO/Morning Consult poll this cycle.
Georgia has once again become a national focal point, both for the gubernatorial and Senate elections. If Abrams upset and win the race, she would be the nation’s first black female governor. The Senate race between Walker and Sen. Raphael Warnock (D), however, remains neck and neck and will be key to determining which party will control the chamber in 2023.
Since early voting began, Abrams has been endorsed by celebrities on the campaign trail, including former President Barack Obama, who held an early voting rally in Atlanta last Friday night, actress Kerry Washington and the former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).
More than 1.6 million Georgians have already voted for the November elections during the early voting period, which ends on Friday, November 4.