Brian Kemp Victory jeopardizes Stacey Abrams shot at Georgia Gov

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s victory in Tuesday’s GOP primary may have dealt a blow to some of his Republican critics, but his victory is also bad news for his Democratic gubernatorial opponent Stacey Abrams.

Kemp and Abrams both won their party’s nominations this week, with Kemp beating former Senator David Perdue – who was backed by Kemp critic Donald Trump – with more than 72 percent of the GOP vote at the time of the Associated Press vote. Abrams ran unhindered.

November’s general election won’t be the first time Kemp and Abrams have faced each other in voting. They were opponents in 2018, with Kemp defeating Abrams by 50.2 to 48.8 percent.

Abrams, a voting rights activist credited with helping Georgia’s Democrats win the 2020 presidential election, is known for increasing voter turnout in the state — particularly among black voters. But experts say she will have to redouble those efforts after Kemp won the Republican primary.

Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia, said news week that although Abrams’ efforts knocked the state blue in the last presidential election, the gubernatorial race will be an entirely different situation if Kemp is on the ballot.

In 2020, Biden led the state by a slim 0.23 points over Trump. Then, in January 2021, Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock turned both Georgia Senate seats blue after defeating their Republican opponents, who were both incumbents supported by Trump.

Stacey Abrams, Brian Kemp
November’s general election will mark the second time that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams have faced each other for the governorship. Above: Abrams and Kemp debate in Atlanta on October 23, 2018.
Getty Images/John Bazemore

Bullock said some of the ballots cast for Ossoff and Warnock had less to do with support for the Democratic Party and more to do with opposition to the former president.

With Kemp running against Abrams again, Georgia voters who previously turned blue over Trump could still meet the former president while this time voting for the GOP nominee.

“Some of the educated white people who voted for Biden, who voted for Ossoff and Warnock because they didn’t like Trump, may not feel the need to vote for the Democrats unless it’s a situation where the Republican nominee is who they support is someone who supported Trump,” Bullock said.

“[Abrams] not only will it have to mobilize a strong turnout from the minority community, but it will also have to get that share of white voters,” he said. For a Democrat to win in Georgia, he or she must reach about 40 percent of the state’s college grads, he pointed out.

Republican strategist Jay Townsend agreed that Kemp’s win “will do [Abrams’] race harder.”

“Kemp is a seasoned and accomplished activist. If he’s easily renamed, Abrams will be in for a tough fight,” Townsend said news week before elementary school on Tuesday. “Always expect the unexpected, but it’s safe to say the race is going to be nasty and tough.”

Abrams faces a unique challenge because of Kemp’s appeal — something Bullock said happened just last year when political newcomer Glenn Youngkin won his Virginia gubernatorial race against former Democratic Gov. Terry McAullife.

“[Abrams] would be better off against Perdue because Kemp will potentially be able to have the same appeal that Glenn Youngkin had in Virginia,” Bullock said. “Perdue wouldn’t be able to pull this off. He was too much in Trump’s pocket.”

Stacey Abrams, Gov. of Georgia
Stacey Abrams, who ran unopposed in Tuesday’s Georgia Democratic primary, speaks during a campaign rally March 14 in Atlanta.
Getty Images/Anna Moneymaker

While the race against Kemp may complicate Abrams’ path to governor, the GOP has its own set of challenges. With a sizable segment of Republican voters believing the 2020 presidential election was stolen, a lack of confidence in the electoral process could discourage them from casting a ballot, which could give Democrats some clout in the tough race.

Republicans’ reluctance to vote could also be encouraged by Trump — who still holds great sway with some GOP voters — as he blows up the state’s election process over his nominee’s loss in the primary. Ahead of that race, the former president even said Georgia “could be better” with Abrams running the state instead of Kemp.

“You can argue that the reason the two Democrats won in January 2021 was because Trump and his associates, people like Sidney Powell, went around saying you can’t trust the voting system. Sidney Powell literally said, ‘Don’t vote for these Republican senators because they haven’t done enough to help Trump,'” Bullock said.

“A segment of Republican voters is still saying they don’t trust the voting system, even after the new test was conducted in 2021, so it wouldn’t take much for Trump to fuel that suspicion and potentially reduce turnout,” he added. Brian Kemp Victory jeopardizes Stacey Abrams shot at Georgia Gov

Rick Schindler

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