Oct 31, 2022
Kemp, Abrams face off for last time before election for Georgia Governor Transcript
Kemp, Abrams face off for the last time before the election for Georgia Governor, Read the transcript here.
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Speaker 1 (00:00):
The top job in Georgia politics is on the ballot. Governor Brian Kemp is seeking a second term.
Brian Kemp (00:06):
And that’s what I’m going to stay focused on, is putting Georgians first.
Speaker 1 (00:10):
And in a rematch of the 2018 election, Democrat Stacey Abrams is hoping to unseat him.
Stacey Abrams (00:15):
I want to be governor so I can do right by Georgians.
Speaker 1 (00:19):
Tonight we’re getting them on the record about the most important issues to Georgians.
Speaker 2 (00:25):
Well, my biggest concern right now is the economy.
Speaker 3 (00:28):
The spending of my tax money.
Speaker 5 (00:30):
Abortion rights is number one.
Speaker 4 (00:32):
My biggest concerns are crime.
Speaker 1 (00:35):
Live from the WSB-TV studios in Midtown Atlanta, this is the Georgia Governor’s Debate. Here’s your moderator, Justin Farmer.
Justin Farmer (00:46):
Good Sunday evening. Thank you so much for joining us for this live debate for the Georgia Governor’s race. We are now just nine days away from election day and record early voting is well underway. Tonight we’ll be addressing some of the top issues driving voters to the polls and record numbers, the economy, affordable housing, crime, abortion, immigration, and voting integrity. Tonight’s debate is between the two top candidates who met our 10% polling threshold, the incumbent, Republican governor Brian Kemp, and former Georgia House minority leader, Democrat Stacey Abrams. Some of our questions this evening will come from our panel. Tonight I’m joined by a Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot, WSB community and public affairs director Condace Presley, and Univision Atlanta anchor Michelle Benitez. Let’s begin tonight with opening statements. Each candidate will have 90 seconds. We determined the order through a coin toss. So governor Kemp, if you’ll start.
Brian Kemp (01:43):
Well, thank you so much. I appreciate WSB for having us tonight and looking forward to the panelists and the questions. And I’m just honored to be here. I’ve been honored to be serving as the governor of this great state. I’m looking forward to talking about my record, but also looking forward to talking about my vision for the future. We have the lowest unemployment rate in the history of the state, we have the most people ever working in the history of our state, and we’re seeing economic opportunity in all parts of our state. People have opportunity in Georgia no matter their neighborhood or their ZIP code. We’ve been focused on strengthening rural Georgia. We’ve also fully funded our schools and given a well-deserved historic teacher pay raise. We continue to be in the fight with our local men and women in law enforcement to go after violent criminals, street gangs, and human traffickers. And that’s why I’m hoping to earn your vote tonight, and that’s why I’m running for reelection, because I want to continue to keep Georgia the best state in the country to live, work, and raise our families. Thank you.
Justin Farmer (02:48):
Now an opening statement please from leader Abrams.
Stacey Abrams (02:51):
Thank you so much to WSB, thank you to the panelists, and thank you to Georgia voters. Elections are a choice, a choice between where we are and where we want to be. What does the next four years look like? In this Georgia, right now people are feeling economic pain, and unfortunately under this governor, the pain is only getting worse. But I look forward to leading a Georgia where everyone has the opportunity to thrive, and I want to land on my record to do so. When I didn’t win the election in 2018, I got to work. I installed 181 wifi devices throughout the state of Georgia in communities that didn’t have access to the internet during COVID. I paid off the medical debts of 68,000 Georgians during COVID to make sure they didn’t have to choose between food and healthcare. I did the work I could to serve the people of Georgia, whether I had a title or not.
But I’ve enjoyed number of titles in Georgia. State legislator, small business owner, and Georgia citizen. And as your next governor, I will take the money that we have in our coffers, a record $6 billion surplus, and invest it in you. Put the money into healthcare, housing, education, and making a good living. But I will also protect our freedoms and our rights. Our right to be secure in our persons, our right to control our bodies, our right to be safe, and our right to vote. This election is indeed a choice and I look at my record and the record of the governor and I will say that we need to see whether we want a man who’s put the wealthy and the powerful first, or a woman who has only ever stood on the side of Georgians. And that’s the choice we get to make tonight.
Justin Farmer (04:24):
Tonight we thank each of you for being here to hear the questions that we know are on the minds of Georgians. Tonight’s debate guidelines very straightforward. Each candidate will have 90 seconds for a response to a question and roughly 45 seconds for rebuttals. So let’s get underway. And we’ll start with inflation. And we know that Georgians are hurting with the crippling inflation. So the question to each of you, please, is what can a governor do, what would you do, please be specific where you can, or continue to do as governor, to help Georgians right away? And we’ll start with miss Abrams.
Stacey Abrams (04:57):
Thank you. The economic pain people are feeling, it’s real, and inflation is actually worse here in Georgia than in 36 other states. In fact, the problem is that Georgia has some of the lowest wages in the nation. And because of that, we need a governor who’s going to use her power to focus on the cost that a governor can control. Tackling affordable housing, which this governor has refused to do. Tackling the issue of healthcare cost. If we expand Medicaid in the state of Georgia and accept the $3.5 billion to which we are entitled, we will lower healthcare costs for every Georgian. It has worked in 38 other states and it will work here in the state of Georgia. We can make certain that families can afford to send their children to school, whether it’s pre-K, K through 12, or making sure they can go on to college and technical college by making technical college free again.
But we also have the responsibility of understanding what is driving jobs away from Georgia. Under this governor we’ve lost $150 million in investment. Music Midtown pulled out. We lost the MLB game. We know that the entertainment industry is thinking about leaving Georgia because of the abortion ban that is driving women away. And we know that this is a governor who has refused to do right by our people. As governor I will not only lower costs, I will put more money into the pockets of working Georgians, of middle class Georgians. But what I will not do is give tax cuts to the wealthy and the powerful. I will focus on our workers and our small businesses, putting them first, making sure that especially our minority owned businesses and our rural businesses get access to contracts. A record 10.9 billion is coming to Georgia, and as governor I’ll make sure the money is spent fairly.
Justin Farmer (06:34):
Governor Kemp, what can a governor do right away to help Georgians?
Brian Kemp (06:38):
Well, listen, it’s not just what we can do right away, it’s what we’ve been doing, and this is why I want to stay focused on what my record has been, but also what my vision is for the future. Americans are hurting right now because of a disastrous policy agenda by Joe Biden and the Democrats that have complete control in Washington, DC. Thankfully in Georgia, because we were open even when miss Abrams didn’t want us to be, our economy has been incredibly resilient. We’ve had two record years for economic development in a row, record number of investment, record number of jobs, and people’s salaries are going up. The problem is they’re not going up fast enough to keep up with Joe Biden’s inflation, which is why I worked with the General Assembly and the leadership last year to return a billion dollars of your taxpayer money to you, to put into your pocket, to help you when you go to the grocery store because eggs are 30% higher, milk and poultry’s 15 and 17% higher.
But we also did other things. We have suspended the gas tax since March, saving every Georgian 29 cents a gallon every time they fill up to just help them fight through the 40 year high Biden inflation. We also cut taxes last year. Largest income tax cut in Georgia State history last year because we were open, our economy was resilient, and we were seeing record revenue. In the future we want to do the tax rebate again, do it again in January to put another billion back in your pocket, and also do a one-time property tax relief grant to help Georgians deal with the rising property tax values when their commissioners at home are not rolling the millage rate back.
Justin Farmer (08:23):
To each of you, we know from our viewers that in addition to the economy, crime is top of mind. We know Atlanta is experiencing record violent crime right now. People do not feel safe gassing up their cars, going to a mall, or going out for a run. So governor, what have you done, what can you do more? And miss Abrams, I’ll ask what might you do as well. Governor?
Brian Kemp (08:45):
Well, I would just say again, look at my record. This is going back to 2018, I was the candidate in that race that ran on a platform to go after street gangs and drug cartels because I knew it was a problem when a lot of other people made fun of that issue. They said, “Oh, this is just your normal Republican talking about being tough on crime.” But if you visit every county in our state, all 159 of them, like I have, and talked to sheriffs and prosecutors and others, I knew there was a gang problem. And that’s why I ran with a very straightforward agenda to create a gang task force at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to join with the locals to help them in prosecution and locking up gang members, going after those that are selling dope on our street and killing our kids and our community members. And we’ve done that.
But we’ve also been in the fight with locals when we had civil unrest, when we had unruly people that were literally trying to burn our capital city down. This past session we gave our attorney general more powers to go after street gangs because of, quite honestly, local DAs that that don’t want to prosecute gangs. So we’re taking that fight into our own hands and I appreciate the support of the General Assembly to put more resources at the attorney general’s office. And if you read the papers in the last three or four weeks, incredible indictments that we’re getting on street gangs in our state. We’ve also led the country on efforts to raise the awareness to ending human trafficking, going after the perpetrators, and supporting the victims, many which are women and children.
Justin Farmer (10:18):
Leader Abrams, what would you do to help people feel safer?
Stacey Abrams (10:22):
First, I would encourage people to indeed look at the governor’s record. Under his four years violent crime has gone up, gun violence has gone up. Guns are the number one killer of our children. We have the ninth highest gun violence rate in the nation. Family violence with guns has gone up 18% under this governor. And his response was to weaken gun laws in the state of Georgia and eliminate a background check. A background check that kept thousands of guns off of our streets and out of the hands of dangerous people. We must indeed tackle the issue of street gangs, but this is a statewide challenge and we have a governor who’s only focusing on parts of the issue. We have to have a governor who’s thinking holistically about what we need to do from cradle to career to ensure that our children are on the school to success pipeline and are not being drawn into street gangs because they lack access to resources in their schools.
This is a governor who slashed a billion dollars from education in 2019 and only restored funding to education when federal Democrats deliver dollars to the state of Georgia. We need a governor who’s going to be a partner with local governments, not attack them for trying to do their jobs. And we need a governor who understands that we must have stability in housing, access to healthcare, and that our law enforcement cannot be the number one provider of mental health support in the state of Georgia. Right now our law enforcement is being distracted because they’ve got to put people in jail for being sick instead of going after dangerous people. I want to expand Medicaid to put money into the pockets of Georgians, but also put resources in the hands of law enforcement. I want to make certain that our violent crime goes down by strengthening our gun laws and making certain that we are protecting our communities across the state.
Justin Farmer (11:56):
Brian Kemp (11:58):
Yes, look, I would just like to make sure folks at home know that it looks like this debate’s going to be a lot like the last one. Miss Abrams is going to attack my record because she doesn’t want to talk about her own record. We are not the local police department. I’m not the mayor, I’m the governor, I’m in charge of the state police force. We are working with the locals to go after violent crime and we’ll continue to do that. But the point here is it’s miss Abrams that has said that she wants to defund the police, she wants to eliminate cash bail and have get out of jail free cards. She continues to serve on the boards of organizations like the Margaret Casey Foundation that actually raises money and gives grants to organizations that support and promote the defund the police movement. There are 107 sheriffs across this state that are supporting my campaign because they know I will have their back. They also know that I will be on the front line standing beside them to go after violent criminals, street racers, street gangs, and human traffickers.
Stacey Abrams (13:01):
Justin Farmer (13:01):
Stacey Abrams (13:03):
First and foremost, yes, local police are responsible for 90% of law enforcement, and this governor four years ago said it was not his job to help local police make certain that they had fully funded opportunities. It would cost $136 million to provide additional funds to our local police officers so they can make certain they’re protecting our communities instead of working two jobs to take care of their families. We need a governor who understands that local governments need help now and that, yes, while street gangs are important, so is the violent crime being perpetrated by dangerous people who have access to weapons because of Brian Kemp.
I believe in public safety. I did not say and nor do I believe in defunding the police. He is lying again. And I’ve never said that I believe in defunding the police. I believe in public safety and accountability. And I would have you look at my record, 11 years in the state legislature, 11 years serving on the judiciary non-civil committee, working with law enforcement, working with our sheriff’s association, working with local governments. And I’m the only person standing here who’s ever actually written standards of operating procedure for police departments, because I know what they need, and they need a governor who will invest in local officers as well as statewide enforcement.
Justin Farmer (14:12):
Each of you have another rebuttal on this topic.
Brian Kemp (14:15):
Yeah, well I would tell people to please check the record because we have given state law enforcement pay raises. We did one this past year. We did law enforcement grants of a $1,000 to local law enforcement when many other counties and locals jurisdictions wouldn’t do that with federal COVID money, showing our appreciation for our men and women in law enforcement. And I would tell you to go check the record, because miss Abrams on CNN got asked the question, would she defund the police, and she said, “Yes. We have to reallocate resources.” That means defunding the police. She proposed in 2018 eliminating cash bail. Men and women in law enforcement know who is going to be with them, who has had their back, and will continue to have their back, and that is me. And that’s why we have the-
Brian Kemp (15:00):
We’ll continue to have their back. And that is me. And that’s why we have the endorsement of 107 sheriffs around this state.
Stacey Abrams (15:07):
As I’ve pointed out before, I am not a member of the good old boys club. So no, I don’t have 107 sheriffs who want to be able to take black people off the streets, who want to be able to go without accountability. I don’t believe every sheriff wants that, but I do know that we need a governor who believes in both defending law enforcement, but also defending the people of Georgia. I have two brothers, one who has committed crimes and one who is a social worker trying to help keep people from committing crimes.
But my brother who commits crimes should be held accountable, but my other brother should never be pulled over for driving while black. And yet in this Georgia, he is. I’m running for governor because we lead complicated lives and we need a governor who’s willing to hold law enforcement accountable but also be supportive. And yes, pay raises have been given to state law enforcement, but local law enforcement are experiencing shortages that are not being funded by this governor. And Federal COVID money as a bonus is not the same as a plan for their investment and I’m the only one with a clear plan to invest in local law enforcement going forward.
Justin Farmer (16:07):
Thank you. Let’s turn to our panel please and channel 2 political reporter, Richard Elliot.
Richard Elliot (16:10):
This is a question for both candidates along with the economy and crime, the other one of the major issues is abortion. And governor, I want to ask you first, while the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the subsequent implementation of the Georgia Heartbeat law has support in conservative circles. Recent poll show, it does not have the support of a majority of Georgians and they worry that the legislature may seek more restrictions this coming year. Can you say now whether you will push for more restrictions, support legislative efforts to create more restrictions or sign any bill into law that would further restrict abortions?
Brian Kemp (16:46):
Well, I would tell people that we passed the heartbeat bill three years ago. We are a state that values life. I understand people disagree on when that issue may be comfortable for them or not. They’ve known my position for 10 years and I’ve been honest and transparent with them. But also we’ve done a lot of other things to protect life in this state that everyone does agree with. We’ve done bipartisan foster care reform, adoption reform to make it more affordable and cut out bureaucratic red tape so that people can adopt a child in this state.
We passed a landmark Mental Health Parity Act this past year, broad unanimous bipartisan support to deal with issues and suicides, and other things out there to get people the care that they need. Valuing life in our state. We’ve done the same thing back in 2019 when we did school security grants long before the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas to make sure that we’re valuing the life of our children and our educators in the classroom and keeping them safe.
So I understand that people can disagree on policy, but at least people know where I have been. I’ve been consistent, I’ve been transparent. I’ve done the exact things I said I could do and I think that’s a good reason for people to reelect me. I mean, nobody’s going to agree with the governor every single time on every single issue, but at least I’ve been transparent. But I will tell you my focus in the future going in the next session is going to be on helping Georgians fight through 40-year high inflation.
Richard Elliot (18:23):
Let me press you a bit on that. If the legislature passes a more restrictive abortion law, abortion bill, would you sign that bill?
Brian Kemp (18:31):
Well, I’m not going to count on say yes or no to any specific piece of legislation. I would actually see exactly what it’s doing. It’s not my desire to go move the needle any further on this issue. We’ve been dealing with this issue for three years. That’s where the general assembly was. I personally don’t see a need to go back, but when you’re governor you have to deal with all kind of legislative issues that are out there. So we’ll look at those when the time comes.
But again, my focus is going to be on helping Georgians fight through the 40-year high Joe Biden inflation that’s been caused by disastrous policies in Washington DC. Our first order business is going to do another tax rebate to do property tax relief to help Georgians to be able to cope with going to the grocery store or the gas pump.
Richard Elliot (19:19):
Stacey Abrams (19:20):
Let’s be clear, he did not say he wouldn’t. We know that he has praised the Texas bounty system that allows neighbors to make $10,000 by reporting on women. We know that under the law that he signed, women can be investigated for miscarriages and other pregnancy losses and that 52 counties have said that they indeed will pursue those investigations because they don’t think they have a choice. We know that under this governor, women are in danger. Georgia’s already number one for maternal mortality and it is only going to get worse when women are forced to carry pregnancies when one in five women in Georgia does not have health insurance before pregnancy will be compelled to carry that pregnancy to term.
And while there has indeed been improvements in Medicaid to provide access for women during pregnancy on the first birthday of that child, that healthcare goes away. Brian Kemp does not have a plan for the lives of the women who are being forced to carry pregnancies to term that are unwanted pregnancies.
But more importantly, he refuses to protect us. He refuses to defend us, and yet he defended Herschel Walker saying that he didn’t want to be involved in the personal life of his running mate, but he doesn’t mind being involved in the personal lives and the personal medical choices of women in Georgia. What’s the difference? Well, I would say it’s the equipment. And I will tell you that as women in Georgia, we should listen very carefully to the fact that this governor has not only refused to protect you, he simply said he hasn’t heard how bad it can get before he decides if he’s going to do anything to help.
As the next governor of Georgia, I will repeal HB 481 and I know we can do it because it only passed by one vote in the house, three votes in the Senate and the women of Georgia and good men are going to stand with them to make certain that I’m the governor who gets that bill taken off the books and restores bodily autonomy to the women of Georgia.
Justin Farmer (21:06):
Governor, is that true? Would you support prosecuting?
Brian Kemp (21:09):
Well, let me just say, Justin, that’s absolutely false. Again, Miss Abrams is attacking my record because she doesn’t want to talk about her own. I would ask Georgians to ask for the facts on this legislation. If they don’t have the facts, they should contact our campaign office. We will be glad to see you. Women are not going to be prosecuted under this piece of legislation. Doctors that perform illegal abortions would be.
The thing is Ms. Abrams continues to attack my record because she can’t tell you what her record is. She’s changed it three different times during this campaign. She wouldn’t answer the question when she first got interviewed. Then her campaign came back, said she’s for illegal abortion at viability. And then answered again, it just is between the doctor and the women, the female. Even if it’s seven months or eight months, if a doctor says, okay, then you can get the abortion.
Well, if somebody paid a doctor enough, then there may be people out there that give them the go ahead. I think that’s just a tragic situation myself. I understand my views may be different than other people, but that’s what the legislative debate was all about. But for her just to misrepresent what’s in the legislation, it’s not being truthful to you.
Stacey Abrams (22:30):
I am being absolutely honest and so are the 11 district attorneys representing 52 counties, so are the sheriffs who said that they believe that the way they read the law, they would indeed be required to investigate. For those of you who don’t do the law as a daily job, remember the show, Law and Order. There’s the law where they do the investigation and the order where they do the prosecution.
What we are saying and what the law says is that in order to determine whether a woman is going to be prosecuted, she has to be investigated. And this is true. It happened in Texas, which has an identical law. We know that in Georgia women are not safe from investigation. I have a sister who had a miscarriage. I was there the night that she lost her child, and I was there when she had to talk about the nurse who called to ask her about the state of her pregnancy, twice.
The trauma that women undergo after miscarriage should not be minimized and it should not be investigated. But more importantly, in the state of Georgia, we have a governor who does not believe in a woman’s right to choose. I have always been consistent. Since I became a legislator, I’ve been strongly consistent and very clear about my position. Abortion is a medical decision. It is a decision that we should be made between a doctor and a woman. It should only be a doctor and a woman, not a politician who makes this decision.
I believe that a woman who makes a decision to have an abortion if it happens late in her pregnancy, it is a traumatic experience and it is deeply, deeply concerning to me that anyone would minimize what a woman is experiencing late in her pregnancy when she has to make a terrible decision. That decision should not be adjudicated by men in the state legislature, but by a woman and her doctor. And that is what I will defend. I will stand in that space and defend women with every breath in my body, especially as the next governor of the great state of Georgia.
Richard Elliot (24:20):
And Leader Abrams, if I may, to be fair with the question for you was while polls show a majority of Georgians do support access to abortion, abortion rights most also support some limits on it. What limits would you be okay with if you were governor?
Stacey Abrams (24:36):
Absolutely. As I have said, abortion is a medical choice. And as such, it should be that a woman has the ability to make a decision until viability. And that decision about viability should not impact her life or her health. That is a decision that should be made between a doctor and a woman as a medical choice. I said that on Fox. I said that on CNN. I said it on The View. I said it to Teen Vogue. I said it to L Magazine. I think anywhere you look, I’ve said it again and again. It is willful ignorance or misleading lies that change what I’ve said. But what I’ve also always said is that there should not be arbitrary timeline set by men who do not understand biology.
This is a law that tells women they have to make a decision about their pregnancy before they know they’re pregnant. And in a state with 82 counties without an OB-GYN, in a state where women are denied healthcare, when one out of every five women does not have access to medical insurance, it is a terribly dangerous position to put women in. And it is a position this governor will only put women in because he defends Herschel Walker but will not defend the women of Georgia.
Brian Kemp (25:42):
Well, I would just say for the record, you can go check this as well. There was a female state senator that actually carried this piece of legislation. So there were a lot of women that supported this bill. I understand people differ greatly on it. Again, Miss Abrams failed to answer the question that was asked of her. But listen, I’m a husband and I’m a father to three daughters. I have been in the doctor’s office with my wife and seen two heartbeats on an ultrasound.
I have gone back a week or so later and saw one heartbeat. My wife and I have both had a hard time having our first child. She miscarried. It is a tragic, traumatic situation, but that one heartbeat that we saw that second time we went back is our oldest daughter, Jarrett.
Justin Farmer (26:35):
Say one last comment and we’ll move on. Yes, please.
Stacey Abrams (26:37):
I actually wanted the clarification of which question I failed to answer. I believe I was fairly thorough, but I will say this. The tragic stories of miscarriage should not be political fodder, but they should also not be fodder for investigations. And the problem with this bill is it does not discern the difference. It tells women that if you have a pregnancy loss, you can be subject to investigation so that a law enforcement can determine whether it was a legal abortion, which is what a spontaneous abortion is, that’s what miscarriage is called, or whether it was an illegal abortion, which should not be a term of art in the state of Georgia.
Women deserve the right to control their bodies. They should not be worried about whether the knock on the door is the sheriff coming to ask them if they have had an illegal abortion. Abortion is medical care and women are the only people in the state of Georgia being denied wholesale access to medical decision-making by the governor of Georgia. And that is wrong and should not be sustained.
Justin Farmer (27:35):
Governor, 10 seconds please.
Brian Kemp (27:36):
Well, again, that’s simply not true and I hope that you will not let Ms. Abrams get away with this. Please fact check the bill. Reach out to our campaign. We’ll be glad to send you the facts.
Justin Farmer (27:48):
Thank you. I’m up against a break. I assure our viewers will be covering many more topics. We’re going to take a quick break. Right now you’re watching the WSB Governor’s Debate Live right here from our studios. We’ll be back in 60 seconds
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Justin Farmer (29:12):
Welcome back to the Georgia Governor’s Debate live from our WSB-TV studios here in Midtown Atlanta. So let’s continue right now and let’s bring in WSB’s Condace Pressley for our next question.
Condace Pressley (29:22):
Thank you, Justin, and thank you candidates for being with us tonight. While Georgia may be the best state to do business, a lack of affordable housing, especially houses at that $300,000 price point or below, the lack of those homes threaten to hinder Georgia’s efforts to attract even more business to the state. As governor, what is your plan? And this question is for both candidates. What is your plan to create more affordable housing here? Governor Kemp?
Brian Kemp (29:51):
Well, I would just tell people to… First I want to talk about my record. We’ve given out $750 million in housing assistance grants over the last couple of years. We also just…
Brian Kemp (30:00):
… grants over the last couple of years. We also just completed over a hundred million dollar grant process so that people could make competitive grants to receive this funding. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity and our hometown of Athens got one of those. They got a great product that they’re doing to help with affordable housing issues.
The other thing that you need to focus on is making sure that people have economic opportunity in all parts of our state. A lot of those deals with local zoning issues and other things that go on at the local level, my focus is on making sure that people have a good paying job. The two historic years we’ve had for investment in jobs in our state, the projects that we’re doing and probably 95% of the jobs that go with them are higher than the county average, plus they have good benefit packages, health insurance, 401ks and other things. Giving people the economic prosperity. And that’s why we’ve seen wages go up in our state.
We continue to be in the fight with locals right now, in workforce, housing, and other things, especially around our economic development projects and places like La Grange, where the Hyundai project’s going up in northwest Georgia around the Roper plant and other places. But it’s going to take a public private partnership, state and local, to be able to do that.
Stacey Abrams (31:21):
First and foremost, the inability of local governments to address affordable housing is coming about because the state of Georgia will not allow them to. It is illegal in the state of Georgia for local governments to change certain laws. They are not permitted to enforce housing issues. They are not permitted to change certain financing issues. And they have turned to the government again and again for the last 20 years and been turned away by this governor and by this state legislature. And we know that the money that has been deployed in the last few years is COVID money. Federal Democrats delivered that money, not Brian Kemp. And we know that he’s currently sitting on more than $400 million in affordable housing assistance to stop evictions and refusing to deploy that money. There’s a 60% rejection rate. WSB actually did a very fantastic story about it, so I encourage people to look it up.
But let’s understand that there are four issues in Georgia, affordability, inventory, gentrification, and homelessness. He does not have a plan to address any of those issues directly. By refusing to put money into the state budget to tackle these issues, he’s not solving the problem. Piecemeal solutions and stopgap dollars does not mean that you have a plan. And Brian Kemp has failed to do anything on real estate, except make money off of it as governor. He’s made hundreds of thousands of dollars in real estate and recently told a black radio foreman, when he was asked whether he would allow local governments to tackle the issue of affordable housing through giving them more control over housing prices, he said “No,” he didn’t want to upset investors. I’m not running for investors, I’m running for Georgians. And when 30% of the housing is being bought out by equity investors, we need a governor who’s going to put Georgia families, Georgia workers, Georgia veterans, Georgia seniors first.
Brian Kemp (33:03):
Well, obviously again, Ms. Abrams continues to attack my record because she doesn’t want to talk about her own. I did not say those things by the way. It sounds to me like she wants to be able to run the private sector businesses that are out there. But listen, the federal money we were using is because our state was open when Stacey Abrams wanted more lockdowns. We didn’t have to use federal money for lost revenues. We could pour that money back into local communities, which is what we’ve been doing for affordable housing, for rural broadband grants, for infrastructure grants, because we were open when Stacey Abrams criticized me for that decision, and people on both sides of the political aisle were. But you know what? I was fighting for you. I was going to simply give you the choice on whether you wanted to go back to work or not, whether your kids could go back to the classroom. She criticized that decision as well.
Stacey Abrams (33:58):
I’m happy to talk about my record. I paid off the medical debts of 68,000 Georgians who were trying to decide between whether they could afford healthcare or housing. I put WiFi devices in 180 different rural communities throughout Georgia, not using federal money, but raising money myself because I knew it was an issue.
And I know that when it comes to COVID, we need someone who operates not gambling with our lives leading to 38,000 dead, including one in every 100 residents in Hancock County. I simply urged caution. And we should want a governor who’s going to put caution above political points. We should want a governor who wants to look at the science and understand what’s going to happen with our families because yes, we wanted caution. No one wanted lockdowns. No one likes lockdowns. But we do want people to survive.
And as we head into, unfortunately, yet another challenge in the state of Georgia, where we have RSV on the rise, 75% hospitalization rates in children’s hospitals across the country, COVID resurging, we have the flu rising, we are about to lose a hospital in the state of Georgia, the sixth hospital under the same governor. The Atlanta Medical Center survived 120 years but could not survive four years of Brian Kemp. We need a governor who puts priority on not only solving small issues, but thinks long term about how do we invest in our people. And I want to take that $6 billion surplus that Georgians have provided and invest that money in housing, healthcare, education, and making a good living.
Justin Farmer (35:26):
Brian Kemp (35:27):
Well, I’ll just say, obviously, we’re one new COVID variant away for Ms. Abrams wanting to lock our state down because that’s exactly what she said. The pressure on her, just like all the other liberal state governors that were out there locking their states down, you had liberal state governors and Democrats all around the country. Their kids were out of the classroom for a year longer than our state. You remember when Joe Biden made a big deal about the United States of America being back to pre-pandemic unemployment levels. Georgia did that nine months before the rest of the country did because we gave you the choice. Ms. Abrams doesn’t want you to have a choice. She wanted to mandate the vaccine. She wanted to mandate mass. She sided with the National Teacher’s Union over you of getting your child back in the classroom. I have been fighting for you. I haven’t worried about what other people are saying. I’ve been focused on the people of this state, making sure they could go to work and their child was in the classroom, and that’s where the data in the science says they needed to be.
Justin Farmer (36:31):
Ms. Abrams, a final word on this.
Stacey Abrams (36:33):
38,800 people died in the state of Georgia. We have one of the highest death rates in the nation. I didn’t say we wanted to have lockdowns. I said we needed caution. And that’s what I will always urge. When our lives are on the line, when our children’s lives are on the line, we need caution. We need caution in our gun laws to make certain that dangerous people aren’t allowed to have weapons. But this governor doesn’t believe in caution. He believes in being first. He believes in not taking responsibility and he does not believe that we should have the responsibility to ensure that everyone has the chance to thrive.
In the state of Georgia, yes, we reopened soon, but he passed a law to protect corporations by making it illegal for workers to sue their bosses if they didn’t have access to protection. I will always stand on the side of Georgia workers, Georgia families, and Georgia children. I will always operate with caution, with science, and with common sense. No one wants lockdowns, no one wants to have to shut down the economy, but we should never put anyone’s life on the line just to be first.
Justin Farmer (37:37):
Brian Kemp (37:37):
Well, I just feel like I need to have time to answer this whole gun, firearms question because she keeps bringing it up.
Justin Farmer (37:43):
Let’s talk guns.
Brian Kemp (37:45):
The question hasn’t been asked. Let me tell you something. The law right now is the same as it was two years ago about who can lawfully carry a weapon or not. For Ms. Abrams to say that the legislation that we signed to let you protect your family and your businesses through your Second Amendment rights is just absolutely not true. People that illegally can’t carry guns, the law’s the same as it was before constitutional carry passed. And I got news for you, the criminals, they don’t care what the laws are, they already got the guns.
The problem was law abiding citizens couldn’t get a dang permit from the local government because governments were shut down, they were slow paying the permitting process. The law is still the same that’s out there. And all I’m doing is giving people the ability, if they would like to, to conceal carry to protect themselves, their property, and their families. And the record is that Ms. Abrams, when she was in the General Assembly, she co-sponsored legislation to actually confiscate your guns. So not even give you the ability to get the permit, she was going to come and take your guns. That’s what people should be scared of.
Stacey Abrams (38:54):
Mr. Kemp once again is mischaracterizing what I’ve said and what I’ve done. At the time, we were talking about assault weapons after more children had been murdered in their classrooms and families were terrified for their future. I believe in making sure we can protect the Second Amendment and protect second graders. And Mr. Kemp apparently doesn’t understand the gun laws in Georgia. Georgia had a background check that was part of the concealed carry permit law. 5,000 people were denied access to concealed carry permits because they went through that process. Law enforcement begged him not to eliminate the concealed carry permit because Georgia has some of the most poorest laws in the nation when it comes to guns. We are a state that does not have a waiting period, which is why a young man was able to secure a weapon and kill six Asian women in three different locations in less than two hours. And in the same year, this governor tried to weaken gun laws again in response. Luckily, the speaker of the House of Republican said, “No,” and denied that bill moving.
But we have to have a governor in this state who understands that protecting the Second Amendment should not mean sacrificing Georgians. My great-grandmother taught me how to shoot. Her name was Mumu. I know that the person responsible for the weapon is the person holding it. But I also believe in trust but verify. And the only way to verify whether a person is lawful or not is to look at their background. Georgia does not require universal background checks. Through a private transfer or a gun show, you can escape and evade background checks unless the state of Georgia requires them. And so I’m simply asking that we do right by our children and right by our families. I’ve traveled this state, and the number of people who come up to me and tell me about gun violence and communities have never seen it before because people have weapons, don’t have training, don’t have responsibility, and know there are no consequences. That makes all of us less safe. And we need a governor who’s willing to put safety before the NRA.
Brian Kemp (40:46):
Well, I would just remind people at home that there was actually sheriffs and law enforcement at the bill signing that supported this legislation. What Ms. Abrams is doing is trying to scare everybody at home. If you remember earlier, she talked about Music Midtown canceling. Well, Dragon Con was in Atlanta. They had twice as many people there. They didn’t cancel. There was no issues. The Democratic National Committee right now is trying to land the Democratic Convention in the city of Atlanta, in the state of Georgia. If things are so bad, why would that be the case? There are over 20 states that have passed constitutional carry, giving law abiding citizens their legal right to protect and defend themselves and to legally carry. When she’s talking about all these other people, they’re breaking the law. They’re breaking the law because they don’t care what the law is. And that’s the people that have guns. The people that haven’t been able to conceal carry are the ones that couldn’t get a permit because of government bureaucracy and people like Miss Abrams.
Justin Farmer (41:48):
30 seconds please.
Stacey Abrams (41:49):
Mr. Kemp doesn’t understand the difference between a festival held in a public park, where guns are allowed without having law enforcement investigate whether you have a weapon, or having an event in a secure, private facility where they have the authority to keep weapons out. That’s the difference. Dragon Con is inside, Music Midtown is outside. And because of Republicans in the last 20 years of weakening gun laws, we are less safe. And this isn’t hyperbole, this isn’t even my guess. This is statistics, this is math, and this is death. We have families that have Facebook pages about people walking past their kids’ schools,, carrying weapons, and the law enforcement can’t do a thing about it because Republicans have weakened our gun laws so much-
Justin Farmer (42:31):
Stacey Abrams (42:31):
… that they can’t even ask the question.
Justin Farmer (42:33):
Thank you. Moving on now please to our panel. Our next question from Univision’s Michelle Benitez.
Michelle Benitez (42:38):
Just going to keep talking about guns. For Hispanic borders, [inaudible 00:42:41] concern is safety, especially children’s safety. And throughout the years of having bills that proposed training for all Georgians in possession of firearms, nominee Abrams, how would you ensure your own guns safety bills will become law through a general assembly that will likely remain in control of the other party?
Stacey Abrams (42:58):
Sadly, because gun violence is so rampant in the state of Georgia, whether you’re in Peachtree City or down in Albany or up in the Georgia Mountains, gun violence is now so prevalent and so rampant that I believe Georgians, especially legislators, are willing to finally take action. We’ve seen this on the federal stage. Democrats and Republicans came together and finally passed common sense gun laws. Georgia is known as part of the lead pipeline. It is so terrible in Georgia when it comes to the weakened gun laws in this state that we were the subject of an episode of FBI Most Wanted, because Georgia is so easy to get a gun and transfer a weapon.
And while Mr. Kemp will say it’s only people who are not law abiding, everyone is law abiding until they break the law. The issue is how do we minimize where weapons are, but also, how do we encourage people to get the training they need? I learned how to use a weapon. I was trained how to use… I’ve chosen not to carry one, but I want anyone who wants to have a gun to do so. But we should have the same set of responsibilities in Georgia that they have in other states. And in the state of Georgia, we do not have waiting periods, we do not have background checks, and we have mental health issues that are not being addressed.
And Mr. Kemp mentioned his Mental Health Parity law. What he failed to mention is that it only solves the problem if it’s funded, and there is no funding mechanism in the law. The only way to fund mental health in Georgia is to expand Medicaid and bring our $3.5 billion per year back to the state of Georgia. Absent that investment, our families will continue to be in jeopardy from people who are dangerous or who are mentally unstable. And until we fix the gun laws by working together across the aisle, we will not make our community safe.
Brian Kemp (44:43):
Well again, that’s just simply not true. Again, Ms. Abrams is attacking my record because she doesn’t want us talking about hers, of wanting to defund the police, eliminating cash bail, and continuing to sit on the boards of organizations that promote that. The Mental Health Parity Act, by the way, it is funded, the initial funding was in…
Brian Kemp (45:00):
Help Parody Act, by the way, it is funded. The initial funding was in the budget last year. You can go look at that for yourself and the General Assembly and I are committed to doing more in the future to fully implement that. Our executive branch agencies are hard at work as we speak on that. But two years ago during civil unrest, when we were on the ground and state law enforcement helping the locals keep the city of Atlanta from being burned down and also making sure that the protestors that deserved a right to be spoken to speak their mind for injustice that they’d seen with their own eyes, there was people in that crowd walking with those people with AR15s on their back, legally carrying weapons.
And we had no problems, because we were working with them and they were listening to us because they were law abiding citizens. Also, you know Dragon Con, there’s 60,000 people walking in downtown Atlanta. They’re on public spaces every day. They have the Aths Fest downtown in Athens on public spaces. Again, Ms. Abrams is trying to scare you at home about the constitutional carry legislation that would simply let you abide by your Second Amendment rights. And she doesn’t want to talk about her co-sponsoring legislation that actually would confiscate your firearm, would confiscate the firearms of those individuals that were walking with those protestors two years ago.
Stacey Abrams (46:23):
I am happy to talk about my record, sir. I’ve done so repeatedly, but I’ve not been in office for the last four years. So I was not the governor when gun violence went up in the state of Georgia. I was not the governor when six Asian women were gunned down and you tried to pass even weaker gun laws in the state of Georgia. I was not the governor at the time when Music Midtown pulled out of the state citing guns as one of the reasons, because they could not get artists to come because they were not able to secure their persons.
Yes, people walk outside and they may make the choice to traverse our streets, but the companies that are hosting these events inside have very different rules and very different opportunities than those hosting events in public places. But what is most concerning to me is that you keep minimizing the death. People are dying from gun violence in the state of Georgia. Children are dying. It is the number one killer of our children. And if I am asked to do something, I’m going to protect the Second Amendment, protect second graders, and pass common sense gun laws to defend the lives of Georgians. No matter who you are, you should feel free to be safe in your person, safe in your communities, and I will stand on my record to try to make that so every day of my life.
Justin Farmer (47:36):
Thank you. Let’s move to election integrity. Every day we know Georgia sets new records right now for early voting turn up. People are voting. More than 1.5 million. Georgians at last count have already voted. So on the record tonight, right now in front of the state, I’m going to ask you all this question, a simple one. Will you support the results of this election even if they do not go your way? Ms. Abrams, we’ll start with you.
Stacey Abrams (48:01):
Justin Farmer (48:03):
Brian Kemp (48:04):
Absolutely, because we have laws in our state that makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat. Ms. Abrams has spent the last two years, really the last 10 years running around telling you that’s not the case. She’s benefited personally from that running around and scaring people about suppressive votes and suppressive legislation. She filed suit, her group did, filed suit four years ago. Cost Georgia taxpayers $6 million to defend Senate bill 202, which in Obama appointed judge throughout on every single count.
In 2018 when I was elected, we had the largest African American turnout in the country in our state. And we’re seeing just now in the May primary, we had record turnout for Republicans and Democrats and we’re certainly seeing that during early voting. Miss Abram’s pressure on Major League baseball and woke corporate CEOs cost us the All Star game. It’s unbelievable. She continues to blame me for that loss, because it was her that was asking people to put pressure on Major League baseball to move the All Star game.
And I’ve been fighting to make our economy great over the last two years, which it certainly has been. We had people from New York criticizing us about this bill. We had President Biden criticizing us about this bill. New York just started early voting this weekend. We’ve been early voting for two weeks in our state. So in Georgia, it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat and I’m committed to keeping it that way. And I’m the one that’s been truthful and honest with you from day one about all of these issues.
Stacey Abrams (49:44):
Mr. Kemp has indeed been honest. He has spent 16 years attacking the right to vote in Georgia. Eight years as Secretary of State where he held 50,000 voters hostage, 70% of whom were African American. He erroneously removed 360,000 people from the rolls during one of his infamous purges. Our lawsuit was not against SB 202, it was a lawsuit based on the 2018 election. And based on that lawsuit, we saw dramatic changes to voting laws in the state of Georgia.
And I am proud of that lawsuit. That lawsuit compelled the state of Georgia in 2019 to fix our absentee ballot rules, to address challenges with the exact match issue, to address issues with purging. And by doing so, we saw record turnout in 2020 and 2021. And what Brian Kemp said was that he was upset about the results of that election, that he wasn’t upset. He knows there was no fraud, he was upset about the results and the only results he could have been upset about was the record turnout of Black and brown voters, of seniors, of young people, of people who were being kept out of the system.
I am proud that I’ve spent 30 years of my life defending the right to vote. Defending access to the right to vote, the right to vote is sacred to me. My father was arrested at the age of 14, helping to get Black people registered to vote. And it is an abomination that SB 202, a law that has allowed racist, white supremacists to challenge the legal authority of citizens to vote is being held up as some sort of native good.
It is a terrible law that has already sent people home from the polls, people who were denied the right to vote. The fact that people are voting is in spite of SB 202, not because of it. It was never about making sure that we had fair elections in Georgia. It was about gaming the election for Brian Kemp so he could keep people out of the polling place. And I am proud of every Georgian who was showing up every day to make your voices heard.
Brian Kemp (51:39):
Well again, that’s just simply not true. Miss Abrams knows that when I was Secretary of State, I created the one of the first in the country full online voter registration, where people could go to our website on their phone, registered to vote 24 hours a day, seven days a week, not even have to talk to anybody to be able to do that. I’ve pushed more accessibility for our elections. She never talks about Senate Bill 202.
We actually added days for people to vote on the weekend. I had a guy that text me his voter sticker today. He said it was the coolest thing. I went to mass and then I went and voted for you. So for Ms. Abrams to continue to try to manipulate and scare people at home and get them to believe that this is a state where it’s hard to vote in is just outrageous.
And things that we have done to keep our roles, our voter roles secure in the state, it’s required under the Help America Vote Act, federal legislation. And yes, I was upset about the results of the election, because Democrats won all races and they have all three branches of government in Washington DC and it’s led to 40 year high inflation, a disaster at the gas pump because of bad domestic energy policy, a disaster at the border where every governor like myself is dealing with fentanyl overdoses and human traffickers being brought across this border. And that’s what I’ll continue to fight against.
Justin Farmer (53:00):
Ms. Abrams, if you have a brief response before we get to closing statements.
Stacey Abrams (53:03):
Let’s be clear that the voter suppression that I’m talking about is being felt by Georgians every single day. There was a college student who was turned away from the polls because of SB 202, because she was challenged. No one could tell her what the challenge was, just that she didn’t have the right to vote. She could have voted a provisional ballot, but she didn’t want to because she didn’t know that her vote would be secure.
There’s an 87 year old who could not get her absentee ballot for her husband, because the process is now so much more complicated. And I’ve spent this year traveling the state, talking to disabled voters who are so upset because of the new hurdles they have to traverse. SB 202 was not designed for voters, it was designed for politicians. And unfortunately, for too many it’s working.
Justin Farmer (53:44):
Thank you. It is now time for our closing statements tonight. The hour flew by, didn’t it? Each candidate will have 90 seconds. And once again, we determined the order through a coin toss. First, Leader Abrams.
Stacey Abrams (53:56):
Well, I want to thank Georgians for listening tonight, and I want you to know that I am ready to get to work for you on day one. I have the skills and the track record to get the job done. Under Brian Kemp’s four years in governor, crime has gone up, six hospitals have closed housing, prices are skyrocketing, and communities are in turmoil. They are worried about their rights and they’re worried about their futures. But I want to do better by Georgians. I want to put you first every single day. I want to be the leader who invest our 6.6 billion dollar surplus, money brought to this state by hardworking Georgians and by federal Democrats who stepped up to serve all of us.
I want to expand Medicaid, bringing home our 3.5 billion dollars a year so that our veterans get access to healthcare who are currently being denied, that our seniors who are a few years shy of Medicare need and get the help that they need. I want to eliminate the disability waiting list with 7,000 people on it who are being held in institutions instead of in their homes.
I want to defend us against danger by strengthening our gun laws, but I also want to defend our rights as women by eliminating the abortion ban and restoring a woman’s right to control her body. I have spent the last 15 years as a state leader. I’ve spent my life as someone who believes in doing right by people. I was raised by my parents to do right. And what we need today is for you to do right. I’m asking for your trust and your vote. I’m asking for you to go to staceyabrams.com/vote to learn how to vote early. And I want you to know that polls do not see you, but I do. And the only poll that matters is the poll at the ballot box. Thank you so much.
Brian Kemp (55:39):
Well, first of all, I want to thank WSB for having us tonight. Thank to panelists for your questions. When I ran for governor, I made a very simple promise to people. I told them I would put them first, ahead of the status quo and the politically correct. Shortly after I was sworn in, I promised all Georgians I’d work hard every day for them as their governor, whether they voted for me or not. And that’s exactly what I’ve done.
I’m so optimistic about the future of our state. We have the lowest unemployment rate in the history of our state. We got the most people ever working in the history of our state. And we’re seeing economic opportunity, no matter your zip code or your neighborhood, because we’ve been focused on strengthening rural Georgia and many other things.
Unfortunately, Stacey Abrams said, “We live in the worst state in the country.” Well, Marty, Jared, Lucy, Amy, Porter and I, we don’t believe that. We believe we live in the greatest state in the country to live, work and raise our families. And that’s why I’m asking for your vote and support on, or before November the eighth to keep it that way. Thanks again for having me. I’d be honored to have your vote. God bless.
Justin Farmer (56:47):
Thank you both on behalf of Georgia voters. Thank you both very much for being here with us tonight at WSB. And this wraps our time. Early voting continues through Friday, November 4th, election day, Tuesday, November 8th. And here at channel two, we will have complete election coverage for you on channel two @wsbtv.com. Thanks so much for joining us. I’m Justin Farmer. Enjoy your Sunday evening.