Kemp Touts Georgia’s Economy, Doubts Whether Abrams Could Have Done As Well

Kemp Touts Georgia’s Economy, Doubts Whether Abrams Could Have Done As Well
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in Atlanta, Ga., on May 24, 2022. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Dan M. Berger

Stumping for reelection, Brian Kemp has reminded voters of his leadership actions during recent adverse circumstances, how it’s turned out, and what might have happened if he hadn’t beaten Stacey Abrams for Georgia governor the first time in 2018.

Kemp, the incumbent Republican governor, said on Wednesday that his bold moves to reopen Georgia’s small businesses relatively soon after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has paid dividends with a strong economy and the state attracting sustained investment and new jobs.

He said his administration’s prudent finances enabled them to rebate $1 billion in taxes to Georgians this past year, and they plan to do it again in January.

He doubts that any of this would have transpired had Abrams been governor.

“We are working so hard every day to make sure that Stacey Abrams isn’t going to be our next governor or our next president,” he told a cheering crowd of supporters in Calhoun. The city is a center of carpet and flooring manufacturing about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta. Kemp spoke for about 20 minutes.

“We’re beating the bushes every single day, reminding people of the differences and where we would have been if Stacey Abrams was your governor.

“And if you remember how heavily she criticized me, along with the national media, along with the media in Atlanta, along with the health care pundits and a lot of other people, when I was the first governor in the country to reopen the small business economy.

“And y‘all remember how much grief I took. And everybody’s saying, ’You’re doing the wrong thing. This is a death experiment. You’re an idiot.' Whatever,” he said.

“They were saying it all. But you know what? I wasn’t listening to them, I was listening to you all. I was listening to the people in the restaurants. I was listening to the barbers and cosmetologists.”

Kemp said he and his wife Marty could relate because they’ve been small businesspeople too.

“It hit me right here because I’ve been there. Marty Kemp has been there. Small business people for 35 years. We’ve been there, on Friday night when we barely paid the people working for us, when we couldn’t pay all our suppliers, thinking, Are we gonna be able to make it to next Friday night?

“It’s a bad feeling when you’re worried about losing something that you’ve worked over a decade for. It’s a bad feeling when you’re going to lose the roof over your head. It’s a bad feeling when the banks are coming back to get your truck or your equipment. It’s a bad feeling thinking, ‘What happens next week if I can’t pay the people working for me. What’s gonna happen to them and their families?’”

He decried those who tried to close churches and schools during the pandemic. “They were following the science all right. They were following political science. But the political science winds are blowing different now than they were in 2020, as people are seeing the bad results of not having your economy open, of not having your kids in the classroom.”

“We did not close places of worship here in Georgia. And as long as I’m your governor, we will not.

“This is the big contrast in the race. You have a governor that believes in the people, more than one person in the government. Stacey Abrams and Joe Biden believe exactly the opposite of that. They want to control and make every decision for you. They want to tell you whether you can go to work or not. They want to tell you whether your kids can be in the classroom or not, whether you can go to your place of worship or not.”

It saddened him, Kemp said, to see other states where governors allowed casinos to remain open while closing the churches: “That’s not common sense.”

He detailed the state’s strong growth under his leadership at a time when many other states’ economies languished.

“We’ve got the greatest economy I’ve seen in my adult lifetime and the lowest unemployment rate in the history of the state, the most people we’ve ever had working in the state, and the least amount of people on the unemployment rolls since post 9/11.”

There was $11 billion in new investment in the state last year, he said, and three-quarters of job growth was outside Atlanta’s ten largest metro counties. “I was keeping true to my word of strengthening rural Georgia,” he said.

“It’s just incredible: It’s because we’ve been open, and we’ve been resilient. If Stacey Abrams had been your governor, that wouldn’t be happening right now.”

His tax cuts and rebates help people fight the effect of inflation, he said. Along with another tax rebate in January if he’s reelected, he promised a one-time reduction on property taxes to ease higher taxes caused by rising real estate prices and valuations. And he has continued the state’s gas tax moratorium.

Kemp pounded Abrams on multiple fronts: for 86 percent of her money coming from out of state, for her backing of the defund the police movement, for her call to end cash bail, and for her call to move the Major League Baseball All-Star Game out of Atlanta.

He tied her to liberal mega-donor George Soros, who had donated $2.5 million to her campaign as of June 30. And he tied her to the Biden administration, which he derided for celebrating the Inflation Reduction Act on the same day when new inflation data showed it was still higher than 8 percent.

Kemp also defended his election reform bill.

“Stacey Abrams pressed Major League Baseball to get them to move the All-Star Game because they said it was suppressive and it was Jim Crow 2.0. They even rolled out President Biden to say that.”

“But you know what? We did not waver. We stood for the truth and what we knew to be the truth. These legislators that supported the bill, just like myself, we knew what was in the bill. We knew it made it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

He called it “poetic justice” that the Atlanta Braves won the World Series after that.

“And we got poetic justice again on Primary Day,” he said, “because you know what happened? We had record turnout with the new voting bill, in the Republican primary and in the Democratic primary. I have not heard any apologies from the other side.”