More than anything else, the debate between Georgia gubernatorial candidates in Atlanta on Tuesday night was more like the start of a famous Charles Dickens novel: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”
In fact, it was truly a tale of three candidates, with one rising above the foolishness with her wisdom making it the best of times for her while relegating her opponents to experiencing the worst of times. At least as far as debates go, that is.
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee who could become Georgia’s first Black governor, easily came across as more informed, more measured, more composed and simply more on top of the issues than her two opponents, Republican nominee Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Libertarian nominee Ted Metz.
Abrams had her talking points ready when needed but also was able to naturally improvise with ease in answering a variety of questions. Conversely, Kemp came off as uber-arrogant, angry and, actually, ignorant to the facts, which were repeatedly thrown in his face each time Abrams had to correct him while he was attacking her with false claims. And then came Metz, who was sporting a marijuana leaf pin on his lapel and continuously touted the many miracles that he said hemp use could accomplish. He just seemed happy to be there more than anything else.
There were also several moments of levity, whether all of the candidates knew it or not. Like when Kemp inexplicably referenced “Jesus” who lives on “Heaven Street” as an example of attempted voter fraud that he said he fights hard to quash.
Yes, he really said that.
There was also the fire alarm that went off in the studio just minutes into the debate, forcing the moderator to awkwardly take an ill-timed commercial break.
But still, there was much to glean from this debate, which was at times very spirited. But in the end, it was pretty one-sided, with Abrams emerging as the clear victor. However, as well remember just about two years ago, good debate performances and solid polling can mean nothing. With that said, here’s are the top five takeaways from Georgia’s gubernatorial debate Tuesday night.
Brian Kemp is a voter suppression denier. He simply doesn’t believe it exists, which is especially scary considering nearly half of voters polled indicated they would vote for him. “This farce about voter suppression”… “is absolutely not true,” Kemp said at one point. Metz, whose policies were all over the place, agreed, insisting that voter suppression was “much do about nothing.” Which left Abrams as the lone voice of reason: “Mr. Kemp’s record as secretary of state demonstrates that he does not deserve a promotion in the state of Georgia.”
Stacey Abrams has a comprehensive plan and Brian Kemp doesn’t. She fully explained her policies surrounding healthcare, and Medicaid in particular, which she said she would expand it to help create thousands of jobs while working to save the state’s rural hospitals that were on the brink of closure. “Mr. Kemp does not have a plan for healthcare,” Abrams plainly stated.
Brian Kemp is a xenophobe. The current Georgia secretary of state was vehement about not allowing undocumented citizens to have a legal path toward citizenship and falsely accused Abrams of encouraging amnesty in exchange for votes. Abrams had her priorities straight, explaining that instead of keeping the undocumented community in the shadows, they could join contributing members of society who could help grow the state’s economy. She said she was also in favor of allowing undocumented immigrants to take advantage of in-state tuition, so long as they were paying taxes.
Kemp is against ending cash bail. Atlanta already ended mandatory cash bail earlier this year, but it has yet to be implemented across the state. Abrams said she would work to make that a reality while Kemp said it was a recipe for disaster, implying he’d rather see poor people continue to languish in jail for what are many times nonviolent and petty crimes. “If you want to help reduce crime, let’s make sure recidivism is part of the answer,” Abrams said. “We need to decriminalize being poor in the state of Georgia.”
Yes, Stacey Abrams once burned the Georgia flag with a Confederate symbol. And she wouldn’t change a thing. The local journalists asking the candidates questions made sure to bring up that topic du jour at the start of the debate, and Abrams was ready for it.
Didn’t get a chance to see the debate? Fear not, you can just click here and watch an archived version of it on the Georgia Public Broadcasting website.