Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp officially launched his re-election campaign. Complete with a softball interview with the Associated Press, Kemp positioned his tenure positively with a moderated approach toward success for all Georgians.
Reading more like a conversation between old friends at the local good ol’ boys club than an interview with a sitting elected official, the Associated Press article allows Kemp to mischaracterize his record.
Kemp knows that the 2022 election will no doubt be a fight to the finish. And while he tries to present himself as a balanced, effective leader, Kemp has leaned into hyperpartisan arguments to the detriment of Georgians as a whole.
Here are five ways Kemp put party and political ambition over the public good in the past year alone.
Kemp Fed Into Trump’s False Claims About the Georgia Election
While Kemp took a victory lap in claiming he did the right thing by certifying the 2020 election, it was literally his duty by law. Despite the clear evidence on the ground, Kemp helped keep alive the Republican scrutiny of absentee ballots and even called for a “signature match” audit.
Having previously served as secretary of state, Kemp knew or should have known that matching signatures on the envelopes of absentee ballots to the ballots themselves are not possible. Even a review of absentee ballots in Cobb County, located in metro Atlanta, yielded no significant evidence of fraud.
Also, the sweeping voting bill he has championed was an outgrowth of former President Donald Trump’s Big Lie. Provisions seeking to limit absentee ballot use, including restricting the number of dropbox locations in a given county, are a direct result of Republicans’ fear of Democratic voter turnout.
Misleading on Critical Race Theory While Georgia Schools Remain Underfunded
Georgia teachers received a pay raise under a compromise between the governor and the legislature. But instead of prioritizing the ongoing underfunding of public schools, Kemp has jumped on the anti-critical race theory bandwagon.
In late spring, Kemp participated in the conservative disinformation campaign around equity and diversity in education under the guise of preventing “indoctrination” of critical race theory. He went so far as to publicly request the Georgia Board of Education to denounce critical race theory, sending a message to local school boards that “indoctrination” will not be tolerated.
Critical race theory is not a threat to Georgia’s children. But refusing to fund their future fully is a danger to children across the peach state. Over the past 20 years, Georgia public schools faced increasing budget cuts.
Bragging about being the number one place to do business while falling short in overall education funding, Georgia’s future is not a good look. A 2022 budget primer from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute highlights growing disparities and equity issues that impact students across urban and rural areas throughout the state.
Advocating for Bad Waiver Plan To Avoid Medicaid Expansion
Georgia remains among a handful of states that have refused to expand Medicaid coverage. Instead of taking advantage of federal dollars for healthcare expansion, Kemp continues to advocate for programs that would bypass protections in the Affordable Care Act and send people into a private marketplace.
Consumer protection advocates remain concerned about the potential pitfalls of such proposals to circumvent the healthcare.gov exchange program. Combined with the refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Kemp and his allies are literally playing politics with people’s lives.
Back in March, Laura Colbert, executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future, told Georgia Public Broadcast that Medicaid expansion was a “moral and cost-effective choice for Georgia.” With new incentives in the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 relief package, Medicaid expansion would not only save Georgia money and insure more people.
Running the numbers, the Kaiser Family Foundation showed the new expansion incentives would yield a net fiscal benefit to Georgia and other states. It’s kind of wild that as a member of the party of “fiscal responsibility,” Kemp would pass on such a great deal for Georgians. Instead, he remains committed to pushing forward on a proposal for limited Medicaid expansion that is more expensive, more restrictive, and covers fewer people than full Medicaid expansion.
Botched Pandemic Response
Hesitant to close and the first to rush to reopen, Kemp’s leadership was utterly lacking throughout the pandemic. Georgia’s alleged rebound is a testament to its people’s resilience and good sense, not Kemp. In a rush to appease the former President, Georgia was the first state to “open” last Spring while the pandemic raged on.
Under Kemp’s leadership, Georgia became the poster child for failed pandemic response. Kemp made headlines regularly during the early days of the pandemic for his bad decision-making and seeming lack of awareness of the crisis at hand. The nation cringed early on in the pandemic when Kemp claimed to have only just learned that asymptomatic people could also spread COVID-19, despite the CDC and other experts warning of the fact for weeks.
But instead of staying up to date on the latest info, Kemp was busy pre-empting municipal public health rules and suing Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over her mask mandate. Several months after the COVID-19 vaccinations were approved, Georgia continues to have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
Ended Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Early
Kemp was among Republican Governors parroting unfounded claims that additional unemployment compensation kept people from working. Another example of his failure in compassion and pandemic response. Kemp claimed to end the supplement was necessary because business owners complained about not being able to find workers.
Supporting people staying home during a public health crisis, whether due to lack of child care or health care concerns, shouldn’t be considered a negative.
A May fact sheet from The Century Foundation pointed out the negative consequences for Black and other workers of color in ending the federal unemployment supplement.
“Careful economic research during the pandemic found that major changes in pandemic unemployment compensation, first from $600 to $300 in September, and then from $0 to $300 in January, had little impact either way on job-finding rates,” read the fact sheet.
Speaking during a May press conference in response to the ending benefit, State Rep. Kim Schoefield spoke out on behalf of vulnerable workers. Atlanta’s 11 Alive quoted Schoefield as saying Kemp was intentionally crushing families during a pandemic, noting the disproportionate impact of his decision on Black and other workers of color.
“By removing Georgia’s unemployment safety net, it further stresses Georgians who lost their jobs through no fault of their own,” she said.