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Abrams vs. Kemp: A Battle For the “Soul of the State?”

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Today, voters will head to the polls in a Gubernatorial election that could be a potential party-defining moment for years to come. On one side lies Brian Kemp, a Trump-like conservative who on one occasion stated that he would “round up criminal illegals” in his own pickup truck and on another pointed a shotgun at a teenager in a pro-gun commercial. On the other side lies Stacey Abrams, a polarizing liberal who was recently accused of burning the Georgia state flag in a 1992 protest and represents a sharp change in a political landscape whose last elected Democrat was 20 years ago. As this election becomes more and more reflective of Georgia’s shifting demographics, Democrats are hoping that the increasing diversity in the state can lead to Abrams’ victory, which would make her the first black female governor in history. More importantly, perhaps, Abram’s victory would represent a turning point in other critical elections, as turnout among black voters would likely increase and thereby secure more positions for their party.

Furthermore, a victory could grant Abrams’ party the power to redraw district lines after the 2020 census, a massive opportunity that would cripple Republican power within the state.

In terms of their political campaigns, Kemp’s policy objectives include a cap on state spending by eliminating wasteful tax incentives along with reducing income taxes; supporting HOPE by doubling the state tax credit and boosting funding for state charter schools; opposing gun-restriction laws and supporting the right to carry and conceal a gun without a permit; the creation of a new unit in the state attorney general’s office devoted to fighting gang violence; and, perhaps most famously, tracking down unauthorized immigrants and speeding up their deportations. Kemp’s other policy views reflect mainstream Republican beliefs, and he has received endorsements from President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

On the other hand, Abrams believes in expanding Medicare and stabilizing health insurance premiums; supporting “historic investment” in early childcare; restricting gun rights, including the use of universal background checks; eliminating cash bail for poorer defendants; fighting against immigration laws that threaten illegal immigrant communities; and supporting abortion rights. Her policy agenda involves radical propositions that have been thoroughly opposed by conservatives, but she champions herself on her ability to connect with all citizens, Republican and Democratic alike.

This election does come amid some controversy, as Kemp has been accused of holding 53,000 voter registration applications, of which 80 percent are African-American, Latino, or Asian. This is due to an “exact match” law that requires election officials to prevent the passage of voter registration applications if the information does not precisely match the existing records. As the Secretary of State, Kemp is responsible for carrying out the voting laws, and this has led to beliefs that the suppression of minority voters is meant to further his own campaign. In order to ensure a fair election, Kemp has been asked to resign by various sources including former president Jimmy Carter, but such requests have been declined. This further illuminates the reoccurring issue that has been voiced for several decades, citing difficulties in voter registration as the primary cause for low voter turnout among minorities.

This election involves two of the most polarizing candidates in the entire country, and the nation will be watching to see how Georgia responds to its growing minority population. Current polls show Kemp up by an average of about 1.6 points over Abrams, making the race one of the tightest in the country.

In a race Kemp has called a battle for “the soul of our state,” either an “unapologetic progressive” or a “politically incorrect conservative” will take the stand and drive the future of the state for years to come.

Eric, 15, attends Johns Creek High School.

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