Georgia’s gubernatorial candidates debated on Tuesday night which showed great differences on immigration and voting rights.
Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, Republican Brian Kemp, and Libertarian candidate Ted Metz discussed various topics related to education, immigration, healthcare, marijuana, drugs, personal finances, and voting rights.
Access to voting –
The candidates focused on the recent events that have played out in the press related to alleged voter suppression. Abrams maintained that Kemp, who is Secretary of State overseeing the state’s elections, is making it harder for Georgians to register to vote.
Abrams said that potential voters have been “suppressed” and registrants are being “purged” by Kemp’s oversight of the election process.
Kemp said that he is not suppressing votes. Instead, Kemp stated that he is following the law and making sure no one illegally votes and is ensuring the voter registrations he is questioning are those that have Social Security numbers that do not match or have unlikely names.
Kemp further added that Abrams wants to break the law by allowing illegal immigrants to vote in Georgia’s elections which Abrams denied.
Personal Finances –
Abrams and Kemp entered the debate prepared to defend their financial situation – both accused one another of financial mismanagement.
Abrams owes $50,000 in taxes to the IRS with $200,000 in debt while Kemp has been sued for not repaying a loan of $500,000.
“If you can’t manage your own finances and manage your creditors, how can you be trusted to handle the state budget?” Kemp said.
Abrams defended her finances by maintaining that she had to take care of her parents struggling with health issues.
“I know you can defer your taxes, but you can’t defer cancer treatment for your father,” said Abrams.
Marijuana and improving government efficiency –
Libertarian candidate Ted Metz said he would like to see Georgia legalize marijuana and allow Georgia to produce hemp as a cash crop. Metz also stated that producing hemp will help increase economic opportunities for rural areas of the state.
“It’s a first step to show rural farms in Georgia we care about them,” Metz said.
Metz is currently polling at 2 percent in the race and encouraged voters to consider a third option rather than the two major party system.
Metz wants to improve the criminal justice system by reducing the charges related to the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. Metz believes it will decrease the incarceration rates in Georgia’s jails.
Metz also said he would like to streamline many government agencies where he pointed out that the state has many agencies that need to be consolidated.
Medicaid expansion and immigration –
The Democratic and Republican candidates had stark differences on how to handle health care and immigration.
Abrams’ central pillar of her campaign is Medicaid expansion using the policies of the Affordable Care Act. Abrams maintained that expansion would create thousands of jobs in underserved areas of the state while increasing access to health care by tapping into billions of federal dollars. The Democratic candidate plans to make Medicaid expansion the priority of her administration if elected.
Immigration under an Abrams administration would protect those children brought into the U.S. illegally to receive in-state college tuition rates.
Kemp wants to control the flow of illegal immigration into Georgia and opposes in-state tuition for “Dreamers,” and Kemp maintains he will put Georgia citizens first over illegals.
The Republican candidate opposed the expansion of Medicaid and stated in the debate that Abrams wants to implement a “Medicare for All” program limiting choice in healthcare options.
“I’ve been running my whole campaign on putting Georgians first, and I think we need to continue doing that,” said Kemp.
The Libertarian candidate, Ted Metz, said that different forms of immigration are needed to replace the declining birth rate that America is experiencing. Metz further added that if America does not replace its population, it will decline in economic advancements.
Delta tax incentives –
All three candidates were briefly asked if they would support and continue the jet fuel tax incentives for Delta Airlines. Abrams and Kemp said “yes” that they would support the tax incentive and Metz said “no” to the incentives.
Both Abrams and Kemp promised to raise teacher pay and make conditions better for teachers. Kemp looks to increase mental health in the schools along with school safety funding while cutting regulations and taxes to support his education plan.
Abrams wants to eliminate the public funding for private school vouchers, focus on early childhood education, expand wrap-around services for students, and fully fund the public education formula.
Metz wants to consider streamlining the overhead in school administrators and focus resources on teachers and student learning rather than testing.
Drugs and violence –
Kemp wants to work closely with local law enforcement to create strike forces to reduce gang and drug violence. Abrams wants to focus efforts on drug and mental health treatments to combat drug addictions by expanding Medicaid services.