Brian Kemp, Stacey Abrams locked in rematch of 2018 governor’s race

Georgia nationally watched midterm elections are set for Nov. 8
Published: Oct. 2, 2022 at 9:02 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams are locked in an electoral battle that has arguably become the nation’s most watched gubernatorial race of the 2022 midterms.

Kemp is seeking a second term, while Abrams is continuing her quest to become the nation’s first African American female governor.

This year’s race is a rematch of their epic 2018 race, in which they both sought the governor’s mansion, as then-Gov. Nathan Deal was constitutionally prohibited from seeking a third term. Kemp was then secretary of state, while Abrams had just finished up a term as a state House representative from intown Atlanta.

Full coverage of Georgia’s 2022 midterms

But this year’s rematch is much different from their 2018 encounter. Kemp now has a four-year record as governor of mostly popular conservative philosophies; oversees a strong state economy; and seems to have weathered a blistering attack from former President Donald Trump for not overturning the outcome of state’s 2020 presidential election.

“It’s hard to a GOP governor running for re-election under a better set of circumstances,” said Dr. Ben Taylor of Kennesaw State University. “You have a first-term Democratic president, meaning Republicans are motivated to vote; Kemp has suspended the gas tax from time to time, which is popular; the state has a big budget surplus; he’s taken positions on conservative issues that are endearing him to his base; and he’s getting a lot of positive press.”

Abrams, meanwhile, has been out of elected office for more than five years; is a strong supporter of President Joe Biden despite his dwindling national poll numbers; and has consistently trailed Kemp herself throughout the summer and into the early fall in most polls.

Dr. Ben Taylor answers three questions about the midterms.

Four years ago, Kemp defeated Abrams by about 55,000 votes in an election Abrams has yet to concede.

“Abrams had great success four years ago by changing the makeup of the voting electorate,” said the University of Georgia’s Dr. Charles Bullock. “Most of the polls that show her trailing Kemp are of likely voters, but what about unlikely voters? These are folks that pollsters won’t pick up, and if Abrams can expand the electorate by bringing in more minorities and younger voters, that might be sufficient enough for her to win.”

Bullock said Georgia is evenly divided along partisan lines, with Republicans and Democrats each claiming about 45% of the electorate. That leaves major statewide elections like governor to be decided by about 10% of the remaining, more independent voters.

“If any issue or event can move between 50,000 to 100,000 votes into a candidate’s favor, that’s enough to win,” Bullock said.

“The aggregate polling data still shows Abrams within the margin of error, which means this will be a close election,” said said Dr. Rashad Richey, a national TV news analyst, lecturer and Democratic Party activist. “Also, polls are configured based on historical performances of the electorate. This means polling data rarely calculates for surges within a particular demographic.

“For example, Black males make up the smallest percentage of “polled voters” due to their lower voter participation numbers compared to other demographics,” he said. “If Abrams is able to excite and activate Black mlae voters in this election and create a hyper turnout among Black men, this race becomes much more competitive than anyone imagined.”

The two candidates could not be more different in their beliefs. Kemp, despite criticism from Trump, is a strong supporter of traditionally GOP stances, including his signing of a ban on abortions after roughly six weeks. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in Dobbs v. Jackson, that women do not have a constitutionally protected right to abortion.

Georgia’s ban, known as the Heartbeat Bill, went into effect a few short days after the ruling.

Abrams is a strong critic of Georgia’s six-week abortion ban, and made national headlines last week when she said, “There is no such thing as a heartbeat at six weeks. It is a manufactured sound designed to convince people that men have the right to take control of a woman’s body.”

Abrams made the comments during a panel discussion.

A few weeks earlier, Kemp was caught on record as seeming to be open to banning contraception “depending on where the legislatures are” during the next session.

“The governor has never opposed access to contraception, and - despite the attempts of desperate Democrats and their media allies to spread a complete lie - the full audio proves the governor’s position remains the same,” said Tate Mitchell, Kemp’s reelection campaign spokesman.

UGA's Dr. Charles Bullock answers three questions about the 2022 midterms.

Abrams and Kemp have agreed to two debates: Monday, Oct. 17 and Sunday, Oct. 30, both beginning at 7 p.m.