Gun policies, economy take center stage in first debate between Kemp, Abrams

Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 11:25 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - On Monday, Governor Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams clashed in the first governor debate ahead of November’s election.

Both candidates leaned into the tenants they’ve run their campaigns on up to this point.

For Gov. Kemp (R-Ga), he celebrated the state’s economy under his leadership.

This year, Georgia registered a surplus of more than $6 billion, which Kemp said he plans to use on a refund tax credit and property tax relief grants.


“If Stacey Abrams had been your governor over the last four years, you would not have that excess revenue because she wanted the state to stay locked down and criticized me when I opened it back up,” said Gov. Kemp.

Abrams leaned in on her promises of improvements in access to healthcare and women’s rights.

The biggest argument came over the subject of the state’s gun laws.

When questioned about his plan to address the rise in gun violence, Kemp pointed to his work to fight gangs.

“We’re going after the people who are doing these gun-related crimes, and that’s what we’re doing going after these street gangs,” said Kemp.

Abrams quickly challenged saying the issue of gun violence isn’t solely tied to gangs.

“Street gangs aren’t the reason people are getting shot in grocery stores, and in parking lots, and in schools,” said Abrams. “Street gangs are one part of the problem, but we have a governor who’s weakened gun laws across the state,” Abrams added.

Kemp later in the debate was asked again about the state’s gun laws – which again, Abrams contested.

" When you buy a firearm, you get a background check. And none of the laws change…,” Kemp started before being interrupted by Abrams. “Mr. Kemp, if your purchase a weapon in Georgia through a gun sale or a private sale, through a gun show or private sale, you’re not subject to that background,” Abrams said before a moderator jumped in.

Their second debate is set for Sunday, Oct. 30, only hours after former President Barack Obama appears in Atlanta on behalf of Abrams, a visit that was announced Saturday by the Georgia Democratic Party.

First Lady Jill Biden also appeared with Abrams on Friday. Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler joined Kemp and Atlanta Young Republicans on Saturday.

The nation’s most-watched governor’s race is entering its final weeks. Abrams is seeking to unseat Kemp and become the nation’s first Black female governor, while Kemp is seeking his second, and final, term.

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.