Abrams and Kemp Race Continues Past Election Day

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QUINCEY WILSON: The battle continues between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp to decide Georgia’s next governor. Kemp, former Secretary of State of Georgia, is fighting to keep the red state in GOP hands and Abrams, former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, is fighting to turn it blue and become the first black female governor in the history of the United States.

Kemp publicly stepped down as Georgia's Secretary of State on Thursday with the purpose of beginning his transition to the governor's office. Abrams refused to accept his statement because she did not concede nor was an official winner projected.

Kemp leads with 50.3 percent of the vote with Abrams closely following with 48.5 percent -- but there are still ballots to count. Both candidates expressed in their Wednesday morning speeches, “Every vote counts.” 

The gap between Abrams and Kemp stands by about 63,000 votes. The Kemp campaign believes their win is inevitable because they publicly released a spreadsheet of a county-by-county outline of the outstanding 21,000 provisional ballots. In Kemp’s early morning speech to his supporters on Wednesday, 11Alive reported that Kemp stated, “There are votes left to be counted, but we have a very strong lead. The math is on our side.” However, the Abrams campaign says there are a plethora of uncounted absentee ballots to consider.

If neither candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote when all votes are counted, they will head for a Dec. 4 runoff, making it the first general election gubernatorial runoff in the state’s history.

The race attracted national attention, as former President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey publicly supported and campaigned for Abrams. CBS News wrote that Winfrey stated at a rally in Georgia: “I don’t want to run. I’m here today to support a change-maker.” Even though Winfrey stressed that she is a registered independent, she supported Abrams because they care about similar issues, including Medicaid expansion,  keeping families together, and environmental protection to improve water and air quality.

At a separate rally for Kemp, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence firmly spoke out against Winfrey’s prior statements and suggested that Abrams did not have Georgia’s best interests at heart. CBS News also wrote that Pence stated at the rally: “This ain’t Hollywood. I’ve got a message for all of Abrams’ liberal Hollywood friends. This is Georgia, and Georgia wants a governor that is going to put Georgia values and Georgia first.”

The contest is producing its fair share of accusations and issues. Abrams and her supporters accused Kemp of meddling with the Democratic vote by suppressing voters from the state rolls in his role as Georgia Secretary of State. USA Today reported that Kemp’s office responded saying it was inspecting whether the Democratic Party hacked the state’s voter registration system. In addition, many technical problems at the polling precincts caused voters to wait in line for two to three hours.

The biggest question for Abrams is whether she could win in a state that has been consistently Republican for decades. Georgia last elected a Democratic governor in 1998 and the last Democratic U.S. Senator was elected in 1996.

Abrams is running as a hardcore liberal who advocates for gun control and abortion rights, stances not popularly expressed throughout much of Georgia. Meanwhile, Kemp stated in a campaign ad during the Republican primary, “I’ve got a big truck just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take them home myself.”

While, in recent decades, this dichotomy in viewpoints would have given Kemp a huge advantage in Georgia, Atlanta’s recent growth in the diverse metropolitan area, and the recent increase in Trump’s low-approval ratings among college-educated Whites, increases the likelihood of a Democratic upset. This change indicates the state is becoming more competitive, but we just have to wait and see how it all plays out.

Max Magid