Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams conceded to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday in their rematch of their 2018 race.
Abrams called Kemp to concede, according to his campaign, and went on stage minutes later to congratulate the governor.
“I may no longer be seeking the office of governor, but I will never stop doing everything in my power to make sure the people of Georgia have a voice,” she said.
Kemp, who was a developer before serving as a state senator and secretary of state, clinched another term despite attacks from former President Donald Trump that threatened to snuff out support in his own party.
“Well, it looks like the reports of my political death have been greatly exaggerated,” Kemp told supporters after the concession.
The Associated Press had not yet called the race Tuesday night.
Kemp, 59, seemed on shaky ground among Republicans after the 2020 presidential election, when Trump blamed him for not doing enough to overturn President Joe Biden’s narrow win in Georgia. Trump helped lure former U.S. Sen. David Perdue into a primary challenge to Kemp, whom he called a “complete and total failure”.
But Kemp motored away from Perdue during the GOP primary, winning nearly 74% of the vote. Kemp patiently explained his election actions to Republicans even as he used his office to sign conservative-pleasing bills loosening gun laws, cutting taxes and banning “divisive concepts” in schools.
During the campaign, Kemp highlighted his stewardship of the state economy and his decision to relax public restrictions early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also gave billions in tax breaks and handouts using federal and state money. Kemp pushed laws to suspend the state gas tax, give $1 billion of state income tax refunds and even give $350 to every person in the state on public assistance. He also pledged another income tax break and a property tax break if reelected, portraying the cash as helping Georgians “fight through 40-year-high inflation and high gas prices” that he blamed on Biden, Abrams and other Democrats.
Nearly half of Georgia voters say the economy is the most pressing issue facing the country, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of more than 3,000 voters in the state.
Roughly a third of Georgians say their family is falling behind financially. A majority of those voters cast ballots for Kemp and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker.
The slight proportion of voters — about 1 in 10 — who say their families are getting ahead financially were more likely to vote for Democratic candidates, including Abrams and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Rising costs were named as a top concern among the state’s voters, with roughly 9 in 10 saying the inflated prices of groceries, gas and other goods were an important factor in how they cast ballots. Among those who said they considered inflation in their voting decision, roughly half said the cost of groceries and food was the most important factor.
Abrams, a lawyer whose 2018 loss to Kemp helped launch her into Democratic stardom, would have been the first Black woman to serve as a governor in the United States if she had won.
Abrams spent the four years since her defeat laying the groundwork for another run. She formed a forceful voting rights advocacy group — Fair Fight Action — and built her own personal wealth as Democrats gobbled up her books and paid to attend her speeches.
Her national profile was so high that she was considered as a possible running mate for Biden or even a candidate for president herself. That helped Abrams outraise Kemp with the help of a state law that allows candidates for governor to accept unlimited contributions through an associated committee.
Abrams raised $85 million through Sept. 30, but even Kemp’s $60 million would have by far been a record for a governor’s race in Georgia, as he sought to build a national fundraising base. And Abrams’ financial advantage was never enough to run away with the race — Kemp has led in polls throughout.
Abrams, 48, rolled out a campaign that she once described as “rife with plans,” including a big pay raise for teachers, legalizing casino and sports gambling to pay for more college aid, expanding Medicaid health insurance, aiding small and minority-owned businesses, and making housing more affordable. At the same time, Abrams pledged to tighten Georgia’s gun laws and roll back abortion restrictions, arguing Kemp was far from moderate.
“The most dangerous thing facing Georgia is four more years of Brian Kemp,” Abrams said in an Oct. 17 debate.
Roughly 7 in 10 voters also identified the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion as an important factor in their vote. About a quarter of voters described it as the single most important factor; these voters were more likely to cast a ballot for Warnock and Abrams.
Kemp launched frequent attacks on Abrams, accusing her of not supporting police. A sizable majority of voters identified crime as a factor in their how they cast ballots, AP VoteCast found. More than 8 in 10 voters described it as an important issue. And roughly 8 in 10 Georgians say they’re concerned about crime in their own communities
Jeff Amy, The Associated Press