Kemp re-elected as Ga. governor: What to expect in his next term

Published: Nov. 8, 2022 at 1:24 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2022 at 6:33 PM EST
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ATLANTA - Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp won re-election Tuesday against Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams.

The two faced off in a rematch of the state’s last governor’s race, with both seeking a remarkable achievement.

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 kicked off his second term with a crowd of supporters Tuesday night, chanting, “four more years.”


“As you all know, we did not get distracted on this hard-fought campaign. Just like we have stayed focused in my first term. We woke up every single day talking about how to build a safer, stronger Georgia for you and your family,” Kemp said.

In his campaigning and his acceptance speech Tuesday night, Kemp talked about what’s next as the leader of Georgia.

“Come January 2023, we’re going to send another billion dollars back to the taxpayers. We’re also going to give you relief on your property taxes as well,” said Gov. Kemp.

Kemp’s campaign leaned heavily on promises to boost the economy in this time of record inflation. He also promoted his allegiance to law enforcement and the fight against crime.

“Continuing our fight against gangs and human trafficking and standing up to the pro-criminal, anti-law enforcement policies of the far left,” Kemp said.

What’s next for Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams remains to be seen. After her 2018 loss, she committed her time to voting rights activism.

“Whether we do it from the governor’s mansion or from the streets or from the capitol or from our community, we are going to fight for more for the state of Georgia,” said Abrams.

Although the rematch meant few voters were discovering Kemp or Abrams anew, the race has been different.

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.

While many incumbents are weakened by serious primary challenges, Kemp appeared to be strengthened. Trump’s attacks gave Kemp credibility with the narrow margin of Georgia voters who are willing to consider voting for either party, a largely white, college educated and suburban demographic.

Abrams, though, spent the four years since her defeat methodically 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.

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.

But Kemp’s overall policy agenda was lighter than in 2018, appealing to voters to entrust him with another term mainly because of his performance. He did make criminal justice proposals, including making it harder for judges to release people without cash bail, and education proposals, including grants to school districts to help students catch up on what they might have missed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kemp launched frequent attacks on Abrams, accusing her of not supporting police. He also called her “celebrity Stacey,” saying she would serve out-of-state interest and not “hardworking Georgians.”