Stacey Abrams Concedes to Brian Kemp in Georgia

Kemp and Abrams' rematch focused heavily on decimated abortion access in the state, post-Roe v. Wade.

Stacey Abrams Concedes to Brian Kemp in Georgia
Photo:Megan Varner (Getty Images)

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams in the pair’s second match-up, after Kemp first defeated Abrams for the office in 2018. This time, Kemp defeated Abrams by an even greater margin (about 54 to 46%), two years after Abrams and other Black women organizers across the state played a pivotal role in flipping Georgia blue.

“I may no longer be seeking the office of governor, but I will never stop doing everything in my power to ensure the people of Georgia have a voice,” Abrams told supporters shortly after conceding to Kemp. She continued, “I got into this race for one reason and one reason only, to fight. And not just any fight, a fight to save Georgia.”

At a rally celebrating his victory, Kemp, who faced substantial resistance from former President Trump in his primary, smugly told the crowd, “Well, it looks like the reports of my political death have been greatly exaggerated.”

During Kemp and Abram’s first race for governor in 2018, Kemp won only by a fraction of a percentage point. At the time, he served as secretary of state while running, and oversaw a series of lethal voter suppression efforts targeting Black voters. Prior to the 2018 midterms, Kemp’s office purged nearly 107,000 disproportionately Black voters from the state’s voter rolls in 2017 and shut down polling places in disproportionately Black neighborhoods. Since becoming governor, he’s signed additional voter suppression laws, including one that prohibits volunteers from giving water to people waiting in lines to vote.

This year, Abrams and Kemp’s race focused heavily on abortion rights and the economy—two inextricably connected issues, mind you—in the fallout of the Supreme Court overturning Roe and Georgia enacting one of the most extreme abortion bans in the nation, signed by Kemp in 2019. Georgia’s abortion law not only bans abortion at six weeks, but also establishes legal personhood for embryos at just six weeks, before many people are pregnant, threatening to criminalize anyone who loses a pregnancy. The law is currently being challenged in court.

On the campaign trail, Kemp has been caught on hot mic advocating for laws regulating IVF and prohibiting Plan B, which prevents pregnancy before it occurs. But publicly, aware of the stark unpopularity of abortion bans, Kemp has tried to avoid talking about abortion. At their debate last month, asked if he’d support more extreme anti-abortion bills cooking in the state’s legislature right now, Kemp said he was “not gonna say yes or no to any specific piece of legislation without seeing exactly what it’s doing.” Abrams, in contrast, condemned the state’s abortion ban and said “there should not be arbitrary timelines set by men who do not understand biology.”

Despite Kemp’s extremism, he seems to have benefited from presenting himself as a “reasonable” Republican through his ongoing conflict with former President Donald Trump, who called on Kemp to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. Kemp performed the bare minimum and refused, and has since gone on to enact some of the most extreme abortion and voting restrictions in the nation.

While Kemp’s victory margin was more substantial this time around, the race still reflects the dire consequences of voter suppression—particularly for reproductive rights. Kemp won through voter suppression in 2018, and as governor, he’s wielded his power to make voting even more difficult. His abortion ban is a direct consequence of rampant gerrymandering in the state, determining state legislative districts—for context, Kemp won just 50.2% of the vote across the state in 2018, but Republicans won nearly 60% of the state’s legislative seats.

The takeaway from Abrams’ loss shouldn’t be that it’s a mistake for candidates to emphasize their support for abortion rights—Abrams campaigned on a range of progressive issues. Instead, despite the optimistic framing of Georgia as a newly minted blue state in 2020, it’s clear that voter suppression runs deep and takes more than one election cycle to overcome. And attacks on reproductive rights—like Georgia’s extreme ban and Kemp’s proposals to police IVF—are a direct consequence of this suppression.

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