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ATLANTA – Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has won a second term, again defeating Democrat Stacey Abrams in one of the most closely-watched campaigns for governor in the country, according to a race call by the Associated Press.
In a speech before supporters Tuesday night Kemp said, “It looks like the reports of my political death have been greatly exaggerated.”
Four years after their first contentious election when Kemp beat Abrams by about 55,000 votes, both candidates launched their bids as household names. This time, though, the political climate was far less friendly to Democrats.
Kemp is an incumbent, beloved by Republicans for notching four years of conservative priorities and respected by some moderates for standing up to former President Donald Trump’s pressure to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Abrams entered the race with a global brand, buoyed in part by her role in activating new voters and helping turn Georgia blue in 2020 for the first time in years.
In her concession speech Tuesday night she said: “What we have architected in this state does not end today.”
After crushing a Republican primary challenger backed by former President Donald Trump – bucking trends among Republican candidates in other states – Kemp led Abrams in almost every poll heading into the election.
Democrats hoped their surprise victories last cycle in Georgia, when President Biden and two Democratic U.S. senators narrowly won, showed their party could finally reclaim the governor’s mansion and elect the country’s first Black woman to the office in this historically-red state.
But even the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which Democrats thought would energize voters, was not enough to push Abrams over the top. Kemp signed a law in 2019 to ban most abortions after about six weeks, which took effect this summer.
Abrams also faced voters’ frustration over high prices for groceries and gas and Biden’s continuing unpopularity.
As governor, Kemp signed a new voting law that Democrats have roundly criticized, as well as bills to loosen firearm rules and enact new restrictions on how teachers talk about race in the classroom.
But as Kemp worked to court swing voters, he leaned into his handling of the state’s economy and frequently touted his decision to reopen schools and businesses early in the pandemic.
Efforts by Democrats, notably Abrams, to engage new and irregular voters have shaken up Georgia politics. And with Georgia’s diversifying and growing population, Georgia will remain a battleground state. But Tuesday’s results show Republicans are still dominant.
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