ATLANTA — When voters head to the polls for Georgia's general election they'll have a chance to shape the future of the state. This election season, each vote holds more weight as certain races have the potential to flip the balance of power in Congress or flip the political makeup of Georgia. At the top of the ballot will be the candidates vying to become the state's next governor.
People can cast their ballot during their early voting period or wait until Election Day on Nov. 8. For voters still deciding who to put their vote behind, here's a list of candidates and details on their platform.
Gov. Brian Kemp (R - Incumbent)
Kemp is hoping voters keep in in the governor's office for another term, touting his track record. On his campaign website, he boasts some of his accomplishments while in office including his pride in being the first governor in the country to reopen their state during the COVID-19 pandemic and expanding access to rural broadband.
Here's where he stands on other popular topics among voters.
After the coronavirus pandemic disrupted learning for nearly two years, Kemp's campaign promise is to address learning loss by utilizing state funds in his 2023 budget recommendations for a $25 million Learning Loss Opportunity Scholarship Grant (LLOSG). It will be aimed at helping students get on reading level with schools applying for the grant and to use for additional tutoring services, non-traditional staff or supplement learning loss services. The governor also hopes to continue to offset the certification costs of becoming a teacher to help bring more qualified educators into the classroom. He also has several proposals, to be approved by Georgia's General Assembly, to enhance school safety such as intruder alert drills, gang prevention training for teachers and GEMA's involvement in school safety plans.
With record-high inflation top of mind for voters, Kemp is focusing on what his campaign dubs as inflation relief.
His plan includes divvying up the nearly $1 billion surplus in state funds in rebates similar to what he did in 2022. These rebates will also extend to homeowners for their local property tax bills next year. This plan is to align with his record of signing the largest tax cut in Georgia history, according to his campaign website.
Ultimately, his platform economy rests on one phrase: to return money to Georgians' pockets.
Kemp vows to continue his administration's work in improving Georgia's healthcare system, reminding voters that there is now expanded Medicaid coverage for new mothers to one year postpartum and lower premiums because of the passing of the Patients First Act under his leadership.
In an effort to make "it easy to vote and hard to cheat in Georgia elections" Kemp championed SB 202, known as the Election Integrity Act of 2021. The law tightened limits on absentee voting and streamlined early voting. It also makes it illegal to hand out food or water to people as they vote.
The law has been heavily criticized and was first truly put to the test during the primary election. Despite the new execution of the law, Georgia saw record early-voting turnout.
Stacey Abrams (D)
After a narrow loss in 2018 in Georgia's gubernatorial race to Gov. Brian Kemp, Abrams is once again ironing out her vision for One Georgia with investments that are focused on social, educational and economic mobility.
Outlined within her platform are her goals for rural revitalization which include improving infrastructure when it comes to broadband challenges, increasing accessible transportation options, expanding the budget of the Center for Rural Prosperity and Innovation and promoting agribusiness and growing Georgia's number one industry while protecting farmers' rights. Read more about her rural investment plans on her campaign website.
Here's where she stands on other popular topics among voters.
Abrams divides her education platform into four sections: supporting teachers, prioritizing and increasing access to early childhood education, improving student learning and creating more clear pathways to careers.
For educators, Abrams aims to make Georgia a leader in teacher pay and create a rural teacher pipeline project to help retain educators across the state.
The democratic gubernatorial candidate is also focused on students of all grade levels, starting with early childhood education. Her campaign outlines efforts to make childcare affordable for low-income families and plans to do this by adding 30,000 permanent slots to Georgia's childcare assistance program (CAPS). She also aims to achieve universal pre-K in the state and expand tax credits for childcare workers to incentivize people to enter and stay in childhood education. These efforts are on top of her goals to improve mental health services using Medicaid funds in K-12 schools and reestablish former Governor Deal's Education Reform Commission, which emphasized school funding and created suggested plans to disperse the money as it relates to rural disparities, school counselor and nurse access, and transportation.
Abrams' campaign platform has a tiered approach to economic mobility that goes from worker rights to opportunities to bring new business to the state, including sports betting.
One proposal includes creating an earned income tax credit for Georgia that will help families keep more of their wages with the greatest anticipated impact to be in rural counties, according to Abrams' platform.
The hope is to also increase apprenticeships with technical colleges, small businesses and unions, and prioritize buying Georgia products by encouraging state agencies, projects and contractors to invest in materials within the state. In turn, this will help promote small businesses with her proposed Georgia Commercial Investment Program. On the macro level, Abrams also wants to streamline a cluster contracts program that would reconfigure large state purchasing contracts to allow multiple entities to jointly bid on subparts of a given contract to give smaller businesses an opportunity to land major projects.
One of Abrams' most well-known campaign promises is her dedication to expanding Medicaid in Georgia. According to her campaign, Georgia's uninsured rate is the second-highest in the nation and by expanding the service the state will generate new jobs and help connect residents to healthcare.
She said by expanding Medicaid, eligible Georgians with diabetes will have support when faced with the increasing cost of insulin. In turn, this can help unlock more federal funds to address behavioral and mental health. She's also outlined ways this can benefit healthcare workers and plans to deal with medical staffing shortages.
In an effort to make sure "every vote counts," Abrams wants to expand voter registration to be allowed on Election Day with what she deems proper safeguards.
Safeguards will be made easier, her campaign says, by providing more consistency for voters across all counties. Her campaign suggests the idea of providing more convenient and equitable polling locations such as mobile voting precincts to help seniors, Georgians with disabilities and people voting in areas with long wait times. Postage for mail ballots should also be free, Abrams' campaign said.
Shane Hazel (L)
Georgia's Libertarian gubernatorial candidate shares several priorities such as bringing more nuclear power and pardoning non-violent offenders in prison.
Hazel has an extensive platform focused on criminal justice reform, which includes ending qualified immunity, ending cash bail, eliminating "no-knock" raids and implementing community review boards.
Here's where he stands on other popular topics among voters.
Hazel's stance is that education is a private matter and up to the individual. He said if he becomes governor, he plans to nullify all state and federal mandates. He goes into greater detail on his points here.
Bitcoin is at the center of Hazel's economic plan.
He plans to have Georgia adopt the cryptocurrency as the state's legal tender and legalize cannabis to bolster the business in the state. When it comes to taxes, Hazel describes it as theft, saying he will nullify the income tax among other tax lines. He said the basis of Georgia's economy is that people will pay for the goods and services they consent to use.
Hazel's plan for healthcare includes eliminating all state and federal health mandates. The Libertarian also proposes a revolutionary take on the health industry and privatizing it to include charities. He goes into more detail on his campaign website.
Standing on his claim, "if it made a difference it would be illegal," Hazel shares strong words about voting claiming the state's election system is imperfect. He circles back to his economic ideology that by the adoption of Bitcoin, Georgia will eliminate state force and coercion and help people "vote for the goods and services they want with their money," helping remove some government responsibility in the election process.
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