ATLANTA — Primary Day is just 10 days away, at which point Georgia will finally see a head-to-head race for governor begin in earnest.
Unlike on the Republican side, Stacey Abrams doesn't yet have a challenger. She's running unopposed for the Democrats, and has long been the party's de facto nominee.
But the focus of her general campaign, be it against Gov. Brian Kemp or former Sen. David Perdue, is beginning to take shape.
Abrams spoke Friday night at the Democratic Party of Georgia's state dinner, and afterward went one-on-one with 11Alive's Hope Ford.
She staked out positions on abortion rights, restrictions on transgender sports participation and healthcare that figure to become central components of the campaign.
In recent weeks, few issues have been as salient as the possibility of the overturning of Roe v. Wade and Georgia's restrictive six-week "heartbeat" abortion law taking effect.
"As governor, my intention is to protect the women of Georgia, protect their right to choose, and that means protecting their ability to plan for their families," Abrams said. "We know that the governor of Georgia in 2019 passed one of the strictest laws in the nation, that essentially bans abortion at six weeks — it’s a forced pregnancy law, and I’m gonna work as governor to roll back any of those laws."
"But I also promise that I will veto any of the new laws that we hear Republicans talking about — laws that would criminalize abortion, laws that would put women in prison and their doctors in there with them," she added. "Georgia should be a safe place for women, it should be a place where the right to reproductive health is sacrosanct and I intend to be a governor to make that so."
Abrams set her sights in particular on Gov. Kemp, who has maintained a strong lead the last couple months in Republican primary polls against Perdue. It appears to be a distinct possibility the two will head for a rematch of the 2018 race for governor, which was decided by less than 2%.
An 11Alive poll in April found the two would be in for another close race, with Kemp currently polling 50-45% ahead of Abrams and 5% undecided (the poll's margin of error was 3.4%.)
On issues such as guns and education, she framed her positions opposite those of Kemp, whom she said "just doesn't care" about the entirety of the electorate.
"As governor I would not lie to our children, which is what the (critical race theory) ban legislation will do. It is authorizing lying to our children about our past and about their future. I would not ostracize our children, use them as political ploys to win elections," she said. "I would not expand access to guns and say that criminal carry (the new no-permit "constitutional carry" gun law) is now the law of Georgia — when law enforcement says it’s a bad idea, we should listen. I would listen to our law enforcement, I would listen to our communities, I would listen to our families and I would care about all Georgians. The problem is Brian Kemp just doesn’t care — and if he doesn’t care about Georgia, we need a leader who does and that will be Stacey Abrams as the next leader of the state."
The Kemp campaign responded, through a statement from press secretary Tate Mitchell: "'Stacey Abrams’ plan if she were governor would be to hike taxes on Georgia families, champion abortion without limits, defund local police, and pander to the far Left while using Georgians as a stepping stone on the way to the White House. Georgians have already rejected her extreme agenda once, and we are confident they’ll do it again this year.”
Another issue Abrams plans to put front and center is healthcare. One of her signature initiatives would be Medicaid access. The Affordable Care Act provides for Medicaid expansion in the states, but several Republican-led states have long declined to do so.
The governor submitted a sweeping healthcare reform proposal in 2020 that would have expanded Medicaid, but with a work requirement. That and other elements of his healthcare policy have been met with legal opposition from the Biden administration.
"We can win by talking about healthcare access, expanding Medicaid, giving half a million Georgians access to healthcare that they’ve already paid, for creating 64,000 jobs at a much lower cost than the plants that the governor keeps touting," she said.
She believes Republicans, she said, "are afraid because they know it works."
"They saw us win in 2020 and 2021 and we’re gonna win again in 2022," Abrams said.