Abrams and Kemp Debate in Georgia: What to Watch

Mr. Kemp won the Republican primary for governor as an underdog by tacking to the right of the early front-runner, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle — a point on the spectrum that Ms. Abrams is likely to paint as far out of the Georgia mainstream.

In his primary ads, Mr. Kemp tried to show his conservative bona fides by blowing things up, wielding a chain saw, showing off his gun collection and, in one instance, pointing a shotgun at an actor portraying a teenager interested in dating his daughter.

In one ad, he said he would personally round up “criminal illegals” in his pickup truck. It was a distinctly Trumpian approach, and won him President Trump’s full-throated support.

Ms. Abrams believes that many Georgians will have problems with his hard conservative stances. She may bring up Mr. Kemp’s pledge to support a “religious freedom” bill that critics say would legalize discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; Ms. Abrams says a bill like that would scare businesses and investors away from Georgia.

She may also hit Mr. Kemp over his position that the state should not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act because Medicaid “costs too much and fails to deliver.” Ms. Abrams is betting that a growing number of Georgians see such opposition as radical and nonsensical, given the boost that Medicaid expansion could give to the state’s struggling rural health care system.

Mr. Kemp’s record on voting rights is also likely to come under attack. His office supervises the state’s elections, and has drawn criticism for, among other things, suspending the processing of 53,000 voter registrations, mainly of African-Americans. Those Georgians will still be able to vote this year if they show ID at the polls, but Ms. Abrams’s supporters suspect Mr. Kemp of putting his thumb on the scales.

The candidates’ two styles could not be more different. Ms. Abrams, who earned a law degree from Yale, tends to embrace her inner wonk, racing through policy details with speed and precision. Mr. Kemp, a successful homebuilder with a degree in agriculture from the University of Georgia, speaks in a slow drawl that can move with the speed of honey off a spoon.

But Ms. Abrams will be well advised not to underestimate Mr. Kemp’s debating skills: A number of Athens residents saw his down-home performance in his ads as pure shtick. As one of them memorably put it, “He’s cosplaying as a goober.”

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