The fact that I am going to advocate today for Republican Brian Kemp — and for several other similarly aligned Georgia candidates in two additional columns tomorrow and Monday – should not surprise anyone who knows my background as a former legislator and House Republican Whip, but I want to explain why it is so important for Georgia’s future to elect Mr. Kemp and other key Republicans.
Caveat: I know personally many of the people who are running against the folks I am supporting, and I respect and like them. They are not the “enemy” but merely political opponents on policy issues that I believe are critical for my community and our state to move forward. With that opening, let me lay out my case today for Brian Kemp against Stacey Abrams.
Stay the Course Set Out By Governor Deal
There has been a great attempt by the national press and outside figures to “nationalize” this race. While I enjoy seeing prominent people from around the country come to Georgia to support our different candidates, in the end we need to stay focused on the issues peculiar to our state that the next Governor will have to face. The bottom line for me is who is in the best position to continue the positive state trajectory that Governor Nathan Deal has placed us on these past eight years. I agree with Governor Deal that Brian Kemp is the one who will follow our present course. We need a governor who will advance sound fiscal conservative policies, a pro-business economic development outlook, education reform, crime prevention efforts, a badly needed overhaul of the property tax assessment system for homeowners, and health care reform that protect all Georgians. You can see many of Kemp’s positive positions on a wide range of issues here.
Abrams Problem – Her Record
I served with Ms. Abrams in the General Assembly and her commercials point out a couple of issues where she was helpful and bipartisan, but on far too many fundamental issues she was a roadblock to positive change. Let me name three areas in particular as examples:
Education: Georgia is a national leader on charter schools with the passage of our state charter school constitutional amendment in 2012. To get it passed, we needed strong bipartisan support and were fortunate to have Republican and Democratic leaders across a broad range of ideologies step up, come to the table, and craft sound legislation to get it passed. Ms. Abrams fought against this measure and openly politically attacked Democrats who dared to assist us. Fortunately, she was not successful and in the end Georgia voters – Republicans and Democrats — overwhelming voted for the measure. See the constitutional amendment here.
Some of our students in schools need special help because of particular learning issues. Many public school systems and individual traditional schools do an excellent job but others clearly fall short and parents – particularly from middle and working class families – are desperate for alternatives to meet their children’s needs. In 2007, the General Assembly passed SB 10. The bill required that a child be assessed and determined to have special needs by the public school system and to then first try the traditional public school and see what it offered. Only then could the parents request and receive a state scholarship to try an alternative option. The bill has helped thousands of Georgia students over the past decade. Ms. Abrams, however, voted no. For her, one size fits all and if that means a child does not get what he or she needs from the public school establishment, so be it. See the bill here.
On a more local level, in 2011, the Atlanta Public School (APS) System was in turmoil as a result of a massive cheating scandal and the school board was so dysfunctional in handling the crisis that they had been placed on academic probation by accreditation organizations. Strong bipartisan leadership was needed to protect the Atlanta students. Once again, a bipartisan measure was introduced giving the governor the power to step in to get the school board to begin working together. Ms. Abrams openly fought against the measure but we were fortunately able to pass it over her objections. As a result, Governor Deal was able to work with the school board to get them to start working together again, and today APS – while it still has a long way to go – has seen remarkable improvement. See the bill here.
Property Tax Reform: Georgia badly needs to reform its property tax assessment system. The present system has led to backdoor tax increases on homeowners faced with unfair reassessment. A major overhaul needs to be passed through a constitutional amendment – which I will discuss further when I discuss legislative races on Monday – but on even incremental changes to protect homeowners over the years, Ms. Abrams – a former in-house attorney for the City of Atlanta — has stood in the way. In 2007, rising reassessment were threatening middle-income homeowners in Atlanta. Bipartisan measures to increase homestead exemptions in the city to offset these increases were introduced by a local in town Democrat representative whose neighborhoods were being particularly hard hit. The bills fortunately passed but Ms. Abrams fought against each of these measures – including one measure in which she was one of only two legislators to vote no. See these three successful bills here, here, and here.
In 2009, as the impact of the Great Recession was beginning to set in, an emergency bill to place a three-year moratorium on reassessment increases to keep them from rising during the recession was introduced with bipartisan support. Ms. Abrams once again fought against the measure and voted no. See the bill here.
As the impact of the Great Recession set in further the need for property tax assessment reform cooled as the real estate market flattened. Now, however, the inequities of the present system are becoming apparent again as the economy improves. A fundamental overhaul is needed but homeowners know where Ms. Abrams stands – with the local bureaucrats and as a roadblock to homeowners getting needed relief. (Once again, there will be more of this on Monday when I discuss legislative races.)
Crime Prevention: Time again when the General Assembly looked at measures to protect our communities against sexual predators, human trafficking, and street gangs, Ms. Abram has stood in the way. Here is her record on several bills over the years.
In 2007, Ms. Abrams voted against a measure that barred previously convicted sexual predators from being in places where children congregate such as schools and public libraries. In addition, sexual predators also often stalk their child victims by photographing them. The bill that Ms. Abrams voted against also banned this exploitation. In addition, in the same year, she voted against a measure that expanded the requirement for DNA samples from convicted sexual predators and other dangerous criminals. See the bills here and here..
In 2016, she voted against a tough anti-gang violence bill passed by the General Assembly because she opposed the stronger sentencing requirements that will keep these violent criminals off the street. See the bill here.
In 2017, Ms. Abrams “walked” and refused to vote on a measure – which she now admits she also opposed – to also toughen the penalties against those who engage in the heinous crime of human trafficking. See the bill here.
My point in discussing Ms. Abrams voting record here is to compare it to Republican policy initiatives which have enjoyed bipartisan support — which Mr. Kemp has campaigned to continue and expand — that have sought to advance education reform, take on the inequities of the present property tax system, and tackle many of the most serious criminal justice problems our society faces today. In doing so, let me reiterate here that my disagreement with Ms. Abrams are policy ones and not personal. But good policy leads to a better future for our state.
A central focus of Ms. Abrams’ campaign is to expand Medicaid to bring an extra 600,000 Georgians with a higher income level into the system that is already serving over 1.2 million of our neediest people.
A few years ago, I was on a panel with Ms. Abrams when this issue came up and she argued that by simply expanding Medicaid it would get us to where we need to be with affordable health care for all Georgians. She used the analogy of walking down the road and being offered a ride (in this case federal government dollars) to get us toward our destination. My response was that if I was walking toward my destination, and someone pulled up in a car with bald tires, half the lug nuts missing, and dozen empty beer cans littering the car, I might decline the invitation and choose another alternative.
That is the case with our Medicaid system which is already straining to meet the needs of the existing most needy Georgians. Bureaucratic red tape and low compensation is already forcing a large number of doctors to refuse Medicaid patients. Adding 50% more to the system will only aggravate the problem and hurt existing recipients. There is a better way.
Other states including Indiana, Arkansas, and Wisconsin have asked for and received Medicaid waivers that have allowed them greater flexibility in treating patients and expanding the number of Georgians that can be helped. That is what Brian Kemp is advocating. For greater details see here and here.
In closing, we need a governor that looks at problems and seeks a 21st century approach on the issues before us. True, sometimes that will involve direct government action but often it requires cutting through the stagnant status quo and giving Georgians greater flexibility to make wise decisions that are best for their families. That candidate in my mind is clearly Brian Kemp. I ask you to join me in supporting him.