ATLANTA (AP) — The first debate between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp in the race for Georgia governor was dominated by charges of voter suppression and counterclaims of encouraging illegal voting.
Libertarian candidate Ted Metz also participated in Tuesday’s debate.
Disputes over voting access took center stage at the debate, highlighting Abrams’ historic bid to become the first black female governor in American history and the long-simmering politics of race in the Deep South. Kemp, who is white, continued to fend off charges that he’s using his position as Georgia secretary of state to make it harder for minority voters to cast ballots.
Abrams said Kemp’s record as secretary of state “causes great concern” and pointed to the release of voter data under Kemp’s watch and the state’s “exact match” voter registration system, which has left tens of thousands of voter registrations “pending” due to inconsistencies.
The Democrat said she takes voting rights “very seriously” and said her own father had once been arrested trying to help people get registered.
“Voter suppression isn’t only about blocking the vote: It’s also about creating an atmosphere of fear, making people worry that their votes won’t count,” Abrams said.