Kemp, Abrams trade barbs on education, crime in Georgia governor's debate

Kemp highlighted his efforts to go after street gangs and prosecute violent offenders; Abrams, meanwhile, pointed to gun violence and a number of high-profile shootings.

Updated: October 17, 2022 - 10:24pm

Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams, and Libertarian Shane Hazel traded barbs on education policy in Monday's debate.

Kemp highlighted his state's investment in education during his time in office, asserting that the state was spending more on education than it ever had. He especially touted his delivery of a promised $5,000 pay raise for teachers. Hazel, meanwhile, asserted that privatizing the education system was the best way forward.

Abrams presented a sharp contrast to Kemp's vision, highlighting the existing state surplus as a source of revenue for additional education funding, and calling for a prospective $11,000 pay raise for teachers.

Kemp retorted that Abrams' plan was contingent on the economic situation that exists under his leadership. He highlighted Abrams' support for restrictive COVID-19 lockdown policies and contrasted it with his position that he asserted delivered the state a stronger economy.

Hazel interjected to contend that "it's all stolen money." He then criticized the use of property taxes to fund a public education system that those paying for it did not support.

Multiple members of the debate panel pointed to the likelihood that Republicans would hold both chambers of the state legislature and challenged Abrams to explain how she would win support for her proposals in the face of "staunch Republican opposition."

"I don't actually believe there is staunch Republican opposition," she responded.

Hazel repeatedly attempted to interject in the debate, but was reproached by the moderators who asserted that rebuttals would go to the candidate that another referenced. Neither Abrams nor Kemp directly referenced Hazel while discussing that issue.

"This is ridiculous!" he exclaimed. Hazel ultimately received time to speak.

Crime also featured in the debate. Kemp highlighted his efforts to go after street gangs and prosecute violent offenders. He asserted that COVID-19 lockdowns, which had kept kids out of schools, had put them on the street and pushed them towards criminal enterprises. He also touted efforts to put "boots on the ground" and to work around local officials whom he asserts are hamstringing law enforcement.

Abrams, meanwhile, pointed to gun violence and a number of high-profile shootings, and criticized Kemp's loosening of the requirements to purchase and own firearms. "Georgia does not have a waiting period. We do not have universal background checks," she added.

Hazel then spoke, arguing that any gun control laws were not the solution and that he didn't trust the government to handle the issue. "The biggest mass murderer in history is government. It's not private citizens," he told Abrams.

Kemp said "the criminals are the only ones that do have the guns," and said he backed making it easier for people to buy firearms to protect themselves.

In the final minutes of the debate, the conversation returned to education. Kemp said people were tired of the "indoctrination" in the classroom. Hazel then highlighted the trend toward homeschooling and called for privatizing the whole system. "We need to nullify property tax. We need to let people get out of this system... We had some of the brightest, most well read people in the entire world," he concluded.

Each candidate's closing statement largely echoed earlier points they made, though the debate ultimately ended with Hazel continuing to speak over the moderator until the stream ran out of time.