Georgia now has dueling big-name endorsements in the race for governor. Former President Barack Obama supports Democrat Stacey Abrams. President Trump has endorsed Republican Brian Kemp, setting up what is certain to be one of the most expensive and hardest-fought races in this year’s elections.
Trump’s surprise endorsement of Kemp right before the GOP primary runoff added icing to the cake for Kemp, who already was pulling ahead of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. Obama’s endorsement of Abrams was more a foregone conclusion since Abrams won her party’s nomination without a runoff and was awaiting the outcome of the Cagle-Kemp race. Although candidates love endorsements, elections usually are decided by issues, negative ads and personalities.
The ad campaigns are not in high gear yet, but recent news reports about each candidate pro-vide fodder for negative attacks. Look for more Kemp attacks on Abrams about her financial and tax issues, while Kemp will come under fire on at least one controversial tax issue and his in-volvement in a failed business venture.
Kemp and other Republicans have blasted Abrams, 44, former Georgia House minority leader, for owing more than $50,000 in federal taxes while loaning her campaign that amount, plus ow-ing $170,000 in credit card and student loan debt. That’s despite her holding a juris doctor degree from Yale Law School and experience as a tax attorney and co-founder of a financial services firm during her decade in the Legislature. She recently released two years of tax returns and posted them on her website. They showed 2016 adjusted gross income of $220,886 and federal/state taxes of $67,206, and 2017 AGI of $144,623 and taxes of $48,254.
On the tax front, Kemp faces charges of flip-flopping on a jet fuel sales tax exemption that would have saved Delta Air Lines millions in state taxes. During the primary, Kemp said he “unequivocally opposed” the exemption which became a big issue in the governor’s race after then-front-runner Casey Cagle, endorsed by the National Rifle Association, said he would kill the exemption when Delta terminated a discount plan for NRA members. That killed the tax break — which Kemp said at the time should be replaced “with a sales tax holiday that benefits the same Second Amendment supporters that Delta and other corporate cowards are publicly shaming.”
Soon as the primary runoff was over, Gov. Nathan Deal — who was adamantly opposed to the Cagle maneuver against Delta — signed an executive order suspending the 4 percent sales tax on jet fuel, pointing out that the $62 billion annual economic impact of Georgia airports.
Kemp promptly did a turnaround or flip-flop as his opponents called it. He said: “I support economic incentives that generate a sizable return on investment for Georgia taxpayers and create economic opportunities for communities throughout our state. Based on the information provided, the governor’s executive order aims to do both.” To which, state Democratic Party chairman DuBose Porter responded by labeling Kemp a flip-flopper who was fleeing from his previous statements.
Another negative issue is the charge that a Kemp business failed to pay millions owed farmers and Kemp himself defaulted on a loan. A north Georgia investment company has filed a lawsuit against Kemp alleging that he and his agricultural business failed to repay a $500,000 loan. According to lender Rick Phillips, he loaned the money to Kemp and his company “and he personally guaranteed it.” Kemp’s campaign spokesman said Kemp was only one of the investors in the business and that Phillips was a supporter of Cagle.
Bottom line as this Republican-Democrat race gets underway: There’s plenty of ammunition on both sides and look for the guns to start blazing.
Contact Don McKee at email@example.com.