DALTON — Northwest Georgia may have gone strongly Republican in the last four gubernatorial races, but Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams isn’t conceding it this year.
Abrams spent the day on Wednesday campaigning in both Whitfield and Murray counties and stopped by the Dalton Daily Citizen-News for a discussion with members of the newspaper’s editorial board.
“As a small business owner, a political leader, a writer and as an activist, I have been very proud of the work that I have done to help move Georgia forward,” she said.
Abrams, a former Georgia House minority leader, faces Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, write-in candidate Rod Mack, Libertarian Ted Metz and independent Larry E. Odom in the Nov. 6 general election.
Abrams told the editorial board she favors expansion of Medicaid, the joint federal-state program that provides health insurance for low-income individuals.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — often referred to as Obamacare — provides money to states to expand coverage to those earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level, which differs by state. Georgia officials have so far declined to expand Medicaid, citing concerns about the long-term funding of the expansion.
Abrams said that failure to expand the program is costing the state $8 million a day and making it more likely that hospitals will close, and local communities can lose 5.6 jobs per hospital bed.
Abrams said, however, that she opposes tying Medicaid expansion to requirements that able-bodied adults receiving Medicaid work or be in job training.
“I believe that linking someone’s access to health care to anything other than our responsibility is wrongheaded,” she said.
Abrams said she believes immigration is a federal issue.
“We need strong, comprehensive, bipartisan legislation,” she said. “We cannot have 50 states with 50 different immigration laws.”
She said that Georgia employers, especially in manufacturing and agriculture, have come to rely on immigrant workers and that she doesn’t believe demonizing them is helpful.
She said she doesn’t believe that state and local law enforcement should participate in the 287(g) program, which both the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office and Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office utilize through a partnership with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement, because it can make people afraid to report crimes that they have witnessed or been victims of. The program allows the sheriff’s office to check the immigration status of individuals who have been taken into custody.
Abrams said she supports the legalization of medical marijuana.
“I believe the state of Georgia should take the lead on cultivation and distribution,” she said. “Georgia could be a leader on this issue. We should cease the setting of allowable usage. It should not be in our legislation. It should be in the hands of doctors. We should legalize it. It should be cultivated and distributed by the state and we should allow doctors to determine their prescriptions based on the medical needs of patients.”
Georgia has been strongly Republican for decades, choosing the GOP nominee in the last five presidential elections and in eight of the last nine. Abrams said she does not believe the state is as conservative as it once was, noting that Republican margins of victory have been declining.