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Brian Kemp visits Forsyth County, says calls to step down as secretary of state ‘ridiculous’
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Republican gubernatorial candidate and Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp greets a young patron at the Cumming Country Fair & Festival on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. - photo by Brian Paglia

With just over three weeks until the Nov. 6 general election and special elections, Republican gubernatorial candidate and Secretary of State Brian Kemp was in Forsyth County to fundraise and meet potential voters.

Before stops at the Cumming Country Fair & Festival and a fundraising event on Friday, Kemp met with the Forsyth County News to discuss issues and why he feels voters should pick him instead of Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams as the next governor of Georgia.

“I don’t think anyone has traveled more than we have in this race, and certainly in the general election,” Kemp said. “We’re working hard, looking Georgians right in the eye and telling them we’re going to put them first as governor and that I’ve got a great four-point plan to do that.”

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- photo by Bradley Wiseman

Kemp’s trip to Forsyth coincided as Abrams released statements calling for him to step down as secretary of state after The Associated Press reported over 53,000 voter registration applications, reportedly “nearly 70 percent black,” sitting in pending status under state law requiring “exact match” registrations, or requiring all information on voter application to match files with the Georgia Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration.

Kemp fired back saying the New Georgia Project, which was founded by Abrams, incorrectly registered a number of voters and said calls for him to step down were “ridiculous.”

He said the Georgia NAACP, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and other groups suing him over the policy did the same in 2014 and 2016 “over the same issue, and it’s absolutely not true.”

“All those people, that 53,000, all they have to do is the same that you have to do and I have to do: walk into their polling location, show their photo ID and go vote,” Kemp said. “They’re not being held up, we’re following state law and that’s a completely bogus lawsuit to get a headline out of D.C. that they can use to gin up their base.”

Calling the claims “fake news” and a “manufactured story from the Democrats,” he said it was “outrageous that the press did not do a better job understanding the facts.”

Kemp also laid out his plans for some of his legislative goals.

Schools, in particular, are a big focus of his campaign going into the election, including a one-time $5,000 increase in pay for teachers, a new rating system for education at child care centers and elementary literacy rates.

Kemp also has several plans for school safety including more counselors in every state high school to help with mental health, addiction and other issues, including a new state-level position to look at best practices and advise schools and a one-time $30,000 grant for all schools in the state for school safety.

“We’ll give full local control with that funding,” he said. “So, if the school wants to use it to put a lockdown system on their exterior doors, put in a video or sound system, metal detectors, having some sort of entryway that they can control with bullet-proof padding glass, whatever they want to do, it’s up to that individual school.”

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Republican gubernatorial candidate and Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp poses for a picture with a family on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, at the Cumming Country Fair & Festival. - photo by Brian Paglia

 Kemp also laid out plans for public safety reform building off the actions of Gov. Nathan Deal.

“We’ve got a drug cartel problem here, and we also have a street gang problem here, and that’s federal prosecutors that are talking about that and local district attorneys,” he said. “We have robust plans to go after both of those different segments, and they’re intertwined.”

He said he also favors strengthening the state economy, finding solutions for workforce and internet issues in the rural part of the state and finding healthcare solutions other than expanding Medicaid.

“What I’m proposing is really to use innovation to open the markets up to lower costs for Medicaid, where you can find savings, increase provider rates, so you can help more doctors take Medicaid patients,” Kemp said. “The problem is if you expand it, 67 percent of doctors in a survey said that they would not take those patients.”

Instead, Kemp favored waivers to allow for association health care plans and reinsurance programs.

Kemp said he was feeling great about the race as the election nears, pointing out he had several events with voters over the weekend.

“Our folks have been fired up on the ground, but we’re dealing with a very polarized electorate right now … a very small amount of people undecided,” Kemp said. “On the bus tour, our fundraisers have been very well attended, a lot of energy and excitement. That’s why we’re doing something on a Friday night. If you have people wanting to do fundraisers for you on a Friday night, there’s a lot of excitement.”