EXCLUSIVE – Gov. Brian Kemp says he appreciates President Biden’s optimism, but the Republican from Georgia calls the president’s proposals “behind the curve.”
Kemp, in a national exlcusive interview with Fox News a couple of hours before Biden arrived in Georgia as the president marks his 100th day in office, says Biden’s “just a year late in many ways.”
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The president on Thursday caps his trip to the crucial battleground state with a drive-in car rally in suburban Atlanta, as Biden takes to the road to push his massive $4 trillion spending proposals on jobs, infrastructure, health care, family leave and education, which he spelled out Wednesday night in his first address to a joint session of Congress.
“He’s just a year late in many ways,” Kemp said of Biden. “He talked about winning last night, which we all want to do in the United States. But we’ve been doing that for over a year here in Georgia, and we’re actually getting penalized for that, for having a low unemployment rate compared to a lot of the other blue states.”
Pointing to the $1.9 trillion COVID relief package that Democrats pushed through Congress and Biden signed onto law, Kemp claimed that “states that were losing on their economic outlook are gaining in the American Rescue Plan, and states like ours, where our unemployment is low, well below the national average, are getting penalized.”
“To me, this package is really behind the curve,” Kemp emphasized. “In states like ours and all across the southeast, we’re growing. I was on the road for the last six days, all across the state, and everywhere I went, people needed workers. They couldn’t find enough people to get back into the workforce. We had restaurants that were not able to open six or seven days a week because they didn’t have enough help, and I think that’s really because the policies that are out there. I think it’s time to urge people to get back to work instead of paying them to be home.”
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The president’s planning to pay for his sweeping spending bills by hiking the capital gains tax on investments, and raising the tax rates for the wealthiest Americans and big businesses.
Kemp thinks that’s a recipe for disaster.
“I know in Georgia our view is to be cutting taxes, which we did just a couple of weeks ago when I signed a tax cut that we did in our legislature this year because our economy’s so good.”
Kemp, who was one of the first governors to reopen last year after the coronavirus pandemic swept the nation and forced millions of Americans to huddle in their homes and businesses to shut, noted that “we’ve measuredly reopened for a year now and balanced our budget. We made tough decisions when the pandemic started but we also were the first state in the country to open back up and try to do two things – try to protect lives but also livelihoods and that’s paid off well.”
The president, in his address, made a repeated push for passage of congressional Democrats’ wide-ranging election and campaign finance reform bill, which they argue is needed to counteract laws being passed in GOP-controlled states like Georgia that they consider voter suppression measures.
“More people voted in the last presidential election than any time in American history, in the middle of the worst pandemic ever. That should be celebrated. Instead, it’s being attacked,” Biden said in his speech.
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Speaking with Fox News, Kemp fired back.
“They have all of their facts wrong and they’ve been lying about our legislation,” he charged.
And, the governor emphasized, that “the elections integrity act that we passed in Georgia … makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat.”
Kemp said he’ll spotlight the new voting law as he runs for reelection next year, in a potential rematch with Democratic voting rights champion Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost to Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial contest.
“I think people here have figured out that Joe Biden and Stacey Abrams have been lying to them about our piece of legislation to push this unconstitutional overreach at the federal level,” he claimed.
“I think the vast majority of Georgians support what we did.”
Kemp charged that “the lies of Stacey Abrams is doing nothing but hurt small business owners by forcing cancel culture on big corporations and certainly Major League Baseball, which made a horrible decision to move the All Star Game.”
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Biden last November became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia in a quarter century, as he defeated then-President Donald Trump by a razor-thin margin thanks to flipping Atlanta’s vast suburban empire from red to blue. It was the same story two months later as Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock narrowly edged GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the Jan. 5 runoff elections, which gave the Democrats the majority in the Senate.
But Kemp noted that “If you really look back at November, our legislative candidates at the state level really did well in those districts and some of the national candidates did not. I think that’s a great lesson for us – we have to stay focused on issues that matter in Georgia.”
Kemp said that among those issues are ones at the top of his agenda, which include “not defunding the police, keeping our community safe, having the number one state in the country for business, robust economy, job growth.”
“I look forward to running on my record, and it’s a good one to run on,” he touted.
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He noted, “I worked very hard for President Trump. He had great policies, and we’ve mirrored many of those in Georgia.”
But as he runs for reelection, Kemp faces Trump’s wrath.
Trump has vowed to return to Georgia to campaign against Kemp, to punish his onetime ally for refusing to help the then-president’s efforts last year to overturn the election results in Georgia. The ballots in Georgia were counted three times – the original Election Day count, a mandatory hand recount and a recount requested by the president’s campaign.
Trump refused to concede to Biden and claimed for two months that there was massive voter fraud in Georgia and five other states where Biden narrowly won. Dozens of legal challenges by Trump and his allies were shot down, and then-Attorney General William Barr said his Justice Department had not seen fraud on the kind of scale that could flip the election. Trump repeatedly attacked Kemp for refusing to aid his attempts to reverse Biden’s victory.
At a rally in Georgia on the eve of the state’s twin Jan. 5 Senate runoff elections, Trump pledged, “I’ll be here in about a year and a half campaigning against your governor.”
Kemp is now facing at least one primary challenge.
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“I’d love to have the president’s support but that’s not something that I control. I’ve supported him. I’ll continue to do that,” he said.
Kemp added that “we have disagreed on a few things but at the end of the day I’m trying to make decisions that are best for my state and sometimes he may disagree with those but I’m very, very at peace with the decisions that I’ve made and will look forward to defending those if I need to.”