By Ann Hardie
For the first time in eight years, Georgians on Nov. 6 will elect a new governor. Both candidates are seasoned politicians with considerable state government experience.
Democrat Stacey Abrams, 44, served in the General Assembly from 2007 to 2017. In 2010, she became House minority leader, making her the first woman to head either party in the legislature and the first African American leader in the House.
Republican Brian Kemp, 54, has been secretary of state since 2010. He previously served in the state Senate, from 2003 to 2007. Kemp defeated Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in the GOP runoff.
AARP interviewed the candidates by phone, asking about issues crucial to older Georgians.
Abrams: Internet access is essential for rural Georgia as well as for urban and suburban areas, where cost is a barrier, she said. “The next governor has to be responsible for identifying funding to invest in internet access.” She wants to use federal dollars and backs efforts to expand access using interstate rights of way. She also supports local governments that want to create municipal broadband to increase competition and lower cost.
Kemp: Expanding internet access is part of his plan to strengthen rural Georgia. “It is, in many ways, the interstate of the future,” he said. He wants to give the private sector incentives to boost access, possibly through low-interest loans or eliminating the sales tax on equipment and state fees for the use of rights of way.
Abrams: Expanding Medicaid is critical to increasing access to health care through telemedicine. “Medicaid expansion coupled with internet access expansion will allow us not only to leverage telemedicine but also make health care truly accessible to everyone who needs it.”
Kemp: With a shortage of health care professionals, the state has no choice but to expand telemedicine, Kemp said. His office worked with the legislature and Georgia Board of Nursing to allow nurses to work across state borders, a move that could spur more telemedicine opportunities. “I think we also should explore similar arrangements with other licensed health care professionals,” he said.
Both candidates are open to allowing nurses with advanced training more authority to serve as primary-care providers.
Abrams: “I have been a supporter of expanding the scope of practice within reasonable limits.” She added that her campaign is working closely with a coalition of nurses and midwives to look at the issue.
Kemp: “We have to move the needle on providing more access in rural Georgia. If doctors are unwilling to practice in rural Georgia, we have to think about other ways to provide service.”
An Issue on Their Mind
Abrams: Finding ways to keep older residents out of poverty. “An earned income tax credit coupled with work years is important for seniors who work beyond retirement age.”
Kemp: He is concerned about tax reform efforts that shift the burden to sales tax. “That may affect older Georgians on fixed incomes. That is something we have to be very cautious about.”
Ann Hardie is a writer living in Atlanta.