ATLANTA, Ga. (WJBF) – In just under two months, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp will once more face off against Stacy Abrams in the race for governor of the Peach State. Recently, Gov. Kemp took a break from the campaign trail and sat down with The Means Report’s Brad Means to talk about the top issues facing the state of Georgia, and his focus for the state if re-elected.
Brad Means: Hello everybody and welcome once again to, “The Means Report,” we certainly appreciate you spending part of your day with us. We’re today, a rarity when it comes to the rich history of, “The Means Report,” we are on location. You can tell by our surroundings that we have left the friendly confines of television park, and we find ourselves in the state capital of the greater Atlanta area to be fair at the campaign headquarters for Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp. Governor Kemp is going to be our special guest for this entire edition of “The Means Report,” to talk not only about his re-election campaign but about some of the key issues facing Georgia. He was going to come to television park as he typically does but a last minute schedule change led us here to Atlanta and we are happy to be here to talk about the issues with the governor and hopefully leave with all of us better informed as we go to the polls. Governor Kemp, thank you so much for taking the time to let us into your re-election headquarters, which really is my first question, how’s that whole thing going? It seems like you’re running nonstop.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Oh man, we are working very hard asking Georgians every single day to get out there and work for us and to vote for us and save the soul of our state, keep us moving in the right direction but it’s going really well but we know it’s gonna be a tough fight all the way through and we’re prepared for that. We’ve been preparing for that for a long time but we’re excited and it’s gotta keep working hard.
Brad Means: Well, let’s look back at your last quote on quote, “Tough fight,” in the primary, which turned out to be anything but former president Trump tried to primary you with his handpick candidate, former Senator David Perdue, you got 74% of the vote, you beat him by 600,000 give or take. Your thoughts on that gigantic margin of victory in the primary, did you see it coming?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well, when you’re in the middle of the campaign, you’re just putting your head down every day. Our goal is to try to win every day that’s what Marty and the girls are getting up and doing every day, just like I am, we are trying to win every day and that’s what we did in the primary. And I wasn’t too worried about where polling was or what the margin ended up being, I just wanted to win but also I just wanted to let Georgians know, look, you’ve had a governor that’s been fighting for you, I’ve been putting you first ahead of the status quo and the politically correct, I hadn’t been listening to outside noise or people from outside our state, I’m trying to stay focused on what Georgians want, fulfill my promises that I campaigned on in 2018. And that was the record I was talking about in the primary and it resonated with people ’cause they want politicians that will do what they say they’re gonna do and be honest with them and that’s what I’ve done.
Brad Means: Have you had a chance to reach out to former Senator Perdue are y’all good?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Oh yeah, I talked to David and asked everyone to support me, said he’d work hard for me so we appreciate that. And I think what’s interesting is, Republicans are uniting.
Brad Means: Yeah.
Gov. Brian Kemp: And have been united, whereas the Democrats are the ones that have a lot of fractures out there, a lot of Joe Biden’s policies, a lot of mainstream Democrats disagree with, which I think is helpful for us. Stacey Abrams has embraced all those policies that have caused us 40 year high inflation, a disaster at the gas pump, disaster at the border. Congress had just voted to raise taxes on hardworking Georgians and hardworking Americans while spending more money in the middle of 40 year high inflation. And I think, most Georgians don’t understand that math.
Brad Means: I wanna talk about Stacey Abrams on a couple of matters, first, but let me ask you about, since we’re in the greater Atlanta area for this interview, this Fulton County grand jury, that’s looking into the 2020 presidential election and whether president Trump asked you to help him overturn it, are you going to, it’s my understanding, testify before that grand jury after the general election?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well, as you know, I got subpoenaed.
Brad Means: Right.
Gov. Brian Kemp: And I really can’t say a whole lot about that ’cause I’m trying to be respectful to the process. As you can tell, it’s gotten very political which is unfortunate. So, I’m not gonna weigh into those politics but I would just tell people as I have, I have followed the law and the constitution in this state and that’s what I’ll continue to do as your governor.
Brad Means: I don’t wanna act like I didn’t hear you just now but did president Trump ask you to help him overturn the election in Georgia?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well, I can just tell you, I have followed the law in the constitution, I did in the 2020 election and I have ever since and I don’t really wanna say much more than that because I’m still having to deal with district attorney, Willis and that whole process but that’s something I’m letting the lawyers handle. I’m very confident of the actions I took to follow the law and the constitution but I am focused on helping Georgians fight through 40 year high inflation, the disaster at the gas pump, keep our economy in great shape. We’re off to a great school year, we had a lot of people that criticize us for getting kids back in the classroom but that’s something I felt like we needed to do, Dr. Timmy and I both agreed on that a long time ago that the data in the Trump administration and the data and the Biden administration it’s the same data since our kids need to be in the classroom. And I can’t thank our educators that have been pushing forward to get that done at the local level and we’ve been there to support ’em.
Brad Means: I mentioned at the top of the broadcast that you’re running nonstop and a lot of that is fundraising with all politicians, that’s such a key part of the campaign. My question is about Stacey Abrams war chest, if the internet is correct, about 20 million more than you right now-.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Yeah.
Brad Means: Does that concern you? Has it changed your fundraising approach?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well, it does concern me but we knew that going in. Marty and the girls and I have been burning the roads of Georgia up going to all parts of our state raising money from hardworking people right here in Georgia that believe in our state, that believe in what we’re doing. And of course, Stacey Abrams is burning the airways up, flying to California and New York and Washington, DC and Delaware and a lot of other places around, she was in New Jersey just in the last couple of days, 86% of her money’s come from outside the state and she has a lot of it. The thing is the people that are giving her that money, they can’t vote for but they do want their values instilled through her on our state. And I think that scares me, it scares my family and it scares a lot of other Georgians that don’t want Georgia to be like California or New York or New Jersey.
Brad Means: And what is it about the state of Georgia that if anything, that concerns you, it’s changing Governor Kemp, from what it was say 20,30 years ago, you have people coming in here from other parts of the country, they’re voting differently perhaps than Georgian’s historically have. Does that change the way you govern? Does that make you say, well, maybe I better adjust a little bit to appeal to this new audience?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well, look I believe and I have this argument with a lot of people that are concerned about folks coming from other parts of the country to Georgia. The ones I’m talking to, the majority of ’em they’re escaping from other places like California, like New York they wanna come to a state that respects and values, liberty and free and economic prosperity and free markets and not having the government make every decision for you like whether you should get a vaccine or wear a mask, which is what Stacey Abrams wants to do. They wanna be in a state where they can get up and go to work every day and provide for their family. She criticized me for re-opening our economy and they wanna be in a state where their kids are in the classroom, not on some computer screen and Stacey Abrams criticized me about that as well. The last thing is, people wanna be in a state that’s safe and have a state government and local law enforcement working together to do something about violent crime and we’ve got a great track record on doing that so, the people that I’m talking to, I think they’re gonna vote for the current leadership that we have, this great economy that we have. And just the many attributes that we’ve had in Georgia now for 20 years on under great Republican leadership, quite honestly.
Brad Means: What kind of voting method do you prefer? What should people need to know when it’s time to go to the poll? Stacey Abrams recently said, she needs her supporters to come out in person, making a big push to show up at the polls in person. That’s a lot different, the last time when we saw so many mail in ballots and so many absentee, what do you like to see on election day?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well, it’s interesting, we have a lot of ways for people to vote in Georgia, it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat. Despite Stacey Abram saying that our new voter integrity law was suppressive and Jim Crow 2.0 and I would remind your listeners that she also pressured major league baseball and got them to pull the All-Star Game. Thankfully, we stood up for the facts and what the truth was, even though we lost the All-Star Game, The Braves won the World Series. And in this primary election that we just had, we had record turnout, which completely debunks the argument that they were making and president Biden was making. And the point is, they’ll lie to you, they’re just trying to get a narrative out there that scares people that makes them concerned. So, I’m very comfortable with the law we have, it’s easy to vote in person, it’s easy to vote absentee. Now, we have secure processing for doing that, specifically now being tied to voter identification by mail like it is or like it has been for in person voting. But it’s interesting, the Abrams campaign has been all over the place. One week they’re asking people to vote in person and then the next week they’re saying they’re mailing out applications. So, I’m not real sure what they’re doing but it doesn’t really matter, I just gotta continue to get our folks to work hard and get our vote out there and get people to get out there and vote and keep our state moving in the right direction. It’s a very clear choice in my opinion.
Brad Means: Last time around y’all were separated by about 55,000 votes, you think it’ll be a tight one this time around? What are you hearing?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well, what I’m telling people is, don’t believe any polls, you’re gonna be the poll on November the eighth and I would like to have your vote, you be the poll, it’s like Marty says, they didn’t call me and ask me what I thought in some polls. So, I’m not too worried about polls. I do feel like our base is very excited and they’re also scared about what Stacey Abrams would do to our state. And I think a lot of people that are in the middle that normally just choose the best person for a race that don’t really identify with parties or they may lean one way or another, I think they want a governor that’s stood up for them that’s putting them first. And I’ve done that my whole four years almost that I’ve been governor and will continue to do that, the remain of my term but they also want somebody that’s gonna stand up for them even under incredible pressure and other things and that’s what I’ve done, I’ve been fighting for hardworking Georgians, whether they voted for me or not, I have been fighting for ’em and that’s what I told them I would do when I got sworn in January 14th back in 2019.
Brad Means: We are having a conversation with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp here on, “The Means Report,” when we come back the hot topic of abortion, also the economy, what does the future hold in those and other areas? The governor will talk about it with us in a moment.
Brad Means: Welcome back to, “The Means Report,” everybody Our special conversation with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp continues here in the greater Atlanta area at his re-election campaign headquarters. Governor Kemp, one of the biggest issues not only in the state of Georgia but nationwide of course, is the issue of abortion. Let me ask you about the abortion ban in the peach state, do you think that it is strict enough? The fetal heartbeat law makes abortions illegal after a heartbeat is detected maybe six weeks or so, is it strict enough? Could we see more bans in the future maybe on the plan B pill?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well, I would tell you this, my personal view obviously, has been very consistent for a long time, the heartbeat bill passed three years ago, so Georgians are well aware of that but we are a state that values life, Brad. And I talk about that a lot, regardless of where you are on the abortion issue and whether you like the heartbeat bill or not or whether you think it should be more strict or not as strict, most Georgians agree that we needed to do adoption reform, we have done that, we needed to do foster care reform, we’ve done that to help give resources to people that need them to be able to make really choices that value life in our state. No one’s done more at the state level in the country than our first lady, Marty Kemp to raise the awareness on human trafficking.
Brad Means: That’s true.
Gov. Brian Kemp: To go after the perpetrators but also to help the innocent victims, many of them children of that horrendous crime. And so, when I talk about life, I talk about it more than just the heartbeat bill or the abortion of the Dobbs decision or Roe V. Wade, it is a lot of issues. We’ve done mental health reform, we passed a huge hundred page Mental Health Bill this year. That is our values of life in this state. And we’ve done other things as well. So, you know what the legislature may wanna do in the future, I’m sure you’ll have people coming up with ideas on all sides of the issue but to me, I’ve fulfilled my campaign promise there. We’re gonna continue to be focused on helping Georgians fight through 40 year high inflation, try to help them fight through high gas prices, try to make sure that this time next year, they still have a good paying job ’cause there’s cloudy days coming because of the massive federal spending in Washington, DC, the Feds raising rates, they’re purposely trying to cool the economy down and that’s gonna have an effect on hard work Georgians out there, we’re already seeing it. People spending levels or their spending power has gone up 28%-.
Brad Means: >No, it-.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Since September, that is the issue to me that I need to be fighting on it.
Brad Means: The plan B pill, do you wish it would go away?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well, I have never been against any kind of contraception, so, I wanna be very clear about that but again, that’s another issue that the general assembly, there may be certain members that have different opinions on that, I’m sure the Democrats would have different opinion on that like we did did with the Elections Bill, when we did the Elections Bill, you had people saying, well, that’s too extreme and you had other people trying to undo what we had before. And we ended up getting a really good bill that made it easy to vote and hard to cheat and we had record turnout.
Brad Means: Right.
Gov. Brian Kemp: And Georgians have confidence in our elections, I think more so than they did in 2020. And I think that’s what you’ll continue to see through the membership of the general assembly.
Brad Means: Governor Kemp, you were one of the first to re-open your state during the pandemic, any regrets? Anything you would do differently if another pandemic came along? And are you worried about your opponents saying, look at this guy, he opened way too early don’t support him.
Gov. Brian Kemp: She already said that. I don’t think most Georgians think we opened too early. In fact, some of ’em probably wish we’d have opened sooner even though we were the first state in the country to re-open small parts of the economy we’d shut down, we left most of it opened the whole pandemic and Georgians the being very resilient that helped us have two record years in a row of economic development success in the state of Georgia, which I think will set us up literally for decades to have a great run despite what the president Biden’s doing to the national economy and the Democrats that are in control in Congress. So, I’m very optimistic about that but Stacey Abrams criticized that decision, she also criticized me pushing to get our kids back in the classroom. You could go back in Monday morning, quarterback any governor in the country, I’m not too worried about that, I was making the best decision with the best information that I had from a lot of people, including one of the best trained epidemiologists in the world, Dr. Kathleen Toomey. And so, you had all kind of people weighing in on their thoughts but I had a pretty good one that was giving me advice every day but my job as governor is also to balance where people are and that’s why I didn’t listen to outside noise. I didn’t listen to the national media or even some of the Atlanta or local media and I certainly didn’t listen to Stacey Abrams criticizing me for re-opening the economy because I was listening to hardworking and Georgians saying, hey, we can’t keep doing this, we’re about to lose everything we got, I’m about to lose my car, I cannot feed my family. Marty and I and small business owners for 35 years, we understand that ’cause we’ve been in that boat ourselves and it’s not a good feeling.
Brad Means: Oh, it can be scary, you’re right governor. Let me ask you this about the pandemic and the learning gap, what kids may have lost because their schools were shut down, they were at home on their laptops, what can you do, what can the general assembly do to help make sure that the kids catch up? And that schooling in Georgia is where it needs to be?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well, it’s what we’re doing as we speak, that’s a big issue for sure. Unfortunately, there were some local school boards around the state that played pandemic politics instead of following the data and the science that said our kids could be back in the classroom, they were following the political science of the 2020 election cycle and not putting kids first. And we know there’s a learning gap all over the country and we certainly have some of that in Georgia. I announced the other day that we have a grant process, tens of millions of dollars that are gonna be available to our schools, to apply for grants to help our kids that have fallen behind. So, I’m very excited about that. There’s really not too many strings attached to that money, so, the schools can get very creative about how they help these kids with the learning gap but also one of the other big issues in education is having enough teachers in the classroom.
Brad Means: Right.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Our teachers have been through a lot. I cannot thank them and our healthcare heroes and our first responders enough for what they did two years during the pandemic, its has been very taxing on them and we know there’s a lot of teacher burnout, I know that firsthand ’cause our daughter was a first year, first grade teacher last year and as she told me two weeks into the school year, “Dad, the struggle’s real.” And so I get it, we visited many schools. I’ve had dozens of meetings with superintendents, school board members, teachers and other folks that are in the classroom or in the schools every day.
Brad Means: Can you get ’em some more money?
Gov. Brian Kemp: And again, we’re gonna do a $3,000 grant for para pros. We have 9,000 para pros that are in the classroom right now, it’s very expensive for them to get their teacher certification, so, we have a $3,000 grant available to them to help them get fully certified where they can become a full-time teacher which will help have more boots on the ground in the classroom. And then we’re doing a tremendous amount too Brad, on school safety.
Brad Means: Right.
Gov. Brian Kemp: As you remember, I ran on that in 2018, thankfully in 2019, we funded big grants for every single school across the state, they had complete local control to be able to secure their campuses and their individual schools through technology, hardening, doorways, whatever it is they wanted to do, new technology they could do that. And I think that’s been very helpful for us but we’re doing more now training school resource officers and working with our superintendents and teachers and educators to make sure we continue to do everything that we can to keep our kids and our teachers and administrators safe in the school setting.
Brad Means: Let me ask you this just real quick and it’s about school security, when you visited schools, have you already started to notice improved security measures? ‘Cause we don’t know when the bad guys gonna show up again, we had a couple of shootings outside schools in Augusta last week. Are you noticing change?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Oh, definitely. Lots of it. Marty and I visited school the other day and of course the teacher had like one lanyard on with four different badges.
Brad Means: Yep.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Cards, buttons. And I was asking about their technology and they have one that I was very familiar with and it basically looks like a credit card but there’s a dot in the middle of it, a little bubble and you squeeze that button and it triggers different alarms that are tied into the school. It’ll pull up a single classroom medical issue, if you hit it once, if you do it twice, it’s security, whatever their codes are but they can hit it, immediately it can go to the district office, it can go to obviously, the administrative office at the school, the school resource officers, the local police department can be tied in, it’s really innovative stuff. So, we’re seeing a lot of that. We’re seeing a lot of single entry points now in schools, where we’re keeping the whole campus or they are keeping the whole campus locked down, everybody’s entering some through one central point where they’re being buzzed in and having check in at the office before they get in. So, there’s been a lot of really good things but we cannot let our guard down, we gotta continue to work on this issue. And one of the things that I’ll be proposing, if I’m fortunate enough that the voters send me back in November the eighth, we’re gonna require schools to submit their security plans to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, so, we can review those and just be partners in helping them make sure they have good plans.
Brad Means: My last question I have about 30 seconds and it’s just to ask you about the issue of homelessness, another huge issue in Augusta. Certainly, you see it in Atlanta and Athens no doubt are we making progress to help those folks?
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well, I think we are. The private sector and we hear this a lot from our employers, you got homeless issues, you got workforce housing issues, we just announced a hundred million dollar grant through ARP funds that’s allowing great organizations like we have in Athens, “Habitat for Humanity,” have access to funds if they have a good plan to provide housing but I think they they’re doing tremendous work out there and I’m very excited about that.
Brad Means: Well, we appreciate your efforts. We appreciate Mrs. Kemp’s efforts to help human trafficking and all the other issues that she champions. She’s just off camera here. Very grateful to you for your time Governor Kemp.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Well, thanks, Brad.
Brad Means: Absolutely, appreciate you.
Gov. Brian Kemp: Great to back on with ya’.
Brad Means: Georgia governor Brian Kemp on, “The Means Report.”
Brad Means: Our special thanks once again to Georgia governor Brian Kemp for taking time, not only from the campaign trail but of course from his duties as governor of Georgia to talk to us about the key issues facing his state. I do wanna let you know that, “The Means Report,” has a standing invitation to Stacey Abrams, Governor Kemp’s opponent in the upcoming general election. Hopefully, we will hear from the Abrams camp and they’ll accept our invitation in the very near future. And we can have both sides right here as we always do on, “The Means Report.”
In the meantime, it’s easy to stay in touch with us, you can do that via our social media sites, the address is one word on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, “TheMeansReport”. You can email your story suggestions to us. You can also watch all of our previous episodes of, “The Means Report,” at wjbf.com.
For now though for Levi, Marlena, and Gary Hipps – with me here in Atlanta – as well as the entire “Means Report,” family take care.