ATLANTA — Former President Barack Obama joined the chorus of Democrats criticizing Georgia Republican gubernatorial nominee Brian Kemp for his record on voting rights, contrasting the Georgia secretary of state with Democrat Stacey Abrams, whom the president called “most experienced, most qualified candidate in this race.”
Obama made the remarks in front of a packed audience at Morehouse College on Friday night, just a few days ahead of the midterm elections as Georgia braces for a close gubernatorial race.
Obama’s voice grew noticeably hoarse as he spoke, as the former president travels the country stumping for Democratic candidates in this year’s election. Standing next to Abrams, Obama tied Kemp to congressional Republicans, saying that they both are trying to disenfranchise voters and “take away the right to vote.” He alluded to the multiple lawsuits filed against Kemp over voting rights, saying the Republican had already been caught “multiple times” trying to roll back voter rights for Georgians.
“How can you actively try to prevent the citizens from your state from exercising their most basic right?” Obama said in between boos from the crowd, before turning to Abrams: “She is the most experienced, most qualified candidate in this.”
Voting rights was a persistent theme throughout the event. Earlier in the evening, former Attorney General Eric Holder made similar warnings about Kemp and national Republicans.
“There has been a systematic effort to cripple our democracy and disenfranchise those who do not subscribe to certain political views,” Holder said.
Obama also turned the focus to health policy in his speech. For eight years, he said, Republicans worked frantically to repeal Obamacare, including protections for those with preexisting conditions.
“So now it’s election season and suddenly, magically, Republicans are out there running ads saying we’re going to protect you if you’ve got pre-conditions,” Obama said. “I mean, they voted multiple times” to repeal it.
“Not only will they not own up to what they have done,” Obama said. “Suddenly they are saying that they’re the ones to protect people with preexisting conditions. I want everyone to pay attention to this. They have literally been doing the opposite. It’s like calling black, white. It requires some kind of gumption.”
Obama never called Kemp out by name but said he wouldn’t expand Medicaid in office, which Abrams has made a key pillar of her policy platform.
“Stacey’s opponent says he won’t do it,” Obama said. “Stacey has promised and will do it. She will expand Medicaid coverage.”
Then he went local again, making fun of Kemp for not agreeing to debate Abrams on Sunday. The timing of the debate coincided with President Donald Trump doing a rally for Georgia Republicans in Macon.
“I saw her opponent backed out of a debate,” Obama said. “What’s he afraid of? He’s afraid of Stacey I guess.”