Republicans opened a new front against Democrat Stacey Abrams by claiming she wants to turn Georgia “into the next California” with her criminal justice polices.
With polls tightening between the two candidates for governor, Kemp’s campaign criticized Abrams for “taking a walk on efforts to crack down on sex trafficking” and assailed her support for ending cash bail.
“She will coddle criminals, protect sex offenders, and ignore the gang crisis that’s flooding our streets with drugs, violence, and fear,” said Kemp spokesman Cody Hall, who said Abrams was putting “out-of-state, out-of-touch backers first.”
They mirror a familiar attack linking Georgia Democrats to Nancy Pelosi and other California liberals. But the Kemp campaign was also specifically targeting Abrams’ 2017 non-vote on House Bill 341, a measure that broadened the definition of sex trafficking and set a mandatory minimum of 10 years for certain offenses.
Abrams’s aides did not comment on Abrams’ non-vote on the proposal. The former House minority leader has sometimes opposed mandatory minimum sentences. And she has voted for other crackdowns on sex trafficking, including a 2011 law that increased penalties for convicted offenders.
Instead, Abrams spokeswoman Abigail Collazo referred to claims that Kemp’s office allowed massage therapists accused of sexual assaults to “keep their licenses and endanger women.”
“I’d be desperate to change the conversation, too,” said Collazo. “Too bad for Brian Kemp that voters are, in fact, paying attention to his negligence.”
She was echoed by Grace Starling, a prominent sexual assault survivor and Abrams backer who called Kemp’s attacks “despicable” and said the Democrat has “dedicated herself to helping us fight harmful legislation that would have undermined justice for survivors of sexual assault.”
Kemp’s campaign has described the massage parlor critiques as a distraction. Though his office has administrative oversight of the massage board, only members appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal have authority to suspend or revoke licenses and conduct investigations.
The Democrat’s proposal to end cash bond requirements for some offenders is a key part of her criminal justice initiative, and she asserts that any program that keeps “people in jail because they are poor is wealth-based discrimination.”
It would build off a 2018 law signed by Deal to give judges more flexibility to impose the bonds, and mirrors moves by Atlanta and other Georgia cities that recently approved citywide restrictions on cash bonds.
Kemp, meanwhile, contends restricting cash bail would limit judicial discretion and “ultimately make our neighborhoods, communities and state unsafe.”