Republican Brian Kemp got some help Monday for his push to win over suburban Atlanta voters thanks to a pair of campaign stops by Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a former presidential candidate who thrived in the metro area during the state’s 2016 primary.
His opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, enjoyed her own high-profile backup: a weekend visit by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, the latest in a string of potential presidential candidates to visit Georgia ahead of the midterms.
Rubio appeared with Kemp and a host of other down-ticket candidates at a diner in Buckhead and a get-out-the-vote rally in Cobb County, where he focused almost entirely on state issues as he urged conservatives to unite behind the GOP ticket.
“What happens at the state level — just because it doesn’t get national coverage — it matters,” he said, adding that state governments have far more flexibility to bring “innovative” solutions than Congress.
“They want to nationalize these races, make them about what’s happening everywhere but here,” he said of Democrats. “When it’s over, they’ll pack up. You still live here. And your children still live here.”
While both contenders are grateful for the big-name help, neither has actively sought to make this race about national issues.
Abrams has largely avoided direct attacks on President Donald Trump, who has forcefully endorsed her opponent, wary of turning the race into a litmus test on his policies. She’s more apt to talk about her push to expand Medicaid and boost public school funding, and her support for gun control measures.
And though Kemp entered the race with a Trump-style mantra, he’s far more likely to bring up Gov. Nathan Deal on the campaign trail than the president. To drive that point home, he launched an ad featuring the two-term governor calling Kemp the “only candidate who will keep Georgia moving forward.”
“We’ve got to turn out if we’re going to do that,” Kemp said, echoing Deal’s line. “We can’t leave one single vote at home. This is about the future.”
It was one of the biggest events for Kemp yet in the Atlanta suburbs. Although his campaign headquarters is in Atlanta, many of his campaign-trail appearances have been in deep-red territory in rural Georgia. His bus tour later this week features 20 stops — all of them in small-town areas.
His aides hope Rubio helped drive their message home. The Floridian fared particularly well in 2016 in Democratic-leaning parts of Georgia, winning a plurality of voters in Cobb, DeKalb and Fulton counties – as well as Kemp’s native Athens-Clarke County.
Abrams, meanwhile, captured her own media attention with a spate of recent events. Booker talked about her in near-biblical terms at a Sunday event at a union hall, calling her a “light-bringer” who “inspires me like nobody ever has.”
And the Democrat highlighted attention to early voting on Monday when she cast her ballot at South DeKalb Mall, surrounded by cheering supporters and several relatives.
“The reason I’m running is because I believe we can move Georgia forward,” she said shortly after voting for the Democratic ticket. “We’ve done some good things in the past. But too many people are left out — and left behind.”
It’s a busy election year, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is keeping the spotlight on the leading candidates for governor, Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams. Recent AJC stories have examined Kemp’s finances and Abrams’ position while in the state Legislature as a leading collector of per diem. Look for more at ajc.com/politics as the state heads for the general election on Nov. 6.