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Sunday 22 September 2019

Big guns have Georgia on their mind as US prepares for midterm polls

Oprah Winfrey campaigned for Democrat candidate Stacey Abrams while vice-president Mike Pence was backing Brian Kemp of the Republicans.

Oprah Winfrey and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (Alyssa Pointer/AP)
Oprah Winfrey and Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (Alyssa Pointer/AP)

By Bill Barrow and Jeff Martin

With the US holding midterm elections, both Republicans and Democrats are wheeling out the big guns in Georgia for what could be a defining election to be the state’s governor.

Oprah Winfrey visited Republican-leaning suburbs in Atlanta to urge voters to make history by backing Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams in next week’s election.

Winfrey called Abrams a “changemaker” who represents the values of all Georgians.

“I am here today because Stacey Abrams cares about the things that matter,” she said to a mostly female audience north of central Atlanta.

Stacey Abrams is being bankrolled by Hollywood liberals Mike Pence

Seventy-five miles north, Vice President Mike Pence stood alongside Ms Abrams’ opponent, Brian Kemp, in Dalton, and mocked the billionaire media figure as just another liberal outsider trying to impose on Republican-run Georgia.

“Stacey Abrams is being bankrolled by Hollywood liberals,” Mr Pence said.

Mr Pence drew boos from the crowd when he mentioned that “Oprah is in town” and noted that actor Will Ferrell was recently in Georgia for Democrats.

“I’d like to remind Stacey and Oprah and Will Ferrell, I’m kind of a big deal, too,” Mr Pence said, adding “a message for all Stacey Abrams’ liberal friends: This ain’t Hollywood. This is Georgia.”

Winfrey and Mr Pence will not be the last big names to visit the state before the polls open.

Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp (C.B. Schmelter/AP)

Former president Barack Obama will follow on Friday to campaign for Ms Abrams while President Donald Trump will appear with Mr Kemp on Sunday.

“I’ve always liked Oprah,” he told reporters at the White House.

“Oprah’s good, but the woman that she’s supporting is not qualified to be the governor of Georgia by any stretch of the imagination.”

More than 1.5 million of the state’s almost seven million registered voters have cast ballots already.

Ms Abrams, a Yale-educated lawyer who served a decade in the Georgia Legislature, would be the first black female governor in American history.

She has campaigned as an unapologetic liberal trying to draw new voters to the polls and prove that Georgia’s growth and diversity make it a legitimate two-party battleground.

I don't want to run. I'm not testing the waters Oprah Winfrey

Mr Kemp is a staunch conservative who has embraced Mr Trump and the administration’s hard-line on immigration.

He wields guns in his ads and lambastes Ms Abrams as a tool of “socialists” and “billionaires” who “want to turn Georgia into California”.

Both candidates have taken to describing the race as a battle for “the soul of our state”.

Winfrey has rejected any suggestion she might be preparing the ground for a run for office.

“I’m not here because I’m making some grandstand for myself. I don’t want to run. I’m not testing the waters,” she said.

A former president in Ms Abrams’ corner is Jimmy Carter, who himself served as governor of Georgia before being elected president in 1976.

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