A rhetorical gun fight is heating up between Casey Cagle and Brian Kemp as Cagle launches the latest attack in a race that has hinged on the Second Amendment.
On Wednesday, June 6, Lt. Gov. Cagle dropped his latest line of attack against Secretary of State Kemp in the Republican governor primary runoff: A 2003 vote from Kemp, then a state senator representing Athens, to table a bill that would have restricted state government’s ability to ban the sale of firearms during an emergency.
In tabling the bill, it was diverted from going to the floor of the state Senate and wasn’t passed that session. Cagle’s campaign says that vote killed the bill.
It was Kemp’s first year in office as a state senator. He was one of 28 votes in favor of tabling Senate Bill 92, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga. Many of the senators in favor of tabling the bill were Democrats, though a handful were Republicans, including former Sen. Dan Lee, then a Senate floor leader for former Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Mullis gave a smoldering statement on Cagle’s behalf on Wednesday, saying he thought his bill would “be a no-brainer for my conservative colleagues” but that it was “voted down by Democrats and a weak-kneed politician — who asked for a pass on the vote and eventually caved to liberals at our expense.” Mullis doesn’t mention Kemp by name.
Kemp’s campaign spokesman, Ryan Mahoney, said the 2003 vote was a procedural motion and that Perdue “had issues with the bill” in the Senate. Mahoney noted that Lee — now the city attorney for Sandy Springs, who could not be reached for comment on Wednesday — also supported tabling the bill.
Kemp was not available for comment on Wednesday. Mahoney said the Athens businessman is “rock-solid on our protecting, promoting and expanding our Second Amendment rights” and added that he’s been endorsed by Georgia Carry (the group that hounded Hunter Hill for his gun rights record) and the Georgia Hunting and Fishing Federation.
“Under no circumstances should the government be able to restrict firearm purchases,” Mahoney said.
Kemp has an A rating from the National Rifle Association. Cagle does too, and the gun rights organization endorsed the lieutenant governor during the primary.
Cultural fights and national political issues have dominated the race for governor up to this point. While candidates honed messages on infrastructure, tax policy and details of state government early in the race, political advertising and messaging based on gun rights and President Donald Trump on the right and Medicaid expansion and immigration on the left have taken over the race to be Georgia’s next governor.
As a result, news of the 2003 vote is an unexpected line of attack on Kemp, who made national headlines in the final days of the Republican primary for his pro-gun “Jake” ad, which features the candidate holding a shotgun near his daughter’s boyfriend while talking up his defense of the Second Amendment.
But outside of the ads, Kemp steered clear of the infighting on gun rights between Cagle, Hill and fellow challengers Clay Tippins and Michael Williams. The latter three were all knocked out of the race at the May 22 primary.
The gun rights measure included in Senate Bill 92, blocking the state from restricting the sale of firearms during an emergency, eventually passed the Georgia General Assembly in 2014 as House Bill 60, what some in the state called the “guns everywhere” package.
When: July 24
Early voting: July 2-20