Georgia GOP's choice for governor sets up historic contest


ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Republicans have chosen Brian Kemp to face Democrat Stacey Abrams for governor in a November matchup that will test history and highlight the widening gulf between the two major parties in style and substance in the era of President Donald Trump.

Kemp, a two-term secretary of state, trounced longtime Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in a runoff Tuesday after campaigning as a "politically incorrect conservative" in a bruising race marked by hard-line rhetoric on guns, immigration, and government spending. He credited Trump's endorsement for sealing his victory, and the president tweeted his congratulations Wednesday.

Abrams, who has become a national Democratic celebrity in her bid to become the United States' first black female governor, dominated her primary in May after pledging to expand Medicaid insurance and spend more on education, infrastructure, and job training.

The results reflect animated bases on the left and the right, leaving voters who consider themselves somewhere in the middle to decide one of the country's most closely watched midterm contests.

Both national parties opened their coffers ahead of Tuesday's GOP runoff; and the outcome will reverberate into 2020 as Democrats try to prove that GOP-controlled Georgia, after decades of population growth has made the electorate more urban and less white, has evolved into a presidential battleground.

To test that theory, Georgians set up a compelling juxtaposition between candidates each cast by the opposition as extreme:

Will a Deep South state – led by white, male governors since 1776 and not long removed from having Confederate insignia on its flag – elect a self-declared progressive black woman from Atlanta as its chief executive?

Or will an increasingly urban, diversifying state – now the eighth most populous and home to The Coca-Cola Company, Delta, Home Depot, UPS and the 1996 Summer Olympics – embrace a brash, gun-wielding, chain saw-cranking Republican who says he'll "round up criminal illegals" in his own pickup truck?

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