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Georgia Gov.-elect Kemp, in first major speech since election, doesn't address voting controversy

Some Democratic lawmakers boycotted the Republican's remarks, still disturbed by the allegations of suppression during the contest against Stacey Abrams.
Gov.-elect Brian Kemp with supporters at the 31st Biannual Institute of Georgia Legislators at the University of Georgia in Athens on Dec 11, 2018.Joshua L. Jones / AP

Georgia Gov.-elect Brian Kemp struck a conciliatory tone on Tuesday in his first major speech since defeating Democrat Stacey Abrams in the state's contentious and racially charged gubernatorial election, saying "it's time to put politics behind us."

"It's time to shed the labels and work together as Georgians. It's time to stand up for our communities, our families and our Georgia values," said Kemp, who also previously served as Georgia secretary of state.

Kemp was speaking to a group of state lawmakers at the Biennial Institute for Georgia Legislators at the University of Georgia in Athens. He laid out his agenda for when he is sworn in as the state's governor next month, including bolstering small businesses, lowering unemployment, pumping resources into the state's rural areas and creating a task force to address drug trafficking and gangs in the state.

"Georgia is a distribution hub for drug cartels," Kemp said. "They are trafficking meth, illegal drugs, and fear."

Kemp did not address improving the election system after he was accused by Abrams of overseeing a "rotten and rigged system" during the campaign.

Abrams, who was running to become the nation's first black female governor, claimed in her speech ending her candidacy last month that Kemp had been "deliberate and intentional" in acting to suppress votes while overseeing the state's election system.

"Democracy failed in Georgia," Abrams said of the contest, which was marred by allegations of voter-roll purging and suppression largely affecting African-Americans. "This time, the mistakes clearly altered the outcome."

Kemp's speech to lawmakers was boycotted by some Democratic lawmakers, such as state Rep. Sandra Scott, who urged other party members to do the same, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Democratic State Rep. Renitta Shannon also did not attend Kemp's address, telling told Atlanta's NPR affiliate that Kemp ran "a campaign of hate against half of Georgia, targeting voters of color."