The rivals united this week in condemning Abrams, the leading Democrat running for governor, for hypocrisy after a photo surfaced of her posing maskless with students at an Atlanta-area elementary school she visited to mark Black History Month. Abrams’ campaign has encouraged schools to require masks.
“Stacey Abrams wants state government mask mandates for Georgians and their children,” Kemp tweeted. “But it looks like they wouldn’t apply when she’s attending a photo op.” Perdue tweeted that “liberals’ thirst for power during this pandemic has caused enormous damage to our kids, while the elite like Stacey continue living their lives.”
The response was a notable moment of alignment in a state where former President Donald Trump’s election lies have divided the GOP, fueling Perdue’s unusual challenge to an incumbent from his own party. But it’s a sign that both men view opposition to Abrams as an animating issue for the Republican base heading into Georgia’s May 24 primary.
“David Perdue and Brian Kemp need to find contrast with each other,” said Chip Lake, a Georgia Republican consultant who isn’t working for Kemp or Perdue. “But, at the same time, it never hurts either of them to be drawing a contrast with Stacey Abrams and reminding the base what’s at stake.”
The photo is an unhelpful development for Abrams, whose national stature has skyrocketed in recent years from a state legislator to prominent voting rights activist and a contender in 2020 to become Joe Biden’s running mate.
In trying to move past the controversy, her campaign has said she wore a mask to the school and only removed it to be better heard by students watching remotely — and for pictures on the condition that everyone around her kept theirs on.
Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo said it was “shameful” to use a Black History Month event “for a false political attack.”
But, in a sign of her national political profile, Republicans around the country have piled on. House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted the picture of Abrams and wrote that “the same liberal politicians pushing the arbitrary mandates blatantly ignore their own self-imposed rules.”