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SPIGOLON: Kemp should get credit for changing tone after Trump’s loss
Kemp speaks at Bridgestone in Covington
Gov. Brian Kemp speaks at Bridgestone Golf in Covington on Nov. 12, 2020.

"It’s time to put our differences aside. Put 2020 in the rearview. Let’s stand together as Georgians and clear the destruction caused by the storms of life.”

Those were the words of Gov. Brian Kemp as he sought to lower the temperature in his State of the State address last week.

He basically summed up a year in which a pandemic fully shut down Georgia 10 months ago, rioting raged in response to police shootings eight months ago, and a mob failed to halt Congress from doing its sworn duty 14 days ago.

I believe the governor has shown the leadership Georgia needed to guide us through this pandemic and the economic meltdown it caused after inheriting it from a federal government which shirked its duty in providing a national response.

Though Democrats, of course, will disagree, more Georgians than just the Republicans still supporting him may be looking at Kemp for reelection in 2022.

In my opinion, before Nov. 3, most Republicans and a few Democrats believed he earned another term for his management of the state’s response to the pandemic.

Then the 2020 presidential election happened and the governor had the unmitigated gall to follow the constitution he swore to uphold and not change the state’s election results — which went through two recounts and a GBI signature audit — simply because the person in the White House told him to do so.

I will admit I didn’t agree with Kemp’s approach to campaigning in 2018 when he served as the chief election official while his name was at the top of the ballot.

Two days before the 2018 election, Kemp’s office announced it was investigating opponent Stacey Abrams’ campaign for allegedly hacking into voter registration systems. The attorney general’s office found no evidence of wrongdoing 16 months later, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

I also believed Kemp should have governed from the middle after his narrow win over Abrams. A conservative candidate squeaking by a liberal opponent told me almost half of the electorate did not take the same far-right approach to governing that Kemp did and he should consider moderating his views.

Anyway, if there’s anyone who could make you look good, it’s Donald Trump.

Kemp and other governors refused to violate their oaths by not changing the vote count in their states’ elections to favor Trump. Despite intense pressure from Trump and his blind followers in Georgia, Kemp didn’t violate his oath and left the electoral vote count alone.

And the governor still called for the General Assembly to consider changing the way absentee voting is done in Georgia — at the proper time during its 2021 session after the election. 

If done before the Electoral College met as Trump wanted, such an action could have caused widespread chaos similar to something seen in a third world country.

All of this earned Kemp derision from former supporters for not doing the bidding of a spoiled loser intent on taking down the nation’s electoral system because it didn’t produce a victory for him.

Kemp’s State of the State address did not address abortion or gun rights or illegal immigration of any of the far-right issues he began his term with.

He called for payments to educators, and changes to the state’s antiquated citizens arrest laws which helped lead to the death of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick in 2020.

Yes, it’s a change from his past stances. But it’s a welcome change that’s needed after Georgia voted for a Democrat president for the first time in a generation in response to Trump’s constant, confrontational approach that further divided this country politically.

Why Republicans would reject a governor who refused to violate his oath of office by breaking the law is a mystery.

In a few days, Trump will be gone for at least four years. Then, our governor can get back to the business of guiding us out of this pandemic before having to worry about re-election against a determined Democratic foe, whether Abrams or someone else.

Tom Spigolon is news editor of The Covington News. He may be reached at