In Marietta visit, Kemp blames Democrats for loss of All-Star game

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Aleks Gilbert, Marietta Daily Journal, Ga.
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Apr. 10—MARIETTA — Gov. Brian Kemp continued his media blitz Saturday with an appearance at AJ's Famous Seafood and PoBoys, where he blamed Democrats for Major League Baseball's decision to pull its All-Star game from Truist Park.

Last month, President Joe Biden, echoing Georgia Democrats, called state Republicans' recent overhaul of Georgia's elections laws — the 98-page omnibus bill was passed along party lines — "Jim Crow on steroids." Two days later, MLB announced it would pull the game from Georgia, citing "our values as a sport."

"Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box," Robert Manfred Jr., MLB's baseball commissioner, wrote in a prepared statement.

Saturday, Kemp called the president's comments a "big lie on steroids," to applause from a crowd of Republicans that had gathered at AJ's for the Saturday morning news conference. Kemp repeated his refrain that the new law in fact makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat.

MLB announced last week it had chosen Colorado's Coors Field as the new venue for the All-Star game. Colorado offers fewer early-voting days than does Georgia, but it also has less stringent proof-of-identity requirements for would-be voters, allows for election-day registration and automatically sends every registered voter an absentee ballot. In 2020, about 76% of eligible Coloradans voted, compared to 67% of eligible Georgians, according to the United States Elections Project.

Some of the same law that make it easier to vote in Colorado also make voting there less secure. Kemp said. He also noted that metro Atlanta's population is 51% Black, whereas Denver's is only 10% Black.

"It's minority-owned businesses that have been hit harder than most because of this invisible virus, by no fault of their own," he said. "And these are the same minority businesses that are now getting impacted by another decision that is by no fault of their own."

Kemp was joined at Saturday's press conference by state Attorney General Chris Carr, who said MLB's decision to relocate the game was a "knee-jerk reaction" to "a made-up narrative" from Stacey Abrams, the former statehouse representative and gubernatorial candidate who is rumored to be considering another run for governor next year.

Hours after MLB announced its decision to move the game, Abrams said in a statement, "Republicans who passed and defended Senate Bill 202 (the omnibus bill) did so knowing the economic risks to our state. They prioritized making it harder for people of color to vote over the economic wellbeing of all Georgians."

Kemp said MLB's decisions was going to have a cascading economic effect, hurting not just businesses like AJ's but its suppliers, as well.

"It's been well-documented this is tens of millions of dollars in revenue," he said. "Some estimate around $90 (million) to $100 million."

Economists who have studied past All-Star games have found little evidence they benefit local economies. Kennesaw State University Professor J.C. Bradbury has said there is little doubt MLB's decision would harm businesses in the stadium's immediate vicinity, such as those at The Battery Atlanta, but that people who would have spent their money there will ultimately spend it in other parts of Cobb or metro Atlanta.