ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - After a hard-fought election last year, Brian Kemp has become Georgia's next governor.
Kemp was sworn in Monday at Georgia Tech's McCamish Pavillion.
Gov Kemp now addressing joint session of GA General Assembly after taking the oath. Says it’s a great time to be a Georgian.— Russ Spencer (@russfox5) January 14, 2019
Ahead of being sworn in, Kemp attended a prayer service at the Cathedral of St. Philip. It began at 10 a.m. Monday. His first act as governor will be a "Review of Troops" at the State Capitol before meeting with outgoing governor Nathan Deal.
The former Republican Secretary of State now faces the task of trying to unite a state that seemed increasingly divided during the 2018 election. Kemp, who campaigned as a self-described "politically incorrect conservative" and received an endorsement from President Donald Trump, eked out a close November victory after lobbing a last-minute accusation that the state Democratic Party tried to hack the election.
In the end, Kemp defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams by fewer than 55,000 votes out of 3.9 million cast in November, a result that lead to lawsuits from his opponent accusing him and the state of depriving many low-income and minority voters of their voting rights Outgoing state Democratic Party Chairman DuBose Porter, in a final address to party members, called Kemp a "morally corrupt man who knows he has to cheat to win."
In his first speech as governor, Kemp said that he would "fight for all Georgians, not just the ones who voted for me" and pledged to create a "safer, stronger state."
Republicans control all of Georgia's statewide offices and both chambers of the legislature. However, in the last few weeks Kemp has highlighted an effort to focus on what he calls bipartisan issues, pointing to campaign promises to promote small business and economic growth in rural areas, and to crack down on violent gangs.
In his speech, Kemp continued that rhetoric, pointing out the state's struggles with teaching its students and gangs and drug cartels "flooding our streets with violence."
"I will keep our schools, streets, and kids safe," Kemp said.
Kemp also highlighted a push to ensure "health care and equality education no matter the zip code."
While competing in a crowded field for the Republican gubernatorial nomination last year, Kemp staked out conservative positions on social issues, pledging to sign tough abortion restrictions and expand gun rights.
He also vowed to sign a version of the religious protection bill that Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed, a bill that drew criticism form major Georgia companies including Delta Air Lines and Home Depot. During the general election campaign with Abrams, Kemp said he would approve only a narrowly drawn version that mirrors an existing 1993 federal law, insisting such a law "doesn't discriminate."
Asked at an Augusta stop last week if his 2019 legislative agenda includes a "religious freedom" bill, Kemp replied: "I'm going to be talking about a lot of things I'm going to do legislatively when we get ready to talk about them."
Kemp's fellow Republican, House Speaker David Ralston, said during a Thursday news conference that he has little appetite for taking up issues that have the "potential to divide us as a state." Ralston said he did not favor another attempt at passing "religious freedom" legislation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.