Stacey Abrams launches Georgia governor’s 2nd campaign

ATLANTA (AP) – Georgia Democrat and leading voting rights activist Stacey Abrams said on Wednesday she would launch another campaign to become the country’s first black woman governor.

Without serious competition in a Democratic primary, the announcement sets up a likely rematch between Abrams and incumbent Republican Governor Brian Kemp. Their 2018 contest was one of the tightest races for governor that year and was dominated by allegations of voter suppression, which Kemp has denied.

Still, Abrams’ strong performance convinced National Democrats that Georgia should no longer be seen as a GOP stronghold. His performance and subsequent organization convinced Joe Biden to invest heavily in the state in 2020, and he became the first Democratic presidential candidate to capture him since 1992. The party went on to win a narrow majority in the Senate after winning won two special elections in the state.

The 2022 governor’s race will test whether these gains were a one-off phenomenon sparked by unease with then-President Donald Trump, or marked the start of larger political change in a rapidly growing and diversifying South.

In a state where Democrats have often sought – and failed – to gain power by relying on black voters and appealing to older white moderates, Abrams presented himself in 2018 as a shameless progressive. Abrams, 47, embraced expanding access to Medicaid, which a series of Republican governors refused to do, and supported abortion rights.

Georgia remains tightly divided, and voters often reject the president’s party in the first election of their presidency. But by ditching the nods to centrism, Abrams insists Democrats can attract new voters, including recent transplants in the booming Atlanta area, black voters who did not participate in the election. previous and younger, more liberal white voters.

Although Kemp beat her by 1.4 percentage points, Abrams won 778,000 more votes than the previous Democrat to run for governor.

Abrams was defiant in the face of the 2018 loss, acknowledging Kemp as the winner but refusing to concede the race, citing “mismanagement” in his role as secretary of state overseeing the election. She accused Kemp of using her office to aggressively purge inactive voters lists, of applying an “exact match” policy to verify voter identities that left thousands of registrations in limbo and of ” adopt other measures to obtain the result in its favor.

Kemp has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

After the election, Abrams started a new organizing group called Fair Fight, which raised over $ 100 million and built a statewide political operation that registered hundreds of thousands of new voters in Georgia. The state recorded a record turnout in the 2020 presidential race and the January legislative elections to the Senate.

Now Abrams and Kemp look likely to face off in a rematch in a new political climate. On the one hand, Kemp faces opposition from Trump and his staunchest GOP supporters for failing to support the former president’s baseless argument that he was cheated on re-election by a massive electoral fraud, including in Georgia. Election officials have carried out three recounts across the state, each of them claiming Biden’s victory.

Trump, who campaigned for Kemp in 2018, is now one of the governor’s outspoken critics. The former president called a rally in the state in September, ostensibly calling on former US Senator David Perdue to run against Kemp and sarcastically suggesting to the crowd that he would prefer Abrams to the incumbent governor.

Kemp’s disavowal of problems with Georgia’s election results – and Trump’s animosity toward him – did not prevent him from pushing through restrictive electoral law changes in response to Trump’s national defeat in 2020 Many Democrats fear that Georgia’s new law, which gives the GOP-controlled legislature more control over election officials, will undo Abrams’ years of work in the fight against voter suppression. Other Democrats hope the new election law will invigorate their supporters and make them even more determined to go to the polls.

Abrams used voting concerns to mobilize Democrats, telling The Associated Press in April that “Republicans are playing with the system because they are afraid of losing an election.”

Republicans, meanwhile, have tried to gain the upper hand by using the prospect of an Abrams candidacy to galvanize his constituents. Earlier this year, Kemp’s allies preemptively formed a group called Stop Stacey, specifically aimed at preventing her from winning the governorship in 2022.

Abrams faces vulnerabilities on several fronts. Her national stature might raise questions that she is more interested in seeking a higher post than in running the state. Republicans tried to blame her for Major League Baseball’s decision to pull the All-Star Game out of Atlanta last year over a backlash to the restrictive new voting law, although Abrams has discouraged repeatedly boycotts.

Republicans also called Abrams a hypocrite, arguing that she criticized Trump for not conceding to Biden when she herself refused to give in to Kemp and called the election she lost “rigged.” .

Abrams was careful to distinguish what she did after the 2018 election from Trump’s actions, noting that she did not file a court challenge of the results like the former president did in several states.

“For every voter, my responsibility was not to challenge the legitimacy of our democracy – it was to challenge those who would undermine this democracy,” Abrams told Bitter Southerner in August. “And so when I gave my no-concession concession speech, it was exactly for this reason.”

A 2018 campaign issue has since been resolved: Abrams paid off his IRS tax debt, including $ 54,000 in back taxes, in 2019, then bought a $ 975,000 home in suburban DeKalb County.

Going forward, she is part of a growing contingent of black women seeking employment across the state.

Deirdre DeJear has announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor of Iowa. In Florida, Democratic Representative Val Demings is running for the Senate. In North Carolina, former State Senator Erica Smith and former Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court Cheri Beasley are competing in the Democratic primary for the Senate.

And in Virginia, Winsome Sears was elected lieutenant governor as a Republican.

But none have the national stature of Abrams.

Since 2018, Abrams has been named to Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. She was featured in Vogue and interviewed on a podcast by The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. She has written two books, including a legal thriller. She sold one of her old romance novels, written under the pseudonym Selena Montgomery, to develop it as a television program. She launched a speaking tour in 12 cities.

She considered running for president in 2020 before finally deciding against it. When Biden became the nominee, she openly lobbied to be his running mate, a post that was ultimately awarded to Kamala Harris, the first black woman and the first person of South Asian descent to hold the post.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.



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