Stacey Abrams is ramping up second bid for Georgia governor

Originally published: 19-Mar-22 12:13 ETVBy Eva McKend, (CNN) – On a sunny Monday afternoon, on the deck of a lakeside restaurant in central Georgia, a tightly packed crowd Stacey Abrams Fans eagerly awaited their arrival.

As Abrams walked in wearing her powder blue jacket, the crowd jumped and cheered.

“I want us to be a Georgia where your zip code and income doesn’t dictate your quality of life,” Abrams said.

The crowd — including a school administrator, a teacher and several veterans — listened as Abrams praised the work of a nearby prominent homeless shelter and requested a minute’s silence to show solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

“The issue of preserving democracy is a matter of scope and intent,” she said. “And we have a responsibility to do our small part here. And we should be guided by the example of the atrocities that are happening there.”

Abrams’ second run for governor kicked off this week with a series of rallies and meet-and-greets as part of her One Georgia tour. Abrams met with Georgians across the state, from Cuthbert to Atlanta.

In the years since the 2018 gubernatorial election, Abrams never stopped running for the job. As she says, she spent the time doing work for the people of Georgia. Last year, the Fair Fight Political Action Committee, headed by Abrams, announced it had donated more than $1 million to RIP Medical Debt to help pay off the medical bills of thousands across the South. She also promoted her efforts to engage voters and advocate for marginalized communities to be counted in the 2020 census.

“I did the work and now I want the job,” she told a crowd in Atlanta.

Her second candidacy comes at a time when much is at stake in Georgia. While incumbent President Joe Biden narrowly won the state four years ago — followed by two Senate runoff victories that rewarded Democrat control of the Senate — the state remains in the game. In addition to the gubernatorial race, it will host one of the Senate marquee races in the fall, with Senator Raphael Warnock defending his seat. And voters across the state will soon learn the provisions of the electoral law passed by the Republican legislature last year, from limited drop boxes and shortened runoffs to changes to absentee voting and restricting people waiting in line to eat and offering drinks to vote.

As for Abrams, it could end in a historic rematch against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who is locked in a bitter primary battle with former Senator David Perdue.

“I think she started this race four years ago and she’s been building a career and a value system all along. She’s right on schedule,” said Donata Defilippi, a supporter at her rally in Atlanta.

Her pitch to voters barely mentions the last election, instead focusing mostly on her plan to expand Medicaid, recover from the Covid pandemic, boost broadband in rural communities, and invest in education.

Still, the 48-year-old’s narrow loss to Kemp in 2018 still haunts many of her supporters. And Abrams’ action after that loss — when she admitted Kemp would be allowed for governor, but refused to admitattributing her defeat to voter suppression – has become something she has had to deal with as well.

“I think it was really unfair. She got pretty robbed,” said Stacey Rice, a 62-year retired veteran, at the event in Warner Robins. This sentiment was later echoed by a woman in the crowd during a question-and-answer session with Abrams. The woman asked why Abrams decided to run again.

“When you apply for a job and you don’t get it openly, it can be a little difficult,” Abrams said.

“It was stolen through no fault of your own,” the woman replied.

“No. We won’t do that. You’re just trying to cause trouble. Stop it. The election is over, and when that election was over, I wasn’t the governor. I didn’t win,” Abrams replied before returning to the main themes of her campaign.

Though the Democrats are expected to face an uphill battle in election year — historically the party has suffered losses in power — Abrams has focused on local issues and provided a roadmap for what she sees as a successful playbook. She is confident that the strength of her own brand in Georgia can transcend the national landscape her party faces. And with the advantage of not having to face a major challenger, she can start formulating her message for the general election early on.

When asked by CNN if she was concerned that Washington Democrats’ inability to pass bills signing voting rights and police reforms would affect her candidacy for governor, Abrams suggested that Democrats need to explain to voters , how long it takes for this policy to move forward, and shouldn’t. You can’t blame them for having ambitious goals.

“We should do the big things, the difficult things, the difficult things, but we should also be honest about how long it’s going to take. My responsibility when running for governor isn’t to distance myself from the difficult stuff, it’s to talk about how we’re going to do the difficult stuff,” she replied. “I’m not worried about that,” she added.

Although Abrams deliberately aims to keep the racial state in focus, Republicans will use their national aspirations and celebrity status against them. She is best known across the country as the strategic mastermind behind the sustainable voter engagement strategy that ultimately led to those Democratic victories in the January 2021 Georgia runoff. Abrams has also been open about her interest in becoming Biden’s running mate in 2020.

“Stacey Abrams may see the governor’s house as the next stepping stone on her way to the White House, but Georgians are not fooled,” Kemp spokeswoman Tate Mitchell said in a statement this month.

Though Kemp enjoys the power of incumbent, he faces a formidable main challenger in Perdue, backed by former President Donald Trump. Trump wrongly argues that Kemp did not do enough to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and, more broadly, the issue has become final for Perdue’s campaign. Later this month, Trump will travel to Georgia to hold a pro-Perdue in Commerce rally.

But even if the GOP primary presents a challenge for the incumbent governor, Kemp appears to be spending more time attacking Abrams head-on.

“At this point, David Perdue’s campaign is nothing more than an in-kind contribution to Stacey Abrams. As the former senator continues to lead an unsuccessful campaign, Gov. Kemp will remain focused on uniting Republicans behind a record result and beating Abrams this fall,” said Cody Hall, Kemp’s communications director and senior adviser, in an earlier this month Explanation.

The CNN Wire
™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia company. All rights reserved. Stacey Abrams is ramping up second bid for Georgia governor

Laura Coffey

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