2018 elections

Stacey Vs. Stacey

Qualifying day in Georgia: the day when anyone running for an office in the state has to trek to the Capitol Building in Atlanta — the Gold Dome, as it’s known — to fill out some paperwork, shake some hands, and be officially recognized as a candidate. It’s a necessary nonevent.

On this day, March 6, Stacey Abrams is qualifying as a Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia. As is always the case with Abrams, whose voluble, Bill Clinton–esque intelligence and ambition have won her national press and big checks from out-of-state donors, today is anything but a nonevent. About 40 people sweep in to watch her register — supporters in STACEY ABRAMS: GOVERNOR T-shirts, a film crew from a local TV station, energized activists, Abrams’s senior staff, members of her large family. Wearing a conservative cobalt-blue dress and a string of pearls, she arrives last and is surprised by her elderly parents, Carolyn and Robert Abrams, who’ve driven over from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to watch their second-oldest daughter make history as the first black woman to formalize her run for governor of Georgia.

Abrams’s rival in the primary, Stacey Evans, 39, just did the same thing — also, it must be noted, in cobalt blue, but with much less hoopla. With her was her mother, Kim Godfrey, who had Evans when she was 17, and Evans’s husband, Andrew, clutching the hand of their 6-year-old daughter, Ashley. Keith Godfrey, who adopted Stacey more than 30 years ago, was there too. Her parents, who divorced long ago, have logged so many hours together on the campaign in the past year that they’ve started dating. Evans offered a perfectly deadpan delivery: “This campaign is already bringing people together.” She and her mom exchanged a hug. It’s like they couldn’t believe how far they’d come from their humble beginnings. “I wasn’t supposed to be here,” Evans has said repeatedly.

It’s the exact line Abrams, 44, uses: “I wasn’t supposed to be here.” She means that she grew up poor and black — her parents, who ultimately studied divinity at Emory University, raised six children on Carolyn’s librarian salary and Robert’s dockworker wages — and that because of how our system hobbles people with brown skin and meager resources, Abrams’s chances of reaching this moment were in serious doubt. When I ask her mother about this, she starts to tell a story. “When Stacey was 12, she was selected to go to a Girl Scout convention in Arizona. She was the only black child, and she was left at the gate — ” But then we’re interrupted by the candidate, who’s come over to hug her parents, and they all head off together and leave me wondering: She was left at the gate? What?

Stacey Abrams at the state Capitol after she qualified to run for governor in March. Photo: Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/AP Images

A disruptive race-and-gender nail-biter with national implications is currently unfolding among Georgia Democrats. Georgia Democrats — rarely has an expression been more closely associated with longing and loss. “Here’s what I know: I’ve worked in Democratic politics for a long time. It is hard for Democrats to win statewide in Georgia,” says Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List. “We’ve had some really good candidates, but Democrats keep losing because they’re short 200,000 votes.”

Right now, Democrats have not one but two really good candidates running for governor in the state. Abrams, the “black Stacey” — disconcertingly common shorthand in a race straining under the weight of identity politics in unpredictable ways — is basing her campaign largely on a message of minority empowerment. Evans, the “white Stacey,” is pledging to restore to its former glory a state grant called the Hope scholarship, an emotionally freighted program founded to offer free public-college tuition to any high-school student with at least a 3.0 average. In 2011, when the Staceys were both serving in the Georgia House of Representatives, they clashed when Republicans went after the scholarship; Evans charges that Abrams, as the House minority leader, allowed the other party to gut it. This split turned out to be the drip that led to the stream that formed the muddy river of a two-Stacey race for the Democratic nomination.

“It’s like 2008, Hillary versus Obama, down here,” says Amy Morton, chair of Better Georgia, a progressive nonprofit. “Friends versus friends on who they are supporting. Sometimes they stop speaking to each other.” In other ways, the race is more Bernie versus Hillary — though, in the complicated world of Georgia politics, it can be difficult to tell who’s the insurgent and who’s the Establishment favorite.

In fact, both candidates are significantly further to the left than most of the Democratic figures who are endorsing them. Abrams sells herself as the progressive firebrand with a national fan base (she was endorsed by EMILY’s List, where she’s been a favorite for years) who can galvanize tens of thousands of African-Americans to go to the polls for the first time. Yet she served in the Georgia House for 11 years, seven of them as minority leader, and has a reputation as a pragmatist willing to do deals with the Republicans who’ve controlled state politics for almost two decades. Between February 1 and March 31, the latest campaign-finance-reporting period, she outraised her opponent three to one.

Evans, who has the support of much of the state party’s ruling class, is a color-inside-the-lines consensus builder. “I see myself as a champion for common sense,” she says. “Sometimes that makes me moderate, sometimes that makes me liberal. Maybe every now and then it makes me a conservative.” Yet Evans is almost exclusively basing her campaign on an all-out defense of the Hope scholarship, the most progressive entitlement program the state has ever enacted.

Abrams led Evans in the most recent poll by 18 points, but a month before the primary, more than half of likely voters remained undecided. On the surface, you’ll hear that the dueling candidacies of these two accomplished women are “a high-class problem” for Georgia Democrats, as Paul Begala, the strategist for both Clintons and former Georgia governor Zell Miller, puts it.

But dig deeper: There’s unease in the air. In Georgia elections, “race is a factor that sits in the corner of the room all the time,” says Davis Fox, a political analyst in DeKalb County, one of the Atlanta suburbs gradually undergoing a shift to the left. “I’m very worried that this is a bitter train wreck between a black and a white.”

Jim Galloway, a longtime political reporter and columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, says that the choice is between “immediate gratification and fundamental realignment” of the Democratic Party. Will Democrats make the safer bet and go with Evans, who many think has a better shot in the general election because of her embrace of Trump-disaffected moderate Republicans and rural whites? Or will they tap Abrams as their homegrown Obama?

“I’ve talked to white Democrats and black Democrats — they’re very unsettled by Abrams,” Galloway says. Then he adds, unsettling me, “She’s not just female, she’s unmarried. That’s an issue.”

Stacey Evans at church on Martin Luther King Day in January. Photo: @evansgeorgia/Twitter

Stacey Evans is soft-spoken, to the point of sometimes seeming bland. “People underestimate her all the time,” says Morton, the chair of Better Georgia. But Evans comes alive at the Union Baptist Church in Macon one afternoon in early April, where she is giving a stump speech to a group of influential ministers and political leaders. We’re in Middle Georgia, which is home to one of the largest concentrations of African-Americans in the state. Evans is funny: “I was baptized in a really cold creek. Why does it always have to be a cold creek?” She knows how to read the room: “My family wasn’t looking for the government to do everything for them. In Georgia, families aren’t looking for that either. But they want to see their government working for them. Because they see it working for other people.” Lots of mmm-hmms as the 50 or so mostly black men in attendance tuck into a lunch of insanely good fried chicken and sweet tea and ponder whether to throw their political muscle behind Evans.

The race is splitting the state’s African-American politicians down the middle. Abrams has the support of Vernon Jordan and U.S. congressmen John Lewis and David Scott. In the Evans camp are Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, former Atlanta mayor and U.N. ambassador Andrew Young, and Elaine Lucas, half of Georgia’s most venerable black political power couple. Her husband, David, the longest-serving member in the Georgia General Assembly, tangled with Abrams over a project she started to register new voters in the state. Today in the church, Elaine, a longtime Macon commissioner, gives a powerful endorsement for Evans. “I used to just support black candidates. They were black? They were okay,” she says. “I have matured, y’all. I’m supporting Stacey Evans. E-V-A-N-S, because there’s another Stacey … Abrams. They’ll be right there on the ballot, together, so we don’t need any mistakes.”

Back in January, Evans made a mistake with the black community: a boneheaded video filmed in Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in which her face and Martin Luther King Jr’s. meld for a moment. The campaign released the ad near MLK Day, and the resulting fracas probably cost Evans several points in the polls: How dare white Stacey appropriate the image of Martin Luther King?

“That video went through seven sets of eyes on our campaign, only two of which were white. Nobody thought anything about it,” protests Seth Clark, Evans’s harried young spokesperson.

Since then, Evans seems to have recovered her footing. On the way in to the lunch, I meet Floyd Griffin, a former state senator and mayor of Milledgeville, who endorsed Evans a few weeks ago: “I looked her in the eyes and said, ‘You are going to have people of color in your administration?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ ”

Since we’re talking about skin color, does he think that because Evans is white she has the best shot at winning the general?

Griffin smiles. “Anybody can win a primary,” he says. “She can win the general. That’s all I’m going to say.”

Evans’s laser focus on the Hope scholarship at first seems overly simplistic. But it may be brilliant. Begala, who’s endorsed her, thinks it is: “In this unbelievably clustered media environment, very little cuts through. So far, what cuts through in the last cycle is hateful and divided. I love the idea of the universality of Hope. A message that self-consciously says that we lift up everything.”

The grant, beloved by Georgia families of both parties, was the brainchild of Zell Miller. In 1993, then–Governor Miller created a state lottery to fund the scholarship, and it became a vector of upward mobility and economic development crossing class and race lines. Because of Hope, many smart, driven students were no longer leaving the state for UNC or UVA and, after college, they settled in Georgia. Evans was one of them.

She grew up dirt-poor, born to a single mother who moved her and her younger brother at least 16 times in and around the North Georgia town of Ringgold. (Her most effective campaign ad is called “16 Homes”; it’s literally a tour of her difficult childhood.)

Sitting in a conference room in her unassuming campaign headquarters, Evans shares a story from her high-school days. She’s dressed in a slim black sweater dress with ruffled shoulders, a poised Atlanta professional. “I was running for student council, and I misspelled secretary — I used an a instead of an e,” she says. “So I made an e and taped it on the poster. I remember some people snickering about it. There was a teacher — I won’t call her name because she ended up being a good influence in my life — but I found out that another girl had asked her for guidance about what to run for, and the teacher advised her to run for secretary. And so I thought, I guess this teacher thought I’d be the easiest one to beat.”

Evans won the race, her first election. While other people were poor in Ringgold, she says, “I already knew my place. I knew my station.” Another teacher at the school told her about the Hope scholarship, and because of it, she was able to attend the University of Georgia in Athens, then applied to law school there. But “I didn’t have the LSAT scores,” she says. She was wait-listed. Similar pattern: She dug in her heels, got in, and ultimately made law review. After graduation, she went to work for a big Atlanta law firm.

The next time the Hope scholarship intersected with her life was when she was first elected to the Georgia House in 2010. “I walk in the place, and that was the bill. That was the bill of the year.” She’s referring to the 2011 legislation to cut funding for the scholarship. Georgia was in a recession, the lottery was throwing off less money to pay for the grant, and the Republican-dominated assembly proposed to shrink the program by requiring an SAT score of 1200 for a full ride to college and a 3.0 average for discounted tuition at technical schools.

At first, Evans worked with Abrams on the negotiations. But she turned against the deal when Abrams agreed to changes that limited the number of high-school students eligible for the scholarship, seemingly in return for a Republican concession to retain full-day, full-week pre-K programs. “Democrats are not about cutting off access,” Evans says. “It’s an important distinction between us.”

“It was a bipartisan solution to a terrible problem,” Abrams counters. “I was unwilling to simply say no and let thousands lose access to education.” She says that while Evans didn’t agree with the final result, she “complimented me” on the negotiations. “She said it was the best deal we could get,” Abrams says. “So her framing of this as ‘gutting’ is completely at odds with her contemporaneous acceptance.”

Evans spent the next six years trying to restore parts of Hope. During an evening legislative session in 2015, a bill she’d authored was torpedoed because, she was told, “there are some folks who are concerned that you may want to run for something higher, and they’re just not going to write a campaign commercial for you tonight.” In fact, Evans says she wasn’t really thinking about running for governor — until then. “I realized I’m not here to wear a badge, I’m here to get stuff done. If that bill had passed that night,” she adds, “I don’t think we’d be sitting here now.”

Thanks largely to a $324 million Medicare fraud case she helped win while in private practice, Evans is now wealthy enough that she could lend her own campaign more than $1.2 million and donate $500,000 to her alma mater. She and her husband, with their young daughter, live in affluent East Cobb County, just north of the city. “Things have gone very well in my life,” she concedes, “but you are who you are, and you come from where you come from. That lingering doubt that I’m not supposed to be here has never really left me.” She debated whether to run because Abrams’s intentions were well known, but she decided to go for it: “Just because she thought of it first doesn’t make it hers.”

Peeved local Dems complain that the national party and PACs don’t pay enough attention to Georgia. (Note to EMILY’s List: “You made the wrong call in Georgia,” says Morton about the group’s backing of Abrams, “because you didn’t make any phone calls in Georgia.” Evans says that when she decided to throw her hat in the ring, EMILY’s List sent someone down to Atlanta to have breakfast with her. The organization would be happy to support her, she was informed later, if she’d just run for another office.)

But the national party and PACs should take heed of what’s happening in Georgia now, because it mirrors what’s happening elsewhere in the country: Racial demographics are shifting, while at the same time enraged anti-Trump voters are flooding the field on the left — many of them women — and enraged retrenching white voters are doing the same on the right. According to Melita Easters, founder of Georgia’s WIN List, a local version of EMILY’s List, there are 40 percent more female state-Senate candidates and 25 percent more female House candidates on the ballot than in 2016. WIN List has endorsed a “Dynamic Dozen” women for state office and is backing others in down-ballot contests. The Republican woman who beat Jon Ossoff in the most expensive House race ever, Karen Handel, is being challenged by Democrat Lucy McBath.

Among old-boy, old-school Democrats, there’s a whiff of condescension toward this feminizing of politics. Over the summer, when Evans and Abrams had just announced their candidacies, Journal-Constitution columnist Galloway actually wrote, “Next year’s Democratic race for governor in Georgia could have the feel of a feud between Beyoncé and Taylor Swift.”

How might this primary have been covered if, say, the Staceys were named Steve? Abrams purses her lips, narrows her eyes. “Everyone would be calling us by our last names, and that would be it,” she says. As for Evans, she looks annoyed at the question, too. “There’s two guys named Ken running for the Court of Appeals right now.” Pause. “Then again, it’s the Court of Appeals.” Pause. “But I suspect it’s because we’re women.”

Last fall, Pave It Blue, a female-only grassroots movement born in the wake of Donald Trump’s win, hosted meet-and-greets for the two rivals in the northern suburbs of Atlanta. Abrams “requested a green room and brought 30 people with her, ready to work the crowd,” says Leah Fuhr, a white elementary-school teacher turned political consultant for progressive candidates. I think I know where Fuhr is going here — a few weeks earlier, a political operative grumbled to me, “Abrams travels with an entourage wherever she goes. They travel first class. I mean, Jimmy Carter travels coach to New York.”

But I’m wrong. Fuhr’s beef is with Evans: “She came in with no literature, no flyers. Her big fail was that she came with nothing.” We’re at a breakfast spot in a Cobb County strip mall. At the table are five female activists, three white, two black, from No Safe Seats, an organization that spun off from Pave It Blue. To them, Evans’s approach to the forum seemed not folksy but disrespectful.

As for Abrams’s traveling with a pack of aides and supporters? “She has to do that. She has no choice,” says Marla Cureton, who is black. At the table, Nina Durham, who is also African-American, nods in agreement.

What they’re saying, of course, is that as a black woman, Abrams has to do ten times more than her opponent. But then, does her “degree of melanin,” as Abrams likes to say, coupled with her minority-empowerment message, make it impossible for suburban white ladies and rural white carpet-factory workers to relate to her? Because Abrams will need them, too, to win the general — remember Schriock’s 200,000 missing Democratic votes. Abrams herself tells a story about visiting a church in a poor white town in North Georgia (a town she was advised to be out of before nightfall) to answer questions about how to qualify for Medicare and Medicaid: “One gentleman who came up to me, he said, ‘Now, you know there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna vote for you. But I won’t vote against you.’ ”

Her blackness — and the way she uses it — is the issue that looms over this campaign. It gets nibbled at in all kinds of ways. Local African-American political analyst Robert Patillo recently dissed her in a local TV interview for daring to harness “the power of black-girl magic.” One person who’s followed the careers of both Evans and Abrams says, “People are really pushing back against this idea that Abrams is running as ‘I’ll be the first black woman governor.’ That she’s playing the race thing. That is making a lot of people mad, black and white, because Evans has probably half the black legislature with her, for reasons of personality.”

Those who don’t think Abrams should be the governor of Georgia have commented on, among other things: how much she’s paid herself in her various endeavors (too much); her national ambitions (overweening); her personal fiscal sloppiness (she owed the IRS $50,000, which she is paying off, and carries $170,000 in student-loan and credit-card debt); her lack of transparency (one of her companies had a contract with the state government that she didn’t reveal to her colleagues during the Hope-scholarship negotiations, leading critics to wonder if she made a deal with the Republicans to line her own pockets).

Her campaign is rooted in the voter-registration drive she started, which in 2014 raised $3.6 million, much of it from out-of-state donors. Abrams says the initiative, called the New Georgia Project, has submitted 200,000 new voter applications. But Secretary of State Brian Kemp, one of the five Republican candidates for governor, and various members of Abrams’s own party have accused her of exaggerating NGP’s numbers; Abrams lobbed back that the state mishandled or suppressed the applications her group collected. State Senator Lucas, a longtime voter-registration advocate who distrusted Abrams’s NGP work, told Atlanta magazine in 2015, “We were kept in the dark, period. [We didn’t know] how much money was raised, who they paid to go out to do the work. We literally didn’t know anything.” Kemp, who has a reputation as a Georgia vote-suppressor par excellence, investigated NGP, but nothing official came of the inquiry.

As the primary grows closer, the attacks have intensified. On April 19, a watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against Abrams with the Georgia campaign-finance commission, charging that she inadequately detailed the nature of $83,000 in reimbursements to her from her campaign. She denies any impropriety. (That group also asked the commission to look into Republican Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle’s use of a state airplane in 2016.) Meanwhile, the Abrams campaign filed a complaint against an Evans staffer, charging that he improperly solicited funds for a 501(c)(4) organization designed to shield donors from disclosure. This would violate a state law that prohibits candidates from coordinating with outside organizations on campaign activities.

What does it all amount to? I’m trying to keep the word uppity out of this story — but there it is, it’s on the page now — because while Abrams has been the subject of two complaints, numerous whisper campaigns, and swipes from the Georgia press, she’s never been fined for or formally charged with malfeasance.

All she seems to be guilty of is lack of clarity about the finances of her multiple nonprofits, making mistakes with her own taxes, and daring to openly wield power — and to want more of it. She still prefers to be called “Leader Abrams.” She likes to show off her intelligence, and she has a witty line that does this: “I went to UT Austin, Spelman College, and Yale Law School. I amassed an extraordinary amount of debt and knowledge. And I’ve been able to keep both.” She worked “de minimis issue,” “suborning lies,” and “it went beyond the gentry and allowed the plebeians access” into a ten-minute speech to a bunch of volunteers in a public library in Columbus.

Indeed, she is a dazzling candidate whose command of policy is impressive and whose charisma on the stage is undeniable. While she served in the general assembly, she wrote romance novels under a nom de plume (Selena Montgomery) and an autobiography, just out (Minority Leader: How to Lead From the Outside and Make Real Change). She spoke at the 2016 Democratic convention, and among her endorsers are MoveOn, Planned Parenthood, and Senator Cory Booker.

At her campaign headquarters in Atlanta’s gentrifying Kirkwood neighborhood — buzzing with the activity of dozens of young staffers and volunteers — I remember that I wanted to ask about the story her mother started to tell at the Gold Dome back on Qualifying Day.

“Yes, so, I was 12, the only African-American girl elected to this delegation from Mississippi, and they were not pleased by my selection,” Abrams recalls. “They took a different flight and didn’t tell us. We got to the airport, and they were gone. My mom was like, ‘Do you still want to go?’ I’d never flown before.

“They put me on a plane, and it got diverted to Milwaukee because of engine trouble. My mother started calling the gate agent every 30 minutes — the gate agent got to know my mother very well. When it became clear they weren’t going to be able to get me on another plane, they put me in a hotel overnight. I had to stay in a hotel and get myself to the airport the next morning.” A day after the other delegates had arrived, Abrams showed up in Scottsdale. And when she got there?

“I was unhappy. But I’m very good at working with people even when I’m not happy with them.” What about those other Mississippi delegates? “I hung out with kids from other troops.”

The story cuts to a couple of essential truths about Abrams. She sees herself as a victim of her minority status: “I’ve been a minority for a very long time. I’m really good at it. And one thing you learn about being a minority is that you don’t get everything you want.” Yet she also sees herself as triumphant in her workarounds. People don’t like her? Fine, she’ll find other, more simpatico people. In grown-up terms, that has meant cultivating a national stage, national financial backers, and the idea that she could build a new-voter infrastructure in Georgia where others have tried and failed.

Abrams isn’t blind to the discomfort that her ferocious confidence and self-possession engender: “My intensity and intentionality for those that do not share it is off-putting. That’s the level of intensity I intend to bring to the governor’s mansion.”

What she doesn’t bring is a husband or children. “I’d have plenty of time to focus on the job,” she says one friend told her. Many women reading those words are nodding their heads yes. But per Jim Galloway’s remark, is being single and childless a liability in Georgia, especially because she’s black? Although attitudes are definitely changing, it’s no secret that black churches, and African-Americans in general, have been less supportive of gay rights than other groups. And several people I interviewed said, not for attribution, that they thought Abrams was probably gay.

Georgia has elected gay candidates to its general assembly. In 2016, Atlantans chose a queer, 24-year-old African-American woman, Park Cannon, to represent them in the statehouse; more black women serve in its general assembly than in any other state legislature in the country. But it’s the statewide offices where the ceiling remains. Georgia has elected only two African-Americans, both of them men, to statewide office.

So I get Abrams back on the phone to ask about what I’m hearing, that a single black female can’t be governor in Georgia, and that there’s a line out there that she’s a lesbian.

After such a long pause that I think she’s hung up on me, Abrams replies. “I’m trying to think exactly how I’m going to answer this,” she says. “I am proud of who I am. I do not believe my race or my gender or my marital status are disqualifying. I am a very strong LGBTQ ally. I am personally heterosexual.”

She calls the gay rumors “pseudo worries, signals of internal fears” among people who harbor “deep disquiet with the change that my candidacy represents.”

While we’re on that subject: Can a black woman in 2018 Georgia win the general election for governor?

“I believe there’s a progressive Georgia lying just below the red patina that has covered the state for years,” she says. “I’m afraid that we’ve for so long ignored the opportunity that, absent an ambitious and innovative campaign like mine, we will miss it again. There is a clear path to victory. It’s a hard one, but it’s clear.”

We come to the end of this story asking the question: Despite the best efforts of the Staceys, does the governor’s race end in tragedy for Georgia Democrats yet again? As of the end of March, Abrams had raised a total of $3.3 million and Evans $2.6 million. But the leading Republican contender, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, had raked in $6.8 million.

And this question, too: If there’s a blue wave sweeping the nation, is it going to wash over Georgia, or will it skip the state, as has been the case in the past? “The blue wave may be more like a thunderstorm, because there are places that are not ready to elect Democrats in the state of Georgia,” WIN List’s Melita Easters says. Some of that is because of gerrymandering, which has been brutally effective against Democrats in Georgia after nearly 20 years of Republican domination of the legislature and the governor’s office. To be somewhat reductive, the Ossoff campaign was hurt by the weight of its own national symbolism. But he also lost because he was running in a gerrymandered district, where the previous congressman, Tom Price (he of the late, brief stint as Health and Human Services secretary), “used to win with Joseph Stalin numbers,” says political analyst Fox. It’s a reason both Staceys give for wanting to be governor, as opposed to running for another office: The governor can rewrite the voting districts in the state.

The fact that Ossoff came within 4 percentage points of winning is a testament to the state’s changing demographics: Moderate white women and growing minority populations in suburban Atlanta are beginning to have an impact on elections. It really is game on, says Michael Owens, Democratic Party chair in Cobb County, the state’s third-largest county and a hotbed of suburban-mom political activity. “I mean, here I am, I’m an African-American male, and I was out there with the liberal moms from day one, out there protesting,” Owens says. “But this is a 2024 story that we’re trying to make happen in 2016, 2018, and 2020. I think we’re pushing this three cycles prior to where the demographics would start to really take over.”

Which brings us to what is both the first and last question in this race: Will white men vote for a woman, let alone a black woman, in the general election? The Atlanta metro area and its ever-bluer 2.9 million voters aren’t quite enough to guarantee a Democrat victory in a state with 6 million registered voters. In the most optimistic nonpartisan scenario for Abrams I read, from georgiapol.com, if she “gets black turnout up to 56 percent (which is possible considering she would be Georgia’s first black governor) and gets Hispanic and Asian turnout to 40 percent each, she will win 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent.” That’s a lot of ifs and just a sliver of a victory. The Democratic candidate must get white votes, and Evans has been going hard for them.

Abrams has started going for them too. In a mid-April ad called “Guys Like Me,” three men — one black and two white, all of them big, beefy dudes who definitely were not styled for the camera — tell us why they’re for Stacey Abrams. “She’s tough,” says one of the white men, as country chords twang. “She’s fighting against tax hikes that’s gonna hurt guys like me that get up at the crack of dawn to go work long hours.” At the very end of the ad, in what feels like an outtake added back in, he says, with a laugh, “What’d you think I’d say?”

In other words: Don’t assume because I look and talk the way I do that I’m not for the black lady. Are there enough guys like him out there to put her in the governor’s mansion?

*This article appears in the April 30, 2018, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

Stacey Vs. Stacey: Inside Georgia’s Pivotal Governor’s Race