Just as a handful of Democrats began expressing anxiety about Stacey Abrams’s plans for 2022, she resolved all doubt by formally announcing her second candidacy for governor of Georgia. She will benefit from the strong name recognition she earned in her very close race against Brian Kemp in 2018 and her many voting rights initiatives before and after that campaign. And Abrams will also enjoy united and uncontested support from her party. While she was not on the ballot in 2020, no one doubts her efforts and example helped build a Democratic surge that carried the state for Joe Biden and Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, as Greg Bluestein explains:
She and her allies spent most of the past decade mobilizing state Democrats with calls to embrace a mix of authentic liberal ideals and initiatives with more widespread support, such as boosting education funding and expanding the Medicaid program.
Her narrow 2018 defeat showed Democrats a new path to victory that relied on maximizing turnout among voters of color who often skipped midterm elections while also appealing to suburban voters alienated by Trump.
Abrams’s national profile as a voting rights champion was raised even higher by the many opportunities she had to comment on and organize against the voter suppression law enacted by Georgia Republicans earlier this year. But she was already a national celebrity, as evidenced by her selection to deliver the official Democratic response to Trump’s 2019 State of the Union Address, and the buzz over her as a potential Senate, vice presidential, or even presidential candidate in 2020. At the age of 47, Abrams has plenty of time to pursue a career in national politics. As Bluestein notes, she has recently “grown her media platform with lucrative book and movie projects and a national tour that just wrapped up.”
First, however, she has unfinished business: a long-standing ambition to become governor.
Her fame as a voting rights advocate and organizer notwithstanding, Abrams will again run on a broad and moderate message featuring economic opportunity, health care access, and defense of public education. Her announcement video shows a determination to expand her appeal beyond the Atlanta metro area:
Her relative success in 2018, her national fame, and her ambition to become America’s first Black woman to serve as a governor have combined to make Abrams a devil-figure to Georgia Republicans. They love to respond to complaints about Trump’s Big Lie about 2020 by pointing to Abrams’s refusal to concede defeat in 2018 based on Kemp’s voter suppression efforts as a Secretary of State supervising the vote in his own gubernatorial contest (she made it very clear she wasn’t contesting the result). But Republicans have their own problems in this race, most notably Trump’s frequently expressed fury at Kemp for certifying Biden’s win in Georgia last year, followed by his efforts to talk former Senator David Perdue into challenging the incumbent in a primary (Perdue is “considering” a bid). It’s telling that while Kemp’s camp is urging Republicans to unite behind him to fend off Abrams, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich is urging Perdue to run as a “unity” candidate on grounds that Kemp can’t beat Abrams a second time.
If Republicans can keep their party intact, they should benefit from the usual midterm swing against the party controlling the White House. But the steady gains in Democratic support in recent years that Abrams has helped build could mean Republicans will need more than a light breeze behind their backs to prevail. Abrams’s announcement means the Georgia Democratic ticket will be headed up for the first time by two Black candidates (Abrams and Senator Raphael Warnock, who will in turn likely face Black Republican Herschel Walker in November). All in all it should be another epic election year in the newly competitive Peach State. And if Abrams does face Kemp in a rematch of their intense 2018 race, it could be a true grudge match with great consequences in Atlanta and in Washington. I won’t say winning a sweep in Georgia would offset the likely loss of the Democratic trifecta in Congress, but it would be a very nice consolation prize.