Editor’s Note: This story is part of our Running Women project following 15 compelling women candidates in 2018.
The race for Georgia governor is in a dead heat, and candidates Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp are under immense pressure to get an edge at the ballot box ahead of Election Day on Nov. 6.
And things started to boil over on October 9, when the Associated Press reported that Kemp put on hold 53,000 voter registration applications, leading to accusations by Democrats that he is using his position as Georgia secretary of state, the official responsible for elections, to tilt the governor election in his favor. According to the Abrams campaign, 70 percent of of the applications now in limbo were made by African Americans, who are expected to vote for her overwhelmingly.
The next day, Abrams spokeswoman Abigail Collazo called for Kemp’s resignation, charging that he is “maliciously wielding the power of his office to suppress the vote for political gain.” “Brian Kemp needs to resign his position, so that Georgia voters can have confidence that their Secretary of State competently and impartially oversee this election,” she said in a statement.
An hour after Collazo’s statement was released, Kemp called Abrams a liar on his campaign Facebook page and said her “dark money voter registration group submitted sloppy forms,” adding, “now, they are faking outrage for political gain.”
Abrams in 2013 founded the New Georgia Project, a voter registration group that is one of several groups that filed a federal lawsuit against Kemp accusing his office of racial bias in the removal of 700,000 legitimate voters from the state’s rolls over the last 2 years.
On Twitter, Abrams blasted Kemp for a history of voter suppression and urged her supporters to take action by sending in absentee ballots and voting early. “Brian Kemp has called us out. Let’s vote & let’s get it done,” Abrams said.
Feels like deja vu: 4 years ago, Kemp tried to keep 40k new voters off the rolls. It took a few years, but we beat him. A few months ago, he tried to close polling places, but we beat him there too. Now he’s at it again, and we’ll beat him – again. 1/2 https://t.co/CDNcPantNE
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) October 11, 2018
On August 9 on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Abrams called Kemp “a remarkable architect of voter suppression.”
For her part, Abrams has been working hard to get an edge in voter turnout, crisscrossing the state speaking to various groups of voters and tirelessly issuing statements on issues from healthcare to criminal justice reform to education.
She recently won the support 54 businessmen and women from all over Georgia, who came together in the group Business Leaders for Abrams. Citing Abrams history as an entrepreneur, the group said she understands their problems and is the only “pro-growth and pro-business candidate in this race.” They expressed support for Abrams’ plan to protect small businesses and support future growth with a $10 million investment program.
On Monday, Abrams will literally hit the road to rally voters with a 3-week bus tour called “We Are Georgia – Our Voices. Our Votes. Our Time.” The tour will take Abrams to all of the state’s 159 counties, right up to Election Day. The move looks like an effort to one-up Kemp, who just completed a bus tour of his own called “Putting Georgians First” in which he traveled around the state for 5 days.
Abrams has also been raising money — and a lot of it. Last week, she announced that her campaign has raised an “electrifying” $16.25 million in the quarter ended Sept. 30, mostly in small-dollar contributions. The sum breaks the record for fundraising held previously by Republican Governor Nathan Deal, who raised $14 million in the same quarter of 2014 during his re-election campaign, the Abrams campaign said.
The Democrat enters the last month of the campaign with $4.9 million war chest, which her campaign said it plans to spend on a massive get-out-the-vote operation.