Editor’s Note: This story is part of our Running Women project following 15 compelling women candidates in 2018.
The marquee race to lead the state of Georgia is on, following Tuesday’s Republican runoff election. Former Democratic House Minority leader for the Georgia General Assembly, Stacey Abrams will now face runoff winner Secretary of State Brian Kemp in a governor race that’s sure to get national attention.
Abrams, who could become the country’s first African American woman governor, won the Democratic primary on May 22. However, no Republican primary candidate crossed the 50-percent mark required to move on to the general election. As such, the top two candidates, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Kemp, went to a July 24 runoff.
Though Cagle finished with a 13-point lead over Kemp in the primary, he lost badly in the runoff, receiving only 30 percent of the vote to Kemp’s 69 percent.
A recording in which Cagle was heard admitting to voting for what he believed was a bad policy in order to thwart an opponent and describing the primary as a race to see “who could be the craziest” proved ruinous to his campaign, according to The Associated Press. Meanwhile, Kemp appears to have been helped by an endorsement from President Donald Trump just under a week before the election.
In a victory speech, Kemp asked supporters: “Do you want a governor who is going to answer to Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton?” With those words, he kicked off his campaign against Abrams, after months of focusing on defeating Cagle.
Abrams also began to ramp things up, announcing a statewide tour to promote her jobs plan hours after declaring that “Kemp is wrong for Georgia families” in a Facebook post.
While some analysts argued Kemp, the more conservative candidate, would be easier for Abrams to defeat than Cagle, Abrams wasn’t celebrating. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it: Turning Georgia blue in only 3 months won’t be easy, especially against a well-funded opponent like Kemp. But if our people-powered campaign steps up right now, if we focus on the issues and put in the work, we can win,” she told supporters on Facebook.
Abrams might just be right. During the 2016 election, many Republican voters in suburban Atlanta were alienated by Trump and voted for Hillary Clinton. If Kemp continues to parade Trumpian bona fides, Abrams may garner more support from moderate and independent voters, according to The Associated Press.
Meanwhile the underdog is also ahead in the Republican runoff for lieutenant governor, the number two position in Georgia. The race is considered too close to call, but Geoff Duncan was ahead of state Senator David Shafer by a slim margin. The winner will face Democratic nominee Sarah Riggs Amico in November.