The Story Exchange

Stacey Abrams

Editor’s Note: Our coverage of Stacey Abrams is part of Running Women, a project following 15 compelling women candidates for U.S. political offices in 2018. Read the latest on her campaign below.

Stacey Abrams is a black, female and Democratic candidate for Georgia governor in 2018. And she intends to break the Republican grip on the state’s politics — and make some history for herself.

As outlandish as her goals may sound in this overwhelmingly red state, there’s a chance she could win, supporters say. If she does, she will achieve three big “firsts”: first female black governor in the country and first black and first female governor of Georgia.

Abrams, who was the minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives until August, is no stranger to firsts. In 2010, she became the first woman to lead either chamber of the Georgia General Assembly and the first African-American House leader. She resigned her state House seat to focus on the gubernatorial race.

Despite her ascent in state politics, Abrams faces an enormous challenge. Georgia is a Republican “trifecta” — the party holds the governorship, now held by term-limited Gov. Nathan Deal, and a controlling majority of both legislative chambers, the Senate and House. It is also a Republican “tripex” — the state attorney general and secretary of state are Republicans, too. Her race as of June was rated “likely Republican” by five separate outlets.

But Georgia’s demographics are shifting in Democrats’ favor, and anti-Trump sentiment has energized progressives. Indeed, the surprise win by Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama’s December Senate race, driven by high African-American turnout and the women’s vote, suggests that southern Democrats can prevail in what have been seen as unwinnable races until very recently. (We are also following Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico‘s campaign for lieutenant governor.)  

Meanwhile, Abrams’ track record and historic candidacy has put her in the spotlight and won her the support of important Georgia Democrats like Congressman John Lewis and former President Jimmy Carter. Her June candidacy announcement was accompanied endorsements from progressive fundraising powerhouses Emily’s List and Democracy for America. And in December she landed on comedy show “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee,” which did an spoof interview with Abrams thick with references to the TV political drama “Scandal.”

Related: Emily’s List Aims to Seize Its Moment

In December, Abrams launched an initiative called 1,000 Women Strong to recruit women statewide to get involved in her campaign. “In order to create a brighter Georgia, we must invest in and engage voters who have been left out and left behind, and we must talk with them about how their votes can change our state,” she said in a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

As House Democratic leader, Abrams has championed progressive issues like universal pre-kindergarten and access to reproductive healthcare, but she is also known for a willingness to negotiate with Republicans that could appeal to the political center in a general election.

But before Abrams takes on a Republican, she must first win the Democratic primary, where she is competing against another woman, former House Representative Stacey Evans. Their rivalry has come with some controversy. In August, Evans spoke at a Netroots Nation event and was shouted down by Abrams supporters chanting “support black women.” Abrams never publicly rebuked the protest, for which she received criticism. Many Democrats worry that a division between Evans’ and Abrams’ supporters will result in a Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders effect that cripples the party’s chances at a gubernatorial win.

The Democratic winner will face whomever emerges from a crowded Republican primary field of men that includes Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, former State Senator Hunter Hill, Clay Tippins, Marc Alan Urbach and State Senator Michael Williams. There is also a Libertarian candidate, Doug Craig.

Abrams was born in Madison, Wisconsin, spent her early life in Gulfport, Mississippi, and moved to Atlanta with her family in time for high school. Her parents were United Methodist ministers. At Avondale High School, she was the school’s first ever African-American valedictorian. She attended Spelman College, an all-women historically black college in Atlanta. While at Spelman, she worked in the youth services department of Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s mayor at the time. She later received graduate degrees from the University of Texas and Yale Law School.

Abrams went on to work as a tax attorney and deputy city attorney of Atlanta. An entrepreneur, she is co-founder of NOW Account Network Corp., a financial services firm, and Nourish Inc., a beverage company focused on infants and toddlers. Abrams is also an award-winning author of eight romantic suspense novels, which she published under the pen name Selena Montgomery.

The Latest on the Campaign

March 16, 2018:
Abrams in Debt

Stacey Abrams owes more than $50,000 to the Internal Revenue Service and about $170,000 more in credit card and student loan debt, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported this week. The gubernatorial candidate’s campaign said Abrams fell into debt while helping to support struggling family members, and she is paying off her IRS debt through an installment plan. Her GOP opponents, in particular, may try to use the debt against her in a general election.


March 2, 2018:
Abrams Leads Democratic Primary Poll, Gets $2.5 Million Pledge From PAC

Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign got a boost Friday, when a new poll showed her in the lead for the Democratic nomination and a political action committee pledged to spend $2.5 million to help her win.

Abrams is ahead with 29 percent of likely Democratic voters, compared to 17 percent for Stacey Evans, according to the poll, which was conduct by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. However, 54 percent of voters remain undecided, suggesting it’s still anyone’s race. The poll of 500 likely Democratic voters was conducted in February.

To assess the general election, the firm surveyed 625 voters and found that Republican Casey Cagle currently leads both Abrams, 45 percent to 39 percent, and Evans, 47 percent to 38 percent. But it’s still very early. “The general election is hard to assess at this point, as most of the candidates are not well known statewide,” the firm said.

Separately, PowerPAC Georgia said it plans to invest in online and radio advertising and hire organizers to help turn out 80,000 additional African Americans to vote for Abrams in the primary, according to Politico. Black voters could decide the Democratic primary and general election, and mobilizing them has been a key focus of Abrams’ campaign.


February 22, 2018:
Running Women Q&A: Stacey Abrams on Turning Georgia Blue

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate talks with us about poverty, prosperity and how her history as a business owner will make her the “entrepreneurial governor” Georgia needs. Read the interview highlights.


January 26, 2018:
Stacey Abrams Urges Young Democrats to ‘Change Georgia’ in 2018

The Georgia governor hopeful is wooing young activists with an “unapologetically and authentically progressive” agenda and the promise that she’ll be an ear in the capitol. Read the dispatch from our own young reporter, Zoe Searles, who attended Abrams’ meeting with Young Democrats in Duluth, Ga., earlier this month.


January 22, 2018:
Abrams Featured on Atlanta Women’s March Mainstage

Stacey Abrams took to the stage at Atlanta’s Women’s March on Saturday, flanked by two of its national organizers, Tamika Mallory and Linda Sarsour.

The march helped kick off the organization’s 2018 agenda, “Power to the Polls,” a national effort to register and engage voters that’s targeting swing states and to elect more women and progressive candidates to office. And Abrams is just the kind of candidate the group wants to back: an experienced, dynamic African-American woman running for high office in Georgia, a traditionally red state where Democrats hope to make major inroads this year.

“We’ve got families that are fighting for survival when we should be fighting for success,” Abrams told the crowd, the Atlanta Voice reported. “This is a state, and this is a nation, that knows better. Because we are the product of greatness. We are the progeny of men and women who refused to be told, ‘No!’”