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.
[Related Q&A: Stacey Abrams on Turning Georgia Blue]
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.”
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.
[Related: Emily’s List Aims to Seize Its Moment]
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.
On May 22, Abrams decisively won her Democratic primary, in which she faced another woman, former House Representative Stacey Evans. Their rivalry was fierce, but after the election they moved to unify the party ahead of a general election that is destined to be hard fought.
In the Nov. 6 general election, Abrams is facing the victor of a July Republican runoff election, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who beat Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. There is also a Libertarian candidate, Ted Metz. Polls show Abrams and Kemp in a dead heat, suggesting Abrams is successfully harnessing energized liberal and anti-Trump voters in Georgia.
She has been pulling a lot of money, 30 percent of which came in small-dollar contributions. Her campaign said in a press release that it raised at total of $22.18 million as of Oct. 25 and entered the final weekend of the campaign with $3.9 million “to fund the largest Get Out The Vote operation in Georgia history.”
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
November 20, 2018:
In Close Races for Women Democrats in Red States, Very Different Outcomes
Tight and fiercely fought races in Georgia and Arizona, both marred by voter-suppression controversies, are finally called.
The two women on the Democratic ticket to lead the state of Georgia, governor candidate Stacey Abrams and running mate Sarah Riggs Amico, who sought the lieutenant governorship, both lost in a close and bitterly fought election marred by claims of vote rigging. Meanwhile, Democrat Katie Hobbs won her race to become Arizona’s next secretary of state, putting her in position to fix an election system that has been beset by multiple problems and that she has also claimed was used by Republicans to suppress votes. Read the full story by Riva Richmond.
November 15, 2018:
Dems Cast Doubt on Legitimacy of an Election Where Kemp Beats Abrams
By Riva Richmond
Democrats are casting doubt on the legitimacy of the Georgia governor election, should Republican Brian Kemp be certified as the winner over Stacey Abrams, the Democrat who aims to be the country’s first black woman governor.
“We believe that Brian Kemp mismanaged this election to sway it in his favor,” Abrams’ campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo said at a press conference at the Georgia Capitol Wednesday. In a statement emailed to reporters later in the day she called Kemp, who oversaw his own election in his role secretary of state, “the nation’s foremost architect of voter suppression” and vowed a continued fight to ensure every eligible vote is counted.
The current tally in the too-close-to-call election has Kemp ahead by just under 55,000 votes out of 4 million cast. A runoff would be triggered if the gap reaches 17,751 votes, according the Abrams campaign, which has been pursuing an aggressive legal and public relations strategy.
Back in September, Abrams gained the support of Common, the musician and Academy Award winner. “We’re here together to celebrate black excellence,” Common said at the ONE Musicfest held in Atlanta, and gave Stacey Abrams a shout out during his performance.
Then on Sunday, Oct. 28, he joined Abrams and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young at a “Souls to the Polls” rally and march in Atlanta. “This is your chance Georgia to let your voice be heard and change the world,” Common said ahead of the rally in a video posted on the Abrams’ campaign Twitter account. “Souls to the Polls” events happen all over the United States but started with African American churches as a way of getting church goers to the polls to cast their votes before Election Day.
“Everywhere she’s been, I heard nothing but inspiration,” Young said at the rally. “She wakes up people. She lets people know that the world can be better than this. And with her working with you, it will be better.”
The powerful media icon Oprah Winfrey will be visiting Georgia on Thursday to join a “conversation on the critical value of women in leadership,” Abrams said a statement released early Wednesday morning. The two free events she is scheduled to attend at the Dekalb and Cobb county city halls were both completely full just hours after her visit was announced.
October 24, 2018:
A Burning Debate in Georgia
By Jenna Miller
A fire alarm slowed the start of the Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp debate for almost 3 minutes — and touchy topics and igniting issues heated up their podiums throughout the night.
Perhaps the hottest topic was the charge of voter suppression against Kemp, the Republican nominee for governor who in his role as secretary of state is holding up 53,000 new voter applications, most submitted by African Americans. That fire was fanned by an article Rolling Stone published just hours before the debate’s 7 p.m. start time.
Left to right, Georgia governor candidates Stacey Abrams, Brian Kemp and Ted Metz face off during an Oct. 23 debate. (Credit: Atlanta Press Club Facebook page)
The report quoted a leaked recording in which Kemp discussed the need for “heavy turnout” by Republicans to offset an “unprecedented number” of absentee ballot requests generated by Abrams’ turnout operation. This, he said, “is something that continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.” His “concern” renewed complaints that Kemp has a conflict of interest in his current job overseeing elections.
Abrams charged that Kemp’s move to suspend the voter registrations had cause potential voters to become afraid that voting would be very difficult and that their votes wouldn’t be counted. Kemp responded by saying, “There are 7 million people that have correctly filled the form out and [Abrams is] blaming me for a few that couldn’t do that, or they simply don’t exist.” He also said Abrams was attacking him to hide her own “extreme agenda.”
Meanwhile, Abrams faced criticism for attending an event while a freshman in college where protesters set ablaze an old Georgia flag, which at that time included the confederate “Southern cross” symbol. Abrams said she attended the event because she was “deeply disturbed by the racial divisiveness that was embedded in the state flag with that Confederate symbol.” She then commended Kemp for voting to remove the symbol from the state flag 10 years after that 1992 event.
When the moderator asked Abrams how she planned to carry out her plan to expand Medicaid in a sea of Georgia Republicans, she twice invoked a surprising ally: Vice President Mike Pence. Though a Republican, Pence expanded Medicaid in his home state of Indiana, and Abrams argued he would understand this “bipartisan proven solution” and back her decision to expand Medicaid in the state of Georgia.
Another focus of Abrams’ campaign is to appeal to Georgia’s business owners and leaders. One way the serial entrepreneur is doing that is by setting a goal of creating 22,000 apprenticeships by 2022, a policy that she believes will appeal to the working middle-class population in the state. She is also promising to keep Georgia open and inclusive, including by opposing proposed legislation that some large companies view as discriminatory against the LGBTQ community. That is especially important now, she says, while Atlanta area bids to become Amazon’s second headquarters, which could create thousands of jobs.
October 11, 2018:
With the governor race in a dead heat and the election only a month away, Stacey Abrams and Brian Kemp both scramble for an edge. Read the full story.
October 10, 2018
Multiple candidates in our Running Women 2018 project, including Stacey Abrams, used social media to amplify the voices of women sexual assault survivors. Here’s what they said before, during and after Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Read the full story.
October 2, 2018
Georgia gubernatorial candidate Abrams is trying to get supporters to the polls by vowing to address the state’s mounting health insurance problems, including expanding Medicaid. Read the full story by Jenna Miller.
September 7, 2018:
AJC Poll Shows Abrams and Kemp in a Dead Heat. Turnout Could Decide the Winner
By Jenna Miller
Democrat Stacey Abrams is in a statistical tie with Republican opponent Brian Kemp in the race for governor in Georgia, according to a poll released by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) and Channel 2 on Friday.
The poll of 1,020 likely voters conducted Aug. 26 to Sept. 4 found that 44.9 percent of voters support Abrams, 45.3 percent support Kemp, while 7.6 percent are still undecided. The margin of error is 3.1 percent. Abrams is leading among independent voters 45.6 percent to 30.7 percent, a group that could prove a crucial in deciding the winner. Some 14 percent of independent voters are still undecided.
The poll also shows Abrams, who is black, leading 85.6 percent to 3.8 percent among African American voters. African Americans accounted for 28.7 percent of voters polled by AJC and Channel 2, although they account for 29.3 percent of Georgia’s voters, suggesting Abrams might be on slightly stronger footing than the poll indicates.
Abrams is also ahead with women. According to the poll, 49.6 percent of women plan to vote for Abrams, compared to 38.8 percent for Kemp, while 9.4 percent are undecided. Many of Georgia’s women also appear eager to register their disapproval of President Donald Trump. According to the poll, 49.5 percent of women say they are less likely to vote for a candidate who embraces Trump and his view on issues, compared to 33.8 percent of men. Kemp has aligned himself closely to Trump.
The tight polling numbers suggest that who wins this race will come down to turnout. If turnout is high among Georgia’s African American, women and independent voters, Abrams has a good chance of becoming the first female African American governor in the United States and the first female governor in Georgia.
August 15, 2018:
Jimmy Carter Endorses Abrams
Democratic nominee for Georgia governor Stacey Abrams on Monday received the endorsement of former President Jimmy Carter, perhaps the state’s best-known politician and also a former governor of Georgia.
“I know Stacey Abrams. Her heart and commitment to our state shine through her leadership and service,” he said in a statement. “Stacey Abrams’ experience, vision, and proven track record of building consensus across party lines are beyond compare, and I will work as hard as I can to elect her in November.”
And nodding to the fact that Abrams would become the country’s first black woman governor and Georgia’s first black governor of any gender, he added: “At a time when we desperately need more bold leadership at all levels of government, I am proud to support Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign in this historic race.”
August 1, 2018:
Abrams Off to a Good Start in the General Election for Georgia Governor
By Carly LeMoine
In a wave of good news, Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams received the endorsement of former President Barack Obama on Wednesday, one day after she took the lead — albeit a small one — in an early poll of likely voters.
President Obama expressed his support for Abrams in a statement that cited her “record of building consensus that shows she can deliver – with good jobs, great public education, expanded Medicaid, and secure, affordable health insurance for everyone.” He also encouraged other politicians to follow the example of her campaign, and focus on issues that bring people together, rather than simply “how to win an election.”
On Tuesday, nonpartisan research firm Gravis Marketing released a poll of 650 likely voters that showed 46 percent favor Abrams, 44 percent favor Republican Brian Kemp and 10 percent remain undecided. While her 2 percent lead was with in the 3.8 percent margin of error, the results are encouraging for a Democrat running in a red state. They show that Abrams is truly in the race.
Obama also endorsed Georgia lieutenant governor candidate Sarah Riggs Amico as part of an initial group of 81 candidates he publicly backed. The new poll similarly showed Riggs Amico with a slight lead in her race.
May 23, 2018:
Democratic primary voters put two entrepreneurial women on November’s ballot. Can Stacey Abrams and Sarah Riggs Amico flip Georgia blue — and make history as the first women to lead the state? Read the full story.
April 20, 2018:
Abrams-Evans Primary Competition Heats Up
By Mariana Castro
As the Democratic primary quickly approaches, the race for Georgia governor is getting heated. The Stacey Abrams campaign on Friday filed an ethics complaint against the Stacey Evans campaign, accusing it of violating Georgia campaign-contribution laws.
The complaint is related to a newly formed 501(c)4 organization called “Hope for Georgia,” which campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo claimed in the filing was formed to “aid the Stacey Evans Campaign with secret, unlimited contributions, and is coordinated by campaign staff members.” The complaint asks the Democratic Commission to investigate.
Meanwhile on Thursday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) released a new poll that suggests Abrams is holding or has slightly increased her lead over Evans. The April poll of 473 likely Democratic voters, which has a 4.5 percent margin of error, showed 33 percent support Abrams, while 15 percent support Evans. That lead is 4 points higher than a February Mason-Dixon poll, which put Abrams support at 29 percent.
However, roughly 52 percent of likely voters remain undecided, and about the same percentage confessed to little to no knowledge of the competition. The Democratic primary takes place May 22, and early voting starts on April 30.
Given that Abrams’s strategy heavily rests on mobilizing Georgians who rarely vote, she runs the risk that her supporters will not show up on Election Day. “The Democratic primary would appear to be a wide-open affair at this point in time,” said M.V. Hood, the researcher at University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs who conducted the AJC poll, in the report.
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.
Update: On April 24 Fortune published a commentary authored by Abrams, “My $200,000 Debt Should Not Disqualify Me For Governor of Georgia,” explaining the financial challenges she has faced and their context within broader economic challenges for minorities, women and millions of other Americans.
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:
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:
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!’”