Stacey Abrams victorious in Georgia’s Democratic primary for Governor

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Fresh from a historical victory, now she prepares for the biggest campaign of her life.

Last night, Stacey Abrams made history in being the first Black woman to win the nomination for a major party in a gubernatorial campaign.

Abrams captured 76.5 percent of the vote against her opponent with the same first name, Stacey Evans. Election results show that Abrams dominated in almost every county in Georgia, winning votes in 153 regions while Evans took six.

Volunteers flooded the state to ensure that voters participated in an election that can lead to the first African-American female governor in the United States.

Former Ohio State Senator, Nina Turner, noted for being a surrogate to Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in his bid for the 2016 presidency, called for people to get out to vote. “The way that most people in this state, and dare I say, in this country, are able to make their wishes and dreams known, is through the ballot box.”

Watch parties throughout the state popped up along with the social media hashtag #PostThePeach trending to prove voters cast their ballots. It is an initiative to get more people to participate in voting that has been sluggish in the past two years.

Abrams invigorated voters after a Trump regime that has disappointed many. With an initiative to get more people of color to vote, women, and her backing of the LGBTQ community, Abrams’ win comes after a historic election in Alabama, where Democratic Senator candidate, Doug Jones, upset Roy Moore.

Abrams represents a slew of women either vying for higher elected offices or first-time runners. Many campaigners voiced the desire to change the political climate and the lawmakers who continue to roll back reproductive and labor rights, including the funding for social and education programs.

“We have to change the face of leadership,” said Abrams in an interview with Broadly. “People need to see themselves reflected in those who lead them.”

A Road Less Traveled

The path to the primary proved to be an up-and-down battle for Abrams who rose through the ranks of the Democratic party as a state House member. She was the first African American to lead the Georgia General Assembly where she held tenure for ten years.

In 2014, Abrams started a campaign called the New Georgia Project, in an effort to increase voter and civic engagement. The two-year initiative paid off, as the effort submitted the registration for over 200,000 people of color.

A tax lawyer who graduate from Yale Law and an alumna of Spelman College, Republicans questioned her fiscal responsibility after she disclosed financial records showing that she is over $200,000 in debt. Abrams explained that much of her money woes come from college loans, credit card bills and supporting two households, the other being her parents’ who are caring for her niece. She also made known that she owes $50,000 to the IRS, in which she worked out a payment plant.

“I know what it’s like to struggle to pay for an education,” said Abrams who comes from a working-class family.

In a Fortune column, Abrams wrote:

Debt is a millstone that weighs down more than three-quarters of Americans. It can determine whether we are able to run for office, to launch a business, to quit. Job we hate. But it should not—and cannot—be a disqualification for ambition.

Abrams is also a single, African-American woman who wears twist-outs as a preferred hairstyle. She is far from the “look” that mainstream political bosses in Georgia seek.

“The establishment Democrats decided … that she wasn’t electable … [so] they ran a white Stacey who was electable against Stacey Abrams,” said political analyst and board member of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, Angela Rye in an interview on the Breakfast Club.

Stacy Evans, a white woman, is also an attorney and serves in the Georgia house as a Chair, but is married. The battle became, “the black Stacey versus the white Stacey,” placing the state in old time racial, Deep South politics.

Evans criticized Abrams vote on a statewide program called the HOPE scholarship, an initiative that provided funding to a large number of Black students headed to college. She also questioned her voter drives. Evans used Abrams work for people of color, and in particular, African Americans, to work against the Black vote.

In response, Abrams said that Evans “misstated the truth” and that she re-negotiated the program in a Republican-controlled legislature. “2011, the scholarship was going bankrupt … the standards were changing and I was saving as much money for as many students as possible.” Abrams said that she pushed to keep the scholarship’s integrity as much as possible, while having to make some concessions.

Lessons from McKinney

The political tactic to use a more palatable opponent to oust a “less desirable” candidate was seen in Georgia a little over a decade ago when tenured Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney lost against newcomer, Denise Majette. McKinney’s defeat entailed a crossover vote, a strategy where voters jump party lines to usher in a candidate that aligns more with their interests. In Georgia, voters are allowed to vote outside of their party affiliation, so the GOP political machine pushed for a McKinney loss in 2002.

McKinney won her seat back in 2004, but returned to Congress stripped of her ranking. She lost her seat again in 2006. During, her 2006 campaign, she was profiled by a Capitol Hill security officer who grabbed her when he thought she was an unauthorized person walking through the security checkpoint. He grabbed her from behind. In response, she threw her cell phone at him.

Charges were filed against her, but were dropped. The security guard, whose responsibility it is to know congressional officers by face said that he did not recognize McKinney because she had changed her hair from the signature braids.

At the time, political pundit Neal Boortz on his radio show described her as a “ghetto slut … It looks like an explosion in a Brillo pad factory. … She looks like Tina Turner peeing on an electric fence.”

By that time, McKinney was deemed as an outsider by many on the Hill. The first elected official to publically ask about the intelligence that forewarned the George Bush Administration of September 11, 2001 attacks, McKinney was labeled a conspiracy theorist.

Turning a Red State Blue

Abrams has received a list of backing. Leading up to the primary, she gained a number of endorsements from pro-choice and LGBTQ advocacy groups to a host of labor unions.

“I’ve had the chance to travel the country and seen so many incredible women running for office and Stacey stands heads and shoulders right there with everyone else,” said former Obama advisor, Valerie Jarret.

She continued, “She’s fearless, she’s strategic, she’s smart as a whip. She has integrity, character, a moral compass that only goes towards true North. And she cares deeply about the residents of Georgia.”

She received support from a cadre of a new blue wave of Democrats in the state who are young, and from diverse backgrounds that represent the increasing diversity of Georgia stimulated by its largest city, Atlanta, and the suburban municipalities.

The final election on November 6 will be bloody, but Abrams hopes that the state will bleed blue, as she is the frontrunner for women candidates in the country.

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Kaia Niambi Shivers covers diaspora, news and features.

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