If Democrat Joe Biden goes on to win Georgia, political observers say he’ll have one person to thank more than anyone else: former state gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
Abrams burst onto the national scene in 2018 when she narrowly lost the governor’s race to Republican Brian Kemp, falling just short in her bid to make history as the nation’s first Black female governor.
The former state legislator then launched the voting rights group Fair Fight, which went on to register some 800,000 new voters, Newsweek reported.
Now that effort’s paying dividends, with Biden as of Friday holding a slim lead in Georgia, a state that hasn’t swung Democratic in a presidential election since 1992.
Victory, however, is far from certain.
“With a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia,” said Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a briefing Friday.
But amid the uncertainty, Abrams’s contributions have remained front and center in the online dialogue about the unprecedented race for the White House.
“Whatever happens in Georgia, everyone should get on their knees and thank strong Black women like the fearless @staceyabrams and so many who slog away without appreciation—and then we should pass real policies that benefit them,” US Representative Pramila Jayapal, a progressive Democrat from Washington, tweeted on Wednesday.
Whatever happens in Georgia, everyone should get on their knees and thank strong Black women like the fearless @staceyabrams and so many who slog away without appreciation—and then we should pass real policies that benefit them. This all may come down to Georgia & Arizona.— Pramila Jayapal (@PramilaJayapal) November 5, 2020
Abrams, a former Democratic leader in her state Legislature, has long been laying the groundwork for her party’s stunning gains in Georgia.
“Back in 2019, I met with every major candidate who was running for president and I had two messages,” Abrams told Politico in a recent interview. “One, voter suppression is real and it’s one of the reasons that we lost across the country. But two, Georgia is a competitive state and it would be malpractice to not pay attention. Luckily both of those messages broke through.”
Politico reported that Abrams and her campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, in September 2019 drew up an influential 16-page document detailing trends in the state that could help Democrats.
The report noted, among other things, that recent arrivals to the state had skewed overwhelmingly Democratic in recent years.
“Voters of all races who had lived in Georgia for less than 10 years voted for Stacey Abrams by a whopping 30-point margin, 65% to 35%, according to a CNN exit poll,” the report said. “Each person who moves to Georgia and votes is almost twice as likely to vote Democratic than Republican.”
The report also said “the white share of the electorate had been steadily declining,” and the “African American share had been significantly growing,” as had the share of other voters of color and those who declined to disclose their race.
“In Georgia, as in other states, race is often the strongest predictor of political leanings, which means that effective engagement of voters of color, increased turnout of white voters with Democratic leanings and high turnout rates overall could tip the scales,” the report said.
As those scales increasingly look like they may tip the Democrats way in her state, Abrams continues to receive praise online. The state will continue to play an important political role, because it appears two US Senate runoffs will take place there in January.
“On this day we remember Saint John Lewis, and his incarnation in @staceyabrams," Neal Katyal, former acting solicitor general in the Obama administration, tweeted on Friday morning, referring to the late congressman and civil rights icon from Georgia. “Lots of work to do but they have paved the way.”
Sue Bird, a WNBA star, also lauded Abrams Friday, tweeting, “Thank you @staceyabrams YOU’RE FLIPPING GEORGIA.”
Said Dr. Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean of Emory University’s School of Medicine & Grady Health System in Atlanta, via Twitter Friday: “As @JoeBiden pulled ahead in GA this morning I stopped to visit @repjohnlewis on my way to work to pay tribute to a great man who work to ensure the right to vote a legacy now in the hands of @staceyabrams. ‘The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have.’”
As @JoeBiden pulled ahead in GA this morning I stopped to visit @repjohnlewis on my way to work to pay tribute to a great man who work to ensure the right to vote a legacy now in the hands of @staceyabrams “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have”. pic.twitter.com/u4p2VYOoSd— Carlos del Rio (@CarlosdelRio7) November 6, 2020
Abrams, though, credited others for her party’s gains in the state.
“So many deserve credit for 10yrs to new Georgia,” she tweeted Friday, listing a number of non-profits and supporters before singling out “Always John Lewis. Charge any omissions to my head. My heart is full.”
She continued, “Georgia, let’s shout out those who’ve been in the trenches and deserve the plaudits for change.”
So many deserve credit for 10yrs to new Georgia: @gwlauren @fairfightaction @nseufot @NewGAProject @AAAJ_Atlanta @GALEOorg @BlackVotersMtr Helen Butler @GeorgiaDemocrat @RebeccaDeHart DuBose Porter @DPGChair. Always John Lewis. Charge any omissions to my head. My heart is full.💙— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) November 6, 2020
Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, responded via Twitter with encouraging words for Abrams and her allies.
“Change is the result of work,” Ifill wrote. “Dedication, vision and work. Lifting all of you up today @staceyabrams.”