Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat and leading voting rights activist, has announced she will launch another campaign to become the nation’s first Black woman governor.
In a video announcing her candidacy, Abrams said “opportunity and success in Georgia shouldn’t be determined by background or access to power”.
Without serious competition in a Democratic primary, the announcement could set up a rematch between Abrams and the incumbent Republican governor, Brian Kemp. Their 2018 contest was one of the most narrowly decided races for governor that year and was dominated by allegations of voter suppression.
Yet Abrams’ strong showing convinced national Democrats that Georgia should no longer be written off as a GOP stronghold. Her performance and subsequent organization convinced Joe Biden to invest heavily in the state in 2020, and he became the first Democratic presidential candidate to capture it since 1992. The party later won a narrow Senate majority after victories in two special elections in the state.
The 2022 governor’s race will test whether those gains were a one-time phenomenon driven by discomfort with Donald Trump or marked the beginning of a more consequential political shift in a rapidly growing and diversifying south.
Abrams, 47, ran in 2018 as an unapologetic progressive, embracing the expansion of Medicaid access, something a series of Republican governors have refused to do, and supporting abortion rights.
Abrams was defiant in the face of the 2018 loss, acknowledging Kemp as the victor but refusing to concede the race, citing “gross mismanagement” in his role as secretary of state overseeing the election. She accused Kemp of using his office to aggressively purge the rolls of inactive voters, enforce an “exact match” policy for checking voters’ identities that left thousands of registrations in limbo and pass other measures to tilt the outcome in his favor. Kemp has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
After the election, Abrams started Fair Fight, an organizing group that has raised more than $100m and built a statewide political operation that registered hundreds of thousands of new voters in Georgia. The state saw record-breaking turnout in the 2020 presidential race and January Senate runoff elections.
Now, Abrams and Kemp look like they may face a rematch in a new political climate. For one, Kemp faces opposition from Trump and his most loyal GOP supporters for not supporting the former president’s baseless argument that he was cheated out of reelection through massive voter fraud, including in Georgia. Election officials conducted three recounts in the state, each of which affirmed Biden’s victory.
Kemp’s disavowal of problems in Georgia’s election results did not stop him from pushing through restrictive changes to voting laws in response to Trump’s 2020 national defeat. Many Democrats are worried that Georgia’s new law, which gives the GOP-controlled legislature more control over elections officials, will reverse Abrams’ years of fighting voter suppression. Democrats, meanwhile, hope the new voting law will invigorate supporters and make them even more determined to go to the polls.
Since 2018, Abrams was named to Time magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people.She wrote two books, including a legal thriller, and conducted a 12-city speaking tour. She considered a run for president in 2020 before eventually deciding against it. When Biden became the nominee, she openly lobbied to be his running mate, a position that ultimately went to Kamala Harris.