Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has defeated Stacey Abrams in the Georgia governor’s race. Abrams acknowledged the defeat in an appearance in Atlanta Tuesday night, saying she offered “congratulations” to Kemp.
It was the second match-up between Republican Kemp and Democrat Abrams, a former state house majority leader, and the second time Georgia voted against electing a Black woman as governor; Kemp defeated Abrams for the governorship in 2018 as well.
In 2018, Abrams took ten days to acknowledge that Kemp had defeated her. The story was different the second time around.
“I am doing what is clearly the responsible thing,” Abrams said Tuesday night. “I am suspending my campaign for governor.”
After her first gubernatorial loss, Abrams’ star rose in tandem with her organizing strategy. She got significant credit for Democrats’ 2020 wins in the state in the presidential and Senate races, thanks to voting rights and engagement organizations she helped build starting a decade ago. After 2020 seemed to provide proof of concept, the impact of the Stacey Abrams playbook stretched far beyond her home state. Progressives had evidence that, by addressing barriers to voting and activating voters of color, they could swing long-shot states into their column. Still, now that Abrams has come up short for the second time, she and other activists emphasized that the strategy would outlast her candidacy.
“What we architected in this state does not end today … ” she said. “We know Georgia deserves more and whether we do it from the governor’s mansion or from the streets—”
“Streets, baby, streets!” someone yelled, and the crowd cheered wildly.
Kemp shot to national prominence when he refused to help former President Donald Trump overturn the results of the 2020 election. His re-election makes him one of the only Republicans to cross Trump and still keep his job.
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As governor, Kemp last year signed into law Senate Bill 202, a sprawling elections bill that gave voters less time to request absentee ballots, implemented stricter ID requirements in order to do so, penalized groups who send absentee ballot applications to voters who had already requested them themselves and cut the hours of availability for ballot drop boxes. The new law also provided for more hours of early voting in many counties and earlier absentee ballot processing, among other measures. Republican supporters of the law say it improves voting security and this year’s high turnout as proof it hasn’t made it harder for Georgians to vote.
Abrams—and many other progressives—disagree, arguing it suppresses the vote. During her campaign, she kept returning to one refrain: “More people in the water doesn’t mean there are fewer sharks.”
By midnight, Abrams had left her election night party. As the lights came up and the music went off, attendees milled about and hugged each other. Some cried.
Lauren Bonaventura, a volunteer for the campaign, had come to Abram’s election night party knowing she was likely to lose.
“There’s always a small amount of hope that you hang on to,” she says.
Asked why she thought Abrams was running behind the other marquee Democrat on the ballot, Sen. Raphael Warnock, she says, “I hope it’s because people see that Herschel Walker is not a good person.”
Lisa Borders, a longtime friend of Abrams, offers a different explanation for the loss.
“Some of the men I’ve spoken to, a lot of them were in her corner, but others didn’t want a woman telling them what to do,” Borders says. “I’m sorry, I’m gonna call it for what it is, sexism. And this is Georgia. We’re in the South. Men have been at the top of our ticket and the top of everything in this state since time immemorial.”
Borders emphasized that Abrams is young and has plenty of time to do whatever she wants to do next. “I would invite her to rest. Take it down a notch and just rest, and then come back and decide what you want to do.”
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