Stacey Abrams, the 44-year-old Spelman graduate, shocked the political establishment when she beat out her opponent, former state Rep. Stacey Evans, to win the Georgia Democratic gubernatorial primary.
Abrams, will now face off against a Republican in the general election in November. If she is successful, she will become the nation’s first Black female governor.
“We are writing the next chapter of Georgia history, where no one is unseen, no one is unheard and no one is uninspired,” said Abrams, a 1995 graduate of the historically Black women’s college in Atlanta.
Prior to her run for office, Abrams served as the minority leader of the Georgia Statehouse and garnered the support of Hillary Clinton and presidential hopefuls Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris.
Still, Abrams has an uphill battle. A Democrat has not held the governor’s mansion since 2003.
It is unclear who Abrams will run against. Lt. Gov Casey Cagle won the Republican primary on Tuesday, but will face Georgia’s secretary of state Brian Kemp in a run-off on July 24.
Dr. Khalilah L. Brown-Dean, an associate professor of political science at Quinnipiac University said that she is encouraged by Abrams’ win.
“The strength of Abrams’ victory in the primary rests on her ability to take her message directly to voters and communities who have traditionally been exercised out of the political process,” said Brown-Dean “In plain language and with a stellar resume she has connected with voters for whom student loan debt feels like a behemoth they can’t shake. Working class people see in her, a candidate who shares their values that aren’t bound by urban versus rural versus suburban distinctions.”
Brown-Dean said that the path to victory in the general election will be tenuous and no one should assume that her win on Tuesday signals the end of vicious battles over race, class, and gender that have long characterized Georgia politics.
“Quite the contrary,” said Brown-Dean. “Instead Abrams rests not as an anomaly but as an exemplar of public officials who can connect grassroots mobilization with a strategic vision and an ambitious political agenda.”
Dr. Ravi Perry, associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at Virginia Commonwealth University said that Abrams’ win is significant, adding that while her victory was not a surprise to pollsters and close campaign observers, her margin of victory with 53% suggests that she and her message has broad appeal.
“Her strategy has significant implications for a state, region, and country where race has been central to its politics from the beginning,” said Perry. “Her campaign has sought to mobilize Black voters rather than reaching out to moderate swing voters. This strategy worked for Obama. It worked in Alabama for U.S. Senator Doug Jones. It worked in Virginia state elections last November (where the chamber in the capital of the confederacy was one vote shy of a Democratic majority – the largest turnover in seats in the state legislature in several generations), and it worked in a number of southern cities in the south enjoying Black progressive leadership, including Atlanta. Birmingham, Jackson, Charlotte, New Orleans, and Richmond to name a few.”
Perry said that Abrams has not run from either wing of the Democratic Party – suggesting that a unified Party can win big in regions where the population is diverse in every way – from liberal city dwellers to rural farmers.
“She has made a point to acknowledge the Clintons, the Obamas, and Senator [Bernie] Sanders,” said Perry. “With this approach, she both minimizes the differences, and brings everyone in the Party that has struggled for a Trump era identity, together.”
Perry said that Abrams has been successful in galvanizing the young vote as well.
“Her ability to understand, relate to, and energize young voters is central to her chances of winning,” he said. “And, her candidacy highlights how much progress the Democratic Party can make by investing in younger candidates for public office.”