How Stacey Abrams – policy wonk, lawyer, romance novelist, prodigious fund raiser and Democratic rising star – led the fight against voter suppression in Georgia and kicked Brian Kemp’s butt.
In 2018, just 55,000 votes prevented Stacy Abrams from becoming the first Black woman governor of Georgia. The gubernatorial election narrowly went to then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp who had refused to recuse himself even though he’d been in charge of Georgia’s voting apparatus since 2010.
“Kemp’s actions during the election were textbook voter suppression.”DERRICK JOHNSON, NAACP PRESIDENT
As you can imagine, this was a big deal and drew national attention for some undeniably valid reasons. As secretary of State since 2010, Kemp had had eight years to fashion an electorate to his liking. He did so by purging 1.4 million voters from the rolls, placing thousands of registrations on hold and overseeing the closure or relocation of nearly half of the state’s precincts and polling sites – nearly all of them in non-white neighborhoods.
“I have a pickup truck big enough to round up criminal illegals.”BRIAN KEMP, GOVERNOR OF GEORGIA
According to American Public Media, Georgia is the only state that implemented all five of the most common voter-suppression tactics: Purges, cuts in early voting, polling-site closures, voter ID laws, and onerous proof of citizenship requirements.
Stacy Abrams cried foul all along but lost anyway to the guy who oversaw (many say rigged) the election. That didn’t deter Abrams. A few weeks after she narrowly lost her bid for governor, Abrams spoke to a sold-out crowd in Nashville about her journey from despondency (at which time she binge-watched Dr. Who) to determination. “Revenge,” said Abrams, “can be very cathartic.”
“There had been civil rights organizations registering voters year after year, but Stacey brought the game to scale.”NIKEMA WILLIAMS, 5TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
While Abrams skyrocketed to fame during the 2018 election, she had been working much of the decade laying the groundwork for Democratic successes. And we’re not just talking Georgia. Her grass roots efforts were pivotal to flipping Wisconsin and other battleground states in favor of Joe Biden.
On the heels of her loss in 2018, she built the Fair Fight voting rights group into one of Georgia’s foremost political powers. It is believed that Abrams was responsible for registering somewhere around 800,000 disenfranchised voters in Georgia’s 2020 election– an election that relied on minority and low-frequency voters.
“The energy we get here in Georgia is something I’ve never seen before.”MR. GARDNER, GEORGIA RESIDENT
Georgia, a reliable GOP stronghold for the past 30 years flipped blue in the 2020 presidential race electing Joe Biden and, after a hotly contested runoff election in January, gave Georgia’s two senate seats to the Dems – turning Georgia a lovely shade of blue.
“Stacey gave us the hope to believe that we have power in our voices.”NIKEMA WILLIAMS, CHAIR OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF GEORGIA
Now this is the really tasty revenge part – After passing on a U.S. Senate run for herself, Abrams recruited the Rev. Raphael Warnock to run for the open seat against Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler. Loeffler was Kemp’s hand-picked selection for the seat (and his lame attempt to win back moderate women fleeing the party of Trump). Warnock’s victory dealt a devastating blow to Kemp’s clout and weakened his standing among state Republicans.
“Brian Kemp is the governor of the Titanic.”DEBBIE DOOLEY, PRESIDENT OF THE ATLANTA TEA PARTY
The significance of the Georgia Senate election cannot be overstated. The double wins flipped control of the Senate to the Democrats thereby giving Joe Biden a fair shot at implementing at least some of his agenda.
“Rarely does one person deserve such disproportionate credit for major progress and change.”SUSAN RICE, FORMER US AMBASSADOR AND LEADER OF THE WHITE HOUSE DOMESTIC POLICY COUNCIL
Will Abrams run for governor against Brian Kemp again in 2022? She declines to look that far into the future. But one thing we do know for sure is that the country owes Stacey Abrams a massive debt of gratitude.
“History is made by those who show up, not just on Election Day but every day.”STACEY ABRAMS