Voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams has officially launched her campaign to run for governor of Georgia, challenging Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who has led voter suppression initiatives in the state over the past year.
As a high-profile Democrat, Abrams is a leading candidate in the race. She previously served as the party’s minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives and has, in recent months, strongly condemned Republicans’ efforts to suppress voting as a backlash to the 2020 election. If elected, she would be the first Black female governor ever to be elected and the first Democrat to hold the governor’s office in the state since 2003.
“Leadership that understands the true pain folks are feeling, and has real plans — that’s the job of governor, to fight for one Georgia, our Georgia,” Abrams said in a video announcing her run. “And now, it’s time to get the job done.”
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If Kemp clinches the Republican primary next year, this will be Abram’s second time running against him. In 2018, she lost by a margin of only 1.4 points. Shortly before the election, however, Kemp purged over half a million voters from voter rolls, leading voters and voting rights advocates to call the results into question.
Thanks to voter suppression efforts by conservatives in the state, access to voting seems like it will be restricted again in 2022. Concerningly, voters have already been affected by Georgia Republicans’ voter suppression bill passed earlier this year, with election officials rejecting absentee ballot applications for this year’s municipal elections at a rate four times higher than in 2020.
This is a manifestation of Republicans ending no-excuse absentee voting in the state; because of this, only 26 percent of people whose applications were rejected ended up casting their vote in person on Election Day.
Abrams has spent the years after her initial run for governor advocating for voting rights. After her run, she launched Fair Fight Action and Fair Count, organizations aimed at combating voter suppression and giving communities of color accurate representation in the 2020 census.
Abrams has specifically rejected Georgia Republicans’ voter suppression laws, saying that the hundreds of voter suppression bills filed in states across the country are “a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie.”
Georgia had record voter turnout in the 2020 election, leading to the state voting blue in the presidential election for the first time since 1992. “The only connection that we can find is that more people of color voted, and it changed the outcome of elections in a direction that Republicans do not like,” Abrams said in March. “Instead of celebrating better access and more participation, their response is to try to eliminate access to voting for, primarily, communities of color.”
Still, Georgia’s blue flip could represent hope for Democrats. The presidential election results and the state’s rejection of both Republican senators up for election in January have signalled, to some Democrats, that the state’s demographic and political shifts could lead to changes in the state at large.
The Republican stronghold over the governorship may still prove a challenge. Kemp enjoys a 44 percent approval rating in the state as of September, with 34 percent disapproval, despite the state’s Republicans gaining national attention earlier this year for their voter suppression efforts. But it’s not clear if Kemp is a shoo-in for the party’s primary, as he lacks the support of former President Donald Trump. Instead, Trump may back a candidate like former Sen. David Perdue, who has had ethics concerns railed against him and who Trump likely views as more loyal to him than Kemp is.