Stacey Abrams didn’t just suddenly appear upon the political scene when she officially filed paperwork in early May to enter Georgia’s gubernatorial race. The 43-year-old go-getter is currently the minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives and has served in that top democratic position since 2010. Abrams was initially elected to Georgia’s General Assembly in 2006 and has a habit of making history as she was the first woman to lead either party in the Assembly as well as the first African-American to lead the Georgia House.
Abrams originally hails from Gulfport, Mississippi where she grew up with five other siblings under very modest circumstances. She and her family later relocated to Georgia where her parents pursued graduate studies in Divinity from Emory University and became United Methodist ministers. The young Abrams meanwhile attended DeKalb County Schools, Spelman College, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and Yale Law Schools. While in her third year of law school, Abrams authored her first romance novel under the pen name Selena Montgomery and has since written and published seven others.
Because her parents always insisted on committing their lives to the service and care of others, Abrams too became interested in improving lives of Georgians through work in the areas of government, nonprofit and business. Abrams in 2014 founded the New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan organization aimed at increasing voter turnout and participation among the nearly 800,000 eligible, unregistered African-American, Latino and Asian American citizens of Georgia. Between 2014 and 2016, the organization registered more than 200,000 of these citizens. Abrams is also the co-founder of NOW Account which is a financial services firm that assists small businesses in growing and thriving. Abrams’ sister Leslie Abrams, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Atlanta, was nominated by the President Barack Obama to federal judgeship in Middle Georgia.
During her tenure as a member of the Georgia Assembly, Abrams has championed legislation on topics ranging from Medicaid expansion to training requirements for gun licensing to paid sick leave. She has also built a reputation for her willingness to compromise and work across party lines; a quality which has garnered criticism from her fellow party members. Still Abrams’ record of reaching and turning out non-likely voters in lieu of moving her messaging and political stance to the center has made her a leading party voice and a bit of a political maverick.
She told USA Today of her formula for success in flipping six Republican assembly seats with her minority registration efforts, “I intend to scale our model. You can be talking about White voters who are working multiple jobs to make ends meet, rural Black voters who have faced voter suppression for decades, Latino voters in suburban communities.”
And this is exactly why, her run for governor should not be discounted despite competition from six other democratic candidates including current Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, 12 republican candidates and one third-party candidate. Georgia, a traditionally red state with Metro Atlanta serving as its blue center, has witnessed a steady shift in demographics over the past few years with several counties such as Henry, Rockdale and Gwinnett becoming increasingly diverse and converting voting trends to purple.
Additionally, the Democratic Party has taken note of Georgia’s shifting sands and began to take more action regarding state politics—a trend that has been noted especially in the current contentious and close race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Katherine Handel for the 6th Congressional district. In 2006, a slim 400,000 votes prevented Democrat Mark Taylor from defeated Republican Sonny Perdue. In 2010, a mere 257,000 votes won Republican Nathan Deal the win over Democrat Roy Barnes.
“In two cycles, we cut the margin of victory for Republicans in half. You’re not trying to close a gap of a million voters,” said Abrams. It’s this positive attitude, combined with her growing popularity and solid political resume that just may result in Abrams becoming America’s first Black female governor.