Who is Stacey Abrams, the Woman Who Helped Joe Biden Turn 'Ruby Red' Georgia Blue?
Stacy Abrams | Image credit: Reuters
Stacey Abrams has had many jobs so far. She has been a tax attorney, a romance novelist, a political scriptwriter, a research assistant, organizer of two voters' drives, and co-producer of a political documentary. She has been the first African-American woman to be nominated in a governor's race. She also started her own businesses -- a bottled-water company for babies and a payment company that helps small businesses. However, her most significant work thus far has been to help Joe Biden win the Presidency by ensuring his victory in Georgia, which had been a republican state until now.
Abrams' Playbook that served as a blueprint for Biden's win
Abrams wasn't even on the ballot, yet locals, as well as people from across the country, showered praises on her as soon as Biden's win was announced. She was, after all, the person responsible for making Biden pay attention to Georgia as a swing state during this election.
In 2019, Abrams, along with her former campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, wrote a 16-page long document that served as a blueprint for Biden and gave insights on strategies that would work for the state of Georgia, where the electorate was leaning towards the democrats but wasn't quite there yet.
More importantly, in her playbook, Abrams strongly made a case for Georgia and why it would emerge as an important battleground during this year's presidential race.
In the playbook, she wrote, "When analyzing next year’s political landscape and electoral opportunities, any less than full investment in Georgia would amount to strategic malpractice. Beyond our organic growth and concomitant efforts to maintain our progress, the volatile national environment, arcane Electoral College system, and limited pathways to pick up U.S. Senate seats make Georgia a must-compete and must-win state. Our work reflects this deep-seated belief in our capacity to be a tipping point in the battle for 2020. We have invested in ourselves, from voter engagement and electoral integrity work to training and funding candidates to secure a role in 2021 redistricting process. However, I take a broad view of 2020, knowing that Georgia is part of a national charge."
The cut-throat race that played out in Georgia between Biden and Trump and the razor-thin margin with which Biden claimed his victory is a testimony of how prophetic Abrams' proclamations were and the reason she could offer such detailed insights about the electorate of Georgia is her years of fight against voters' suppression in the state.
In 2018, Abrams lost the gubernatorial race to then-secretary of state, Brian Kemp, by a narrow margin of only 55,000 votes. During that election, Abrams also noted several discrepancies, with reports claiming that her opponent purged 1.4 million voters from the rolls and canceled numerous voters' registration on the grounds that the person did not vote in the previous election. It served as an eye-opener for Abrams about the deep-rooted voter suppression in Georgia. In her concession speech, she addressed this issue and committed to bringing about 'electoral reforms' in Georgia. Abrams said, "Let's be clear -- this is not a speech of concession, because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper... As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that. But ... the title of governor isn't nearly as important as our shared title -- voters. And that is why we fight on."
"we will channel the work of the past several weeks, into a strong legal demand, for reform of our election systems in Georgia. And, I will not waiver in my commitment, a lived commitment to work across party lines to find a common purpose in protecting our democracy," she added.
Engaging Grassroots and Minorities
It is a commitment Abrams has indeed worked very hard to keep. Before fighting the governor's race in 2018, she served as a minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017 and worked on criminal justice reform. Times reports that she worked across party lines with the Republicans on two occasions during that time -- firstly, to pass the state's largest public transportation spending package, and secondly to co-author legislation to save the HOPE scholarship program from being cut.
However, after the eye-opening governor's race, she furthered the work of The Georgia Project, a voters' drive founded by her in 2013 to encourage voters' registration with another drive called Fair Fight, which ensured that elections are carried out fairly, encouraging voters' participation by educating them about their rights, and advocating electoral reforms.
Since her defeat in 2018, she and a 'consortium of organizations' have brought more than 800,000 new registered voters into the electoral process. In an interview with NPR, Abrams said, " I will say, of those numbers, what we are excited about is that 45% of those new voters are under the age of 30. Forty-nine percent are people of color. And all 800,000 came on the rolls after November '18, which means these are voters who weren't eligible to vote for me but are eligible to participate in this upcoming election."
A report also states that in 2013 "when The New Georgia Project was launched, there were 1.2 million people of color and unmarried women who were eligible to vote but not registered. The organization has pledged to register 1 million people of color by the end of the decade."
Will She Join Biden's administration?
Abrams' organization skills are only matched by her resilience to fight against injustice and discrimination.
Abrams, the second-oldest of six children in her family, and a big fan of star wars, and Supernatural was a girls' scout as a young kid growing up in her native state, Mississippi. In the 80s, she was also selected to attend a girl's scout conference in Arizona. But, few organizers who didn't want a black girl in the conference changed her flight ticket so that she won't be able to attend the event.
Instead of getting deterred by them, Abrams booked a ticket for herself, boarded an aircraft for the first time in her life, and went to Arizona. During a Fundraiser event in 2018, Abrams recounted the incident and said, “There are gonna be a lot of people who try to stop you from getting on that plane...There are a lot of people organizing themselves to make sure I land at the wrong destination. Some folks don’t think it’s time for a black woman to be governor of any state, let alone a state in the Deep South. But there’s no wrong time for a black woman to be in charge.”
A lot has changed since then, and Abrams, who doesn't believe in hiding her ambitions, has expressed her desire to not only be the governor of Georgia but also the United States president someday. It isn't an impossible dream either, given that she was already a contestant in Biden's shortlist of vice-president. In fact, after her stellar work during the 2020 elections, chances are high that she will be offered a role in Biden's administration.
However, she isn't the one to speculate. In a recent interview, she said that while she is grateful for the opportunities coming her way, she would like to wait for 'these opportunities to actually materialize' before she starts deciding.
A graduate of Yale law college and an alumna of the prestigious and historically black, Spelman college, which boasts of alumni like author Alice Walker and activist Bernice King, Abrams have often recounted one particular event in her life, that pushed her towards politics.
As a high school student, she was selected as the valedictorian of her school and was invited to the governor's mansion in Atlanta, along with other valedictorians across the state. She and her parents took a bus to reach the governor's mansion but weren't allowed to enter inside by the guard who thought that they didn't belong there. Although, after an initial argument, the guard finally checked the list, saw her name on it, and allowed her and her parents to enter, she says that she doesn't recall anything from that day -- be it meeting the governor or fellow valedictorians -- but the fact that she was stopped at the gate.
"The only clear memory I have of that day was of a man standing in front of the most powerful place in Georgia, looking at me, and telling me I don't belong. So, I decided some 20 odd years later to be the person who opened the gates," Abrams had previously said in a powerful Ted Talk.
In the last ten years, she has indeed opened many gates, not just for herself but also for many minorities and disenfranchised voters, with her nationwide efforts to get more Americans to have a voice in the democratic process.