Stacey Abrams: The Political Strategist Who Won Georgia

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Hayden Thompson, Reporter

The recent Senate victories of Democratic candidates, Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, mark Georgia’s political transformation from a solid red state to a purple state and set up a democratic majority in the Senate for President Joe Biden. The Senate majority will likely help the new Commander-in-Chief pass his legislative agenda. The credit for Warnock and Ossoff’s win went to one person broadly acknowledged for Georgia’s new political identity: Stacey Abrams. 

Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia state House, has dedicated the majority of her political career to fighting against voter suppression, starting with her New Georgia Project. Now, she advocates through Fair Flight, the voting rights organization that “promote[s] fair elections in Georgia and around the country, encourage[s] voter participation in elections, and educate[s] voters about elections and their voting rights.”

In a recent interview with NBC, Steve Phillips, the host of a color-conscious political podcast, recalled the time when he first met Abrams in 2012. At the time, Abrams was the house minority leader in Georgia and first pitched her plan to increase voter turnout.

Phillips spoke to Abrams’ voter plan, saying, “It was a very methodical, step-by-step, year-by-year plan that had…voting power in numbers of people of color… and African-Americans in particular.” 

Impressed by both her intellect and strategy, Phillips added that Abrams was “one of the smartest, most strategic and data-driven people that [he had] met in national politics.”  

Like other relics of the Jim Crow South, Georgia has long-standing policies and practices that effectively suppress voting power. Abrams’ plan has greatly assisted voters to overcome these barriers ensuring that everyone had a chance to cast their ballot. 

Less than a decade later, Abrams’ plan came to fruition with Georgia becoming a key state in both the presidential and senate elections. The Peach State made history by electing Joe Biden, who became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since 1992. Additionally, Ossoff and Rev. Warnock represented the diversity of their party’s evolving identity, by defeating the incumbent Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. 

Abrams’ voter efforts were instrumental in Warnock and Ossoff’s senate victories, with Ossoff defeating Perdue by roughly fifty-five thousand votes, an 0.8% margin, and Warnock defeating Loeffler by ninety-four thousand votes, a 2% margin.

Warnock, who served at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the same Atlanta church where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, became the first African American senator from Georgia. Ossoff became the state’s first Jewish senator and the Senate’s youngest member, at 33 years old.

By adopting a strategy that Black Voters Matter founder LaTosha Brown called “meeting voters where they are,” voting rights activists in Georgia spent months traveling to typically low-turnout areas to knock on doors, register voters, and combat an onslaught of misinformation. 

Several advocates say these get-out-the-vote efforts were effective in driving Black voters to the polls, as the push for voters in the Senate runoff resulted in an incredible turnout. According to a state vote tracker, more than 100,000 Georgians who didn’t vote in the presidential election requested a mail-in ballot for the Senate runoff.

While the 2020 elections have concluded, Abrams continues to expand the Fair Fight organization, and some speculate that she will make a run for governor again in 2022. These elections were a test of whether her mobilization efforts would be able to flip Georgia’s status from a solid red state to a purple, or even blue state. If she wins, she would be the first Black female governor in American history.