Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat and leading voting rights activist, said Wednesday that she will launch another campaign to become the nation’s first Black woman governor.
Without serious competition in a Democratic primary, the announcement could set up a rematch between Abrams and incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. Their 2018 contest was one of the most narrowly decided races for governor that year and was dominated by allegations of voter suppression, which Kemp denied.
Yet Abrams’ strong showing convinced national Democrats that Georgia should no longer be written off as a GOP stronghold. Her performance and subsequent organization convinced Joe Biden to invest heavily in the state in 2020, and he became the first Democratic presidential candidate to capture it since 1992. The party later won a narrow Senate majority after victories in two special elections in the state.
The 2022 governor’s race will test whether those gains were a one-time phenomenon driven by discomfort with then-President Donald Trump or marked the beginning of a more consequential political shift in a rapidly growing and diversifying South.
In a video announcing her candidacy, Abrams said “opportunity and success in Georgia shouldn’t be determined by background or access to power.”
Kemp said in a statement that Abrams was on a “never-ending campaign for power” in an attempt to become president, linking her to what he said was the “failed Biden agenda.”
Georgia remains narrowly divided, and voters often reject the president’s party during the first election of their presidency. But in abandoning nods at centrism, Abrams insists Democrats can attract new voters, including recent transplants to the booming Atlanta area, Black voters who hadn’t participated in previous elections and younger, more liberal white voters.
Although Kemp defeated her by 1.4 percentage points, Abrams won 778,000 more votes than the previous Democrat to run for governor.
Abrams was defiant in the face of the 2018 loss, acknowledging Kemp as the victor but refusing to concede the race, citing “gross mismanagement” in his role as secretary of state overseeing the election. She accused Kemp of using his office to aggressively purge the rolls of inactive voters, enforce an “exact match” policy for checking voters’ identities that left thousands of registrations in limbo and pass other measures to tilt the outcome in his favor.
Kemp has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
After the election, Abrams started Fair Fight, an organizing group that has raised more than $100 million and built a statewide political operation that registered hundreds of thousands of new voters in Georgia. The state saw record-breaking turnout in the 2020 presidential race and January Senate runoff elections.
Now, Abrams and Kemp look like they may face a rematch in a new political climate. Trump, who campaigned for Kemp in 2018, is now one of the governor’s most vocal critics. The former president held a rally in the state in September, pointedly inviting former U.S. Sen. David Perdue to run against Kemp and sarcastically suggesting to the crowd that he would prefer Abrams to the incumbent governor.
Abrams faces vulnerabilities on several fronts. Her national stature could raise questions that she’s more interested in eventually seeking higher office than in running the state.