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Stacey Abrams aims to regain the energy of the first campaign

For Stacey Abrams, everything is different this time.

Unlike her first campaign for Georgia governor in 2018, she is running in Tuesday’s primary election as the presumptive Democratic nominee, with no competition. She’s not the relatively unknown former state representative of the first campaign, but one of the leading suffrage advocates, someone credited with laying the groundwork for the organizing for Joe Biden to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia in 28 years.

But the same dynamic that elevated Abrams to national prominence four years ago could be a vulnerability in November’s general election. With her rise, she became a millionaire, something Republicans have pointed to portray her as out of touch, even though the two leading GOP gubernatorial candidates are far wealthier. Donald Trump, who ousted suburban moderates like those in Atlanta from the GOP, is no longer in the White House. Instead, Biden is facing the lowest endorsement count of his presidency, alarming Democrats who fear he could bring down candidates across the country.

If elected, the 48-year-old Abrams would go down in history as the first black woman to lead a state. But to get there, she must tap into the energy that helped drive her rise while avoiding new cross-currents that could backfire.

“I’m not going to water it down: we have fundamental headwinds,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo, campaign manager for Abrams. “We have quite a history of Democrats struggling to win midterms.”

Abrams’ fate could hinge on who Republicans choose as their nominee on Tuesday. If they side with incumbent Governor Brian Kemp, the race would be a rematch of the bitter 2018 campaign, which Abrams lost by 1.4 percentage points. She was defiant at the time, acknowledging Kemp as the winner but refusing to concede the race, citing “gross mismanagement” in his role as secretary of state overseeing the election.

If Kemp is the candidate, he would again have the advantage of a powerful position. He pushed tons of legislation through a GOP-led General Assembly and unveils big economic developments, like a $5.5 billion, 8,100-job Hyundai Motor plant he announced near Savannah on Friday.

Polls so far this year show a close race, with Kemp narrowly ahead if he is the nominee. In 2018, polls generally concluded the race was roughly even, though few polls were taken earlier in the year, reflecting a national political establishment that did not believe Abrams could win.

Abrams and other Democrats say they will be ready if David Perdue wins the GOP nomination. Trump personally recruited the former US senator to challenge Kemp after the incumbent governor refused to go along with Trump’s efforts to overturn Georgia’s election results.

But Abrams is eager to attack Kemp, with Groh-Wargo noting that Kemp is now an incumbent with a record and saying “his record is quite out of step with Georgia voters.”

These attacks can be lacerating. At a Democratic dinner Saturday in suburban Gwinnett County, Abrams proclaimed that “I’m sick of hearing about being the best state in the country to do business when we’re the worst state in the country. or live”.

Republicans rushed to the remark on Sunday, a likelihood Abrams acknowledged even as she delivered it, saying “let me contextualize” and saying that when Georgia has a dismal ranking for access to mental health and maternal mortality, “then you’re not the No. 1 place to live.”

“Georgia is capable of greatness, we just need greatness to be in our governor’s office,” Abrams said. “We need someone who truly believes in bringing us all together.”

Abrams regularly hammers home his main issue — a call for the full expansion of Medicaid to provide health insurance to uninsured adults in Georgia. But there’s a whole new set of problems, including crime, education and inflation.

On public safety, Abrams plans to hit Kemp for his successful attempt to abolish the requirement for a license to carry concealed handguns in public. And with the Supreme Court likely to strike down a national abortion right, Kemp is also likely to face criticism for signing a now-frozen law that would ban abortions after six weeks in Georgia. Groh-Wargo argues that concern over abortion rights will motivate many Democrats.

Many Georgia Democrats believe 2022 is their destiny year. This is partly because they believe the state, on the cusp of being majority non-white, continues to have a Democratic bent.

“We’re ready to show everyone that this wasn’t a fluke, this wasn’t just an election cycle and this wasn’t about Donald Trump,” he said. said U.S. Representative Nikema Williams of Atlanta, also chairwoman of the Democratic Party. of Georgia, told reporters at a recent state party dinner.

Even some Republicans say they think Abrams is well placed. Republican pollster Matt Towery said Georgia’s changing population and the enthusiasm of black voters to vote for Abrams and U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock makes it “extremely difficult for a Republican to win.”

“I’ve always said that I believe she will be the frontrunner in the race, regardless of which GOP candidate wins the nomination,” Towery said.

But ignoring Republicans would be a mistake, said Martha Zoller, talk show host and former Republican candidate nominated to the State Board of Education by Kemp. She said Abrams was susceptible to attack because he was more focused on national influence than Georgia.

“She’s looking so much beyond the governorship and thinking about running for president that she’s not doing the job she has to do to be governor,” Zoller said.

To help offset this, Abrams tried to stay out of national politics. She was conspicuously absent in January as Biden drove through Atlanta to push for the vote, citing a scheduling conflict. More recently, her campaign ran ads trying to highlight what she was doing outside of politics, including her business record and work on COVID-19 relief.

“Our mission is to define Stacey before someone else has a chance to undermine her or define her here in an inaccurate way,” Groh-Wargo said.

Abrams has another potential advantage: disunity within the Republican Party.

Both Kemp and Perdue cast their gubernatorial bids as a mission to “stop Stacey,” and the strong turnout in the GOP primary suggests that many Republicans have overcome Trump-inspired apprehensions about the vote. But questions will remain whether Kemp, if he wins, can achieve the overwhelming party unity and participation that might be needed to defeat Abrams, which will be especially true if Trump continues to criticize Kemp.

For now, however, the race for the general election has barely begun. But what’s different this time is that Abrams won’t surprise anyone. When she says she’s ready to win, people believe her.

“We win together, we lose together, we fall together or we rise together. And we’re a rising party, we’re a rising people,” Abrams said at the state party dinner. “Now is our time and now is our moment and we are democrats because we can see the future.”

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.




The Independent Gt

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