She may have lost her 2018 bid for the Georgia governorship, but Stacey Abrams remains a tenacious force in American politics. Although she does not currently hold political office, many have speculated she could be a contender for Senate, president or another office in 2020.
Whether or not she decides to return to the campaign trail, here are five things you should know about Stacey Abrams:
1. Upbringing and Education
Stacey Abrams was raised with her five siblings in Gulfport, Mississippi, a home she says was often lacking in money but always wealthy in books. Her parents– a shipyard worker and a college librarian– became United Methodist ministers, and taught their children to love learning, be faithful, and show compassion to the less fortunate. It was because of her parents’ commitment to giving her better educational opportunities, Abrams says, that the family later moved to Georgia.
Abrams is a graduate of Spelman College, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and Yale Law School. After finishing her education, she worked as a tax attorney, a romance novelist, a businesswoman, and the Deputy City Attorney of Atlanta.
2. Political Career in Georgia
Abrams was sworn into the Georgia House of Representatives in January 2007. In 2010, she was elected minority leader by the Georgia House Democrats, becoming the first black person ever to lead in the House of Representatives. Abrams served on the Appropriations, Ethics, Judiciary Non-Civil, Rules and Ways & Means committees. She gained a reputation for effective bipartisanship after collaborating with Republicans to reform the HOPE Scholarship program and was admired by her fellow lawmakers for her intellect and negotiation skills.
3. 2018 Gubernatorial Race
During her bid for the Georgia governorship, Abrams ran on promises to increase affordable housing, advance criminal justice reform, improve public education, and expand Medicaid, among other progressive goals. In the Democratic primary, she easily beat out her opponent Stacey Evans. The following race against then secretary of state Brian Kemp was much tighter, and Abrams ultimately lost having earned 48.8 percent of the votes. The results were fraught with controversy as allegations of voter suppression were leveled at Kemp, who still served as Georgia’s chief elections officer until the election was over.
4. Voting Rights Advocacy
In the wake of Kemp’s controversial victory, Fair Fight Action— a voting rights advocacy group founded by Abrams– filed a lawsuit against Georgia election officials. Aimed at revamping the state’s election system in advance of the 2020 elections, the lawsuit argued that the current election system infringed upon the voting rights of people of color. Whether the lawsuit will be successful remains to be seen.
This is not the first time Stacey Abrams has advocated for increased civic engagement. Between 2014 and 2016, Abrams’s New Georgia Project helped register more than 200,000 voters, mainly voters of color. During her gubernatorial run, Abrams promised to ease the registration process, veto gerrymandered districts, and replace outdated voting machines if she became governor.
5. Democratic Response to 2019 State of the Union
Abrams is such a big political star, she was chosen to deliver the Democratic party’s response to State of the Union address this year, becoming the first black woman ever to carry out this tradition.
During her speech, she touched upon immigration, gun control, the economy, health care, reproductive rights, and more, articulating progressive stances on all these issues. She called out President Trump for causing the longest government shutdown in U.S. history and hurting federal workers in the process. She condemned politically-motivated challenges to voting rights and called upon all Americans to confront racism head-on.
Abrams also struck a tone of bipartisanship, citing her history of reaching across the aisle in the Georgia legislature. She professed that although she does not approve of Trump’s approach to the country’s problems, she does not want him to fail. “But,” she said, “we need him to tell the truth and to respect his duties and respect the extraordinary diversity that defines America.”