Stacey Abrams became Georgia’s first female gubernatorial nominee on Tuesday night after winning the state’s Democratic primary, The Associated Press reported. And if she wins the election in November, she would be the nation’s first black, female governor.
But Abrams could have a tough race ahead of her, as she will be vying to lead a state with mostly Republican elected officials, analysts told Politico.
She told McClatchy DC in April that her approach to winning an election is “to do the opposite of what has caused us to fail for the last 15 years.” In order to re-energize Democratic voters, the party has to stop watering down its values, compromising its principles and even changing its language to win over Republicans, she said.
The strategy appears to have worked for Abrams in the primary, according to Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC.
“Stacey Abrams won this election because she reached out and engaged communities of color, particularly black voters, on the issues that they care about," Shropshire told NBC News. "This historic victory is a model for candidates all across the country."
Abrams' opponent, Stacey Evans, a white woman, sought to appeal to moderates and independents during her campaign, CNN reported. Abrams, 44, didn’t shy away from race in the primary, making the message of minority empowerment the focal point in her campaign, New York Magazine reported.
The daughter of a librarian and dockworker, Abrams was born in Mississippi in 1973 and grew up in poverty with her five siblings, the publication reported. Her parents studied divinity at Emory University.
Abrams went on to earn degrees from Spelman College, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas and Yale Law School, according to her campaign website. During her time at Spelman, she became a burgeoning young activist amid the Rodney King protests and riots in 1992, according to Mother Jones.
She's written several romance novels under the name Selena Montgomery. Her new self-help book, "Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change," came out last month, with her real name on the cover, Mother Jones reported.
Abrams also co-founded Nourish Inc., a beverage company that focuses on infants and toddlers.
Her financial situation came under scrutiny during her campaign — the gubernatorial hopeful is more than $100,000 in debt. But Abrams wrote in a Forbes op-ed in April that she's one of many Americans weighed down by debt.
Abrams worked in Atlanta as a tax attorney, then as the city's deputy city attorney before joining the Georgia Legislature in 2007. She became House minority leader in 2011, serving until 2017, according to Ballotpedia. And she’s the first woman to lead either party in the state’s General Assembly and the first African-American to lead in the state House, according to her House biography.
Democrats are hoping Abrams will be the key to gaining a stronger foothold in Georgia, Politico reported. But it won’t be easy.
"If you're going to flip Georgia, it's going to take months and months of grass-roots organizing and national visibility as well as surrogates coming in," said Quentin James, a co-founder of Collective PAC, an organization that supports African-American candidates. “That level of muscle is critically needed, not just for the primary, but also to build the kind of momentum and energy needed between now and Election Day,” he told Politico.
Of the 107 women serving in the 115th U.S. Congress, fewer than half are women of color, according to Rutgers' Center for Women in American Politics.
Abrams and whoever wins the Republican nomination will seek the seat of term-limited Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who’s been in office since 2011, The Associated Press reported. Republican candidates Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp failed to get more than 50 percent of the vote, so they’ll face a runoff on July 24, the AP said.