ATLANTA (AP) – Stacey Abrams announced the highly anticipated second run for Georgia’s governor this week, but with Democrats facing an unfavorable national situation and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp facing challenges within his party, the 2022 campaign will be different from campaigns of 2018.
Abrams’ slight loss, highlighted by her claims that Kemp used her previous job as secretary of state to unfairly alienate voters, led her to national glory a year later, when national Democrats capitalized on the unpopularity of then-President Donald Trump.
Abrams’ claim that Georgia could be drawn into the Democratic column by focusing on registering and mobilizing infrequent Democratic-oriented voters was confirmed in 2020, when Joe Biden won Georgia with about 12,000 votes, and in 2021, when John Ossoff and Rafael Warnock won the second round. transfer control of the US Senate to the Democrats.
But the political wave seems to be going against Biden and other Democrats, with low poll approval ratings and electoral losses in Virginia.
“Conditions for Democrats are dire,” said Brian Robinson, who advises Republican candidates in Georgia. “This is a terrible dynamic for Stacey Abrams, and she wants to be president, not governor. If she loses twice, she’s toast. She’s taking risks – it’s a big game. “
Georgia voters who can change their minds are mostly suburbanites with higher education. But the Democrats argue that the majority of Georgia’s voters are firmly committed to their party preferences, and the main thing is to get you to vote. Abrams and her supporters argue that advocacy and focusing on issues will be more important than national headwinds.
“In 2020 and 2021, I saw that when people are approached, when we talk to them and meet with them where they are, they will vote and they will appear,” Abrams told WXIA-TV on Thursday.
Nse Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project, a voter mobilization group founded by Abrams, pointed to the success of black and more liberal candidates in some of Georgia’s municipal elections this year, although more conservative candidates prevailed in some Atlanta suburbs. These elections are non-partisan, although party affiliation is often widely known.
“In fact,” said Ufot, “the election proved that Virginia is not Georgia.”
Part of the Democratic argument is that Georgia’s population growth is driven by non-whites, putting the state on the brink of winning a non-white majority in the 2020 census. This is due in part to the rise of African Americans, but also due to the rapid increase in the number of Hispanics and Asians.
“What sets Georgia apart is the demographic and party trajectory that has pushed the state towards democrats over the past 10 years,” Robinson said.
But Republicans will also try to maximize their turnout, especially among whites in the suburbs and rural areas, and Emory University political scientist Andra Gillespie said Georgia’s democratic advantage is not guaranteed.
“There will come a time when Republicans will win elections and Democrats will win elections,” she said.
Gillespie said it was inevitable that the Georgia governor’s race would be “nationalized because of the polarized moment in which we find ourselves politically.”
Abrams wants to draw attention to Kemp’s track record, arguing that his failure to expand Medicaid to more low-income adults and his opposition to COVID-19 restrictions prove that, deep down, he doesn’t care about the best interests of Georgians.
“We have a current governor who has let the people of Georgia down, who left too many communities behind when the pandemic broke out, that he seems to be ignoring the real pain that hurts families and areas of the state, and that he seems to be focused on those who agree with him, ”Abrams told WXIA-TV.
But Kemp is more than willing to fight on that basis, betting that his COVID-19 record, low unemployment rate and massive teacher salary increases will appeal to the voters he needs.
“This is what we’re going to remind people of, this is that record,” Kemp told reporters Thursday. “This is what I’m going to work on.”
Unlike 2018, Abrams has no declared opposition and is likely to move on to the Democratic nomination for the May primaries. But Kemp is under siege by Trump and his supporters, who believe the governor hasn’t done enough to topple Biden’s victory in Georgia in 2020. Republican Vernon Jones is already among those challenging Kemp, but he faces a greater threat that former Republican Senator David Purdue might enter the race.
Kemp and his supporters are making it clear that they will fight Purdue if necessary, and that a fierce primaries could pave the way for Abrams’ victory.
“So anyone else who wants to race should ask them why, why are they going to do it? Kemp said Thursday. “Don’t they like how big our economy is?”
Democrats are eagerly hoping that the Republican Party will not be able to heal its wounds over Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of being stripped of his vote by Georgia.
“I don’t know what the mess will be,” said Abrams spokesman Seth Bringman. “I know our side will be united and I know this is important.”
But for Kemp, joining Abrams is a chance to call the GOP to his side.
“I think it brings Republicans together because we know we are not going to have to face the radicals of Georgia,” Kemp said. “This will be the Hollywood crowd and everyone else will be pouring money in here.”
Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.