Georgia Governorship: Stacey Abrams to run again in 2022
BY WILL ALLEN
Stacey Abrams, pictured here in October 2021 in Arizona, is widely credited with being crucial to making Georgia more of a Democratic state.
Stacey Abrams is running for governor again in 2022. The announcement that took place on the 1st December comes from a Georgia Democrat who has been catapulted to national prominence in just three years after she ran a close race in the 2018 Governor’s election. With Abrams’s announcement, the race looked set to rerun a high-stakes election between Abrams and the current Republican governor Brian Kemp, her former opponent. Such rematch speculation was however disrupted by another announcement on Monday 6th December. After rumour and speculat
ion Republican David Perdue a former Georgia senator who lost re-election in January – due in part to the work of Abrams – announced he would join the Republican primary against Kemp.
Even before the November 2022 midterms commence, the state of Georgia is set to hold a blockbuster set of elections – consequential party primaries. For Abrams the path to the party nomination looks clear, a high-profile Democratic challenger will be hard to come by in this primary field. No other Democrat appears to be seriously considering entering a Democratic primary after Abrams’ entry. After all, Abrams has an impressive record when it comes to helping elect candidates from the state – over the years she has secured victories for a host of down ballot candidates, set up Fair Fight (an organisation for the advancement of voting rights), and most recently played a central role in the election of Georgia’s two freshman Democratic senators. As a party the Democrats appear ready, united behind her candidacy, going all in on supporting this second bid.
Across the party divide, the Republican primary is a growing brawl. Brian Kemp, the incumbent governor, would usually sail through such a process with little to no opposition. Yet, the Republican party continues to splinter over the 2020 election and the many falsehoods perpetuated by its former leader and one-term president: Donald Trump. To this day Kemp remains a stalwart supporter of the former president. However, Trump has made it abundantly clear the support is not mutual. Back in 2020, Governor Kemp was pestered by the ex-president to call a special legislative session with one aim – overturning the result. The Governor refused and Trump petulantly parted ways with Kemp over the certification of the 2020 election. In this election cycle Kemp faces the political fallout: a vindictive Donald Trump who is already throwing his weight around in the primary. With his first attack in January, Trump managed to cut Kemp’s job approval rating among Republicans to 73 percent (a double digit drop from 88 percent).
Looking at her opposition, Abrams will also relish an ever-growing Republican primary. The Trump-supporting right has piled into the primary, with the candidates vying to impress the ex-president the most. This group now includes David Perdue. Perdue’s announcement likely presents the greatest challenge in Kemp’s primary run next year; he adds a huge amount of uncertainty to the contest being a big-name challenger. A former senator, who intertwined his brand to Trump so deeply it caused his demise, presents a formidable challenge. One snap poll immediately placed Perdue level with Kemp on 34 percent among Republican voters.
If a Trump-backed senator wasn’t enough of a problem for Kemp, the sheer volume of Republican candidates makes re-election even harder. Georgia election law requires candidates secure an outright majority to win – the senate elections from 2020 provide an example. If Kemp fails to reach the threshold, the primary will enter a runoff between the two highest polling candidates. This means a Kemp-Perdue runoff is on the cards, and highly likely, with so many candidates. The Abrams campaign will hope such events unfold providing more time for Republican infighting and the unnecessary infliction of damage to the opposition’s nominee – as one Republican strategist puts it “[a] primary against Kemp that is divisive and nasty is like a mass suicide”.
After the primary season the race for governor should remain competitive. Even though Abrams heralds from the governing Democratic Party (which is facing off a deluge of voter resentment and apathy) her approval rating is keeping her race competitive. Among registered voters, her standing sits at 48 percent favourable, 45 percent unfavourable while Governor Kemp’s standing is close to the inverse of Abrams’s numbers. These numbers are especially promising while her party’s leadership ratings continue to collapse.
In 2022 Abrams must, however, confront rampant voter suppression. This challenge is nothing new for Abrams though. When he was both Secretary of State and opponent to Abrams, Brian Kemp committed vicious voter roll purges – purging 85,000 voters three months before election day in 2018. The target was Abrams’s base of voters around the Atlanta metro area that overwhelmingly lean Democratic. In office since 2010 this wasn’t an unusual move, rather a textbook one, from a Secretary of State who in just four years from 2012 to 2016 had purged 1.5 million registered voters from records. A figure that equated to more than 10 percent of all Georgia voters.
This time around Governor Kemp will have the state legislature, the powers of his office, and his prized election law ‘Senate Bill 202’ at his disposal. SB202, a 98-page law that again targets Atlanta area voters, imposing 16 provisions that restrict the methods of voting predominantly used by Democrats. Abrams’s path to victory in a 2022 general election requires maximising turnout, utilising a base which is younger, less white and critically big enough to power her campaign to victory – Georgia has seen a staggering 1.3 million registrations since her last bid for governor. SB202 seeks to restrict Abrams path to victory, striking her base of essential voters.
The Georgia governor’s race promises to be both an unpredictable and competitive election. With Abrams’s candidacy on the ballot there will be a national spotlight with intense focus drawn to the state of Georgia. Abrams intends to run on tried and tested Democratic policy, stating that “opportunity in our state shouldn’t be determined by zip code, background or access to power,” her campaign wants to draw the battle lines on economic opportunity, healthcare, and expanding voting rights. In stark contrast, the eventual Republican candidate will run on the singular platform of halting Abrams’s accent to governor.
If Abrams does prevail, she would become the first black woman to ascend to a governor’s mansion from any state in America. But victory will signal something deeper and more significant, that Abrams’s long fought mission to transition Georgia from Republican bastion to a highly competitive, even Democratic-leaning state is nearing completion. With this second run, Abrams has the possibility to solidify the realignment of the state’s politics.
Image - Flickr (Gage Skidmore)