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How Stacey Abrams Is Making Politics a Little Less Fake

By Fabrice Pierre-Toussaint

Staff Writer for Telegraph Local | See my LinkedIn

Stacey Abrams, an up-and-coming star amongst the Democratic circles is becoming increasingly popular as the years go by. She served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017 and was Minority Leader from 2011 to 2017. She is also a lawyer and author. 

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Abrams was her party’s nominee in the 2018 gubernatorial election of Georgia. The first African-American female major party gubernatorial nominee. In February 2019, she became the first African-American woman to deliver a response to the State of the Union address. 

Her political positions include her being pro-choice and opposing proposals for stricter voter ID laws. She cited research showing that Medicaid expansion improved health care access for low-income residents and made hospitals in rural locations financially viable. She is also willing to be vocal about Georgia’s high maternal mortality rate.

Abrams would like to increase spending on public education. She opposes private school vouchers, instead advocating improvements to the public education system. She supports smaller class sizes, more school counselors, protected pensions, better pay for teachers, and expanded early childhood education. Abrams supports criminal justice reform in the form of ending cash bail for poor defendants, ending the death penalty, and decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana possession. She also supports effective community policing to build trust and keep communities safe as part of criminal justice reform.

According to The Washington Post, even if she’s not chosen as Biden’s running mate, she has a unique position in American politics. DuBose Porter, former chair of the Georgia Democratic Party, has stated that she is “brilliant,” praise that comes in spite of what some view as having a limited political résumé.This era does not seem to put an emphasis on political experiences. Donald Trump had never been elected to office before his 2016 win. Like former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination made him a household name, Abrams does not have the list of years of votes on Capitol Hill, she does not have a record on criminal justice that comes with having served as an attorney general, nor does she face the accusation of being out of touch because she has spent years in Washington.

Mind you, it is black women that have long been the most loyal supporters of the Democratic Party. They carried Doug Jones to his senatorial victory in Alabama in 2018 and were key to kick-starting Biden’s presidential campaign when it was thought to be dead, helping to lift him to victory in South Carolina’s Democratic primary. It was only a matter of time before a black woman, especially one from the American South, would rise up as a national leader and a power broker for democracy in a way that is not often seen.

Fannie Lou Hamer’s iconic speech at the 1964 Democratic National Convention and Shirley Chisholm’s historic “unbought and unbossed” run for president in 1972. Abrams roots and family background are deeply rooted in the Civil Rights Movement and her Southern heritage are important in her appeal. 

It helps explain why she has jumped to prominence while serving as a standard-bearer for a new kind of multicultural and multigenerational agenda. In the last presidential campaign cycle, the racial breakdown of Democrats outside of the South was roughly 60 percent white, 17 percent African American and 23 percent Latino, according to a 2016 Blair Center Poll. In the states that form the South, those numbers were 38 percent white, 37 percent African American and 25 percent Latino. In her runs for the Georgia legislature and governor, Abrams built a coalition that geared up this new Georgia. She believes she can do the same on the national stage. 

Abrams is the first black woman in U.S. history to have won the gubernatorial nomination of either major party. She garnered more votes than any Democrat who has run statewide in Georgia. She lost by just over 50,000 votes to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

Abrams lives modestly in a simple blue townhouse in a diverse middle-class neighborhood on the eastside of Atlanta. Her humbly furnished home is filled with a wide range of books, including the four she’s currently absorbing: “The City We Became” by N.K. Jemisin, “Huey Long” by T. Harry Williams, “A Problem From Hell” by Samantha Power and “A Place for Us” by Fatima Farheen Mirza. There is art, some centered on black America, but also pieces from her travels internationally that are Australian aboriginal, South Korean, French, Chinese. Framed photographs of family and friends are spread throughout as well.

This residence is a look into her Gulfport, Mississippi upbringing. Her family of eight had to convert the dining room to a bedroom for her two brothers, Richard and Walter. It feels like a sanctuary to protect Abrams from the many demands on her time. Abrams, who is single with no children, arrived in Atlanta as a 15-year-old in 1989 when her parents decided to attend Methodist divinity school. From graduate school at the University of Texas (master’s in public affairs) and Yale Law School in Connecticut, Atlanta is where she has mostly lived since leaving Mississippi. 

“I only remember living on South Street in Gulfport, Mississippi,” she says. “2020 South Street was a red-brick house with azalea bushes that ran along the front. There was an oak tree in the front yard, and it had such big limbs and so many leaves that grass couldn’t grow underneath it. But you could climb that tree, and you could see everything.”

Abrams is the second of six children born to Reverend Carolyn and Reverend Robert Abrams. Her siblings include Andrea Abrams, U.S. District Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, Richard Abrams, Walter Abrams and Dr. Jeanine Abrams McLean.

Under the pen name Selena Montgomery, Abrams is the award-winning author of several romantic suspense novels. According to Abrams, she has sold more than 100,000 copies of her novels. She wrote her first novel during her third year at Yale Law School and published her most recent book in 2009. Montgomery won both the Reviewer’s Choice Award and the Readers Favorite Award from Romance In Color for Best New Author, and was featured as a Rising Star. She’s published articles on public policy, taxation and nonprofit organizations. She is the author of Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change, published by Henry Holt & Co. in April 2018. Abrams is also the author of the upcoming book Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America, to be published by the same company in June 2020.

She received the Georgia Legislative Service Award from the Association County Commissioners Georgia, the Democratic Legislator of the Year from the Young Democrats of Georgia and Red Clay Democrats, and an Environmental Leader Award from the Georgia Conservation Voters. Abrams received the Stevens Award for Outstanding Legal Contributions and the Elmer Staats Award for Public Service, both national honors presented by the Harry S. Truman Foundation. 

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All politics aside, it is exciting to see Stacy Abrams rise up to the ranks of the Democratic circle so quickly, with increasing popularity and respect for her legal works, it is safe to say that she has changed the face of Georgia politics and the representation of black women in political circles.

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