Stacey Abrams on the Highs and Lows of Running For Governor Again

With the midterms only a few weeks away, has partnered with The Brown Girls Guide to Politics podcast for an Instagram Live series highlighting what Politico called “one of the biggest and least appreciated stories of the 2022 election—a surge of Black candidates that stands to reshape national politics for years to come.” To start, A’shanti Gholar, the founder of The BGG and the president of Emerge, an organization that recruits and trains Democratic women running for office, spoke to Stacey Abrams, who is running against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to be the next governor of Georgia—a rematch of their race in 2018. Back then, Abrams narrowly lost to Kemp, but then reappeared in headlines two years later when her voting rights activism was credited for helping flip Georgia blue in the presidential election. Though she arguably faces an even tougher battle this midterms cycle, if Abrams succeeds in November, she’ll be the first Black woman to be governor in the United States. Find abridged portions of their conversation here:

On the importance of Black women running in the 2022 midterm elections

“We started a new Supreme Court term, and during the term, they will determine whether sexual orientation is a valid rationale for being covered by public accommodations. Basically, will states be allowed to deny you the right to stay in a restaurant, in a hotel, to go into a business based on your sexual orientation? We know that earlier this year, it was the Dobbs decision that stripped one of their right to choose. It went from being a federal issue to being a state issue. We know that voting rights are under attack yet again. There are two cases before the U.S. Supreme Court that will eviscerate the Voting Rights Act once and for all. When you pull all of these together…governors have never mattered more. The reality is that for women of color, for Black and brown women, we are the victims of every attack, because these were the laws that allowed us to finally get not only a seat at the table, but to even know where the room was.

So if we are not the governors, if we are not the senators, if we are not present in these spaces, then the very few rights we’ve been able to claw back from those who’ve done their level best to deny us access, those will be gone, and they’re not coming back…The urgency of our attention and the importance of our presence has never been more clear or more necessary, because the attacks on our freedoms have never been so blatant and so disregarding of our humanity.

On facing misogyny and racism in politics

“You have to call it out when you see it. My opponent darkened my skin not once, not twice, but in a number of ads—and then claimed it’s just because they were using filters. But there is a long and pernicious history in the South that cannot be ignored. And part of my instinct is, well I’m not going to talk about it, but when it’s raised, I’ve got to address it. Because it’s not just about me…If they can get away with it with me, who else will they attack? What else will they do? So whether it’s you that’s the target or not, we have to call it out. Our silence is permission. When we allow people to…abuse our existence, it is our responsibility to talk about it, because they rely on shame and silence to keep us from taking action.”

What it’s been like to run for governor a second time

“One of the challenges has been that, because more people know my name than the first time I ran, there’s a presumption that the level of support necessary isn’t the same. And I’m not talking financial support; people have been incredible. But in 2018, it was the conversation. I was brand new and, because of COVID, because of gun violence, because of Dobbs, because of the attacks, because of just the sheer exhaustion, it’s been hard for people to focus. People are tired. They’ve been in constant political battles since 2016. But that’s part of the mission. Part of their goal is to exhaust us into submission. And what’s been a little harder this time is getting people to get excited, because they’ve seen that even when we get things done, things don’t stay done.

But what I want folks to understand is that we’ve been so focused…we’ve elected amazing mayors and city council members and county commissioners, and we’ve done an extraordinary job of getting Kamala Harris and Joe Biden and getting [U.S.] senators. But when we ignore the state level, it’s like making sure you have two pieces of bread, but there’s no peanut butter; there’s no jelly. We don’t have that intercessor; we don’t have that connectivity. We need governors, because we need someone to be in the middle to connect the dots. For me, the idea of not running may have occurred for a couple of minutes, because it was really embarrassing when I didn’t get the job. But then I remembered why I ran. I didn’t run for fame. I didn’t run for power. I ran for people. And if the people still don’t have what they need, then I don’t have permission to stop working.”

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