State Watch

Rising star Abrams advances in Georgia governor race

Georgia Democrats on Tuesday chose former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams as their nominee for governor, picking a progressive star over a more traditional centrist.
With 31 percent of precincts reporting, Abrams led former state Rep. Stacey Evans (D) by a 74 to 26 percent margin. The Associated Press called the race for Abrams around 9:30 p.m.
Abrams, 44, won support from Democrats across the country and across the political spectrum for her pledge to expand the electorate by driving turnout among younger voters and minorities. She won endorsements from both Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), as well as other potential presidential contenders like Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).
“The Democratic Party has to reaffirm and actually invest in the voices that are consistently a part of our victories,” Abrams said in an interview last year. “We cannot modify our message and modify our principles to try to appeal to a different community.”{mosads}
Evans, 40, ran as a more traditional Georgia Democrat, staking our centrist positions and pledging to reach out to rural white voters who had been essential to the party’s hopes in what is otherwise a deeply conservative state. Evans warned that boosting turnout among core Democratic constituencies would not be enough to win in November. She was backed by Roy Barnes, the last Democrat to win the governor’s mansion in Georgia.
The most serious dispute between the two candidates centered on the Hope Scholarship, a program that allows Georgia students who do well in high school to attend public colleges and universities for free or for reduced prices. Evans went to school on a Hope Scholarship, and she criticized Abrams for working with Republicans to pare it back; Abrams in turn said her compromises helped save the program from more severe cuts.
But the race at times carried a racial undercurrent. Abrams is black; Evans is white. At a gathering of progressives organized by the Daily Kos blog last year, a number of black protestors demonstrated during Evans’s speech, a confrontation that opened a rift between the two Democrats.
Abrams’s win suggests the Democratic base in a state like Georgia is eager for the sort of red meat motivational messaging that has made party strategists nervous in recent years. In several other contests this year — notably an Omaha congressional primary last week — Democratic voters have picked a more liberal candidate over one who might prove more appealing to centrist voters.
Republicans in Georgia will narrow their gubernatorial field on Tuesday, though the front-runner, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R), may fall short of an absolute majority. If Cagle does not win a majority, he would face the second-place contender in a July runoff. Polls suggest Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) is likely in second place.
Tags Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton

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