Could Stacey Abrams run against Sally Yates in the Democratic primary for Governor of Georgia?
This Southern politico wants Democrats to do more than resist.
As the Democratic minority leader in Georgia’s House of Representatives, Stacey Abrams first appeared on the national stage last year as a key surrogate for Hillary Clinton. While Clinton fell short, that hasn’t quelled Abrams’ appetite for a bigger stage: the 43-year-old tax attorney recently began exploring a gubernatorial run in 2018. If elected, she’ll become the country’s first African American female governor.
“It’s extremely humbling that we’ve reached a place where I’m a viable candidate,” Abrams tells Moneyish. “But I’m running because Georgia is on the cusp of becoming the greatest state on the nation. We’ve done good work and can do better.”
If that’s sunnier rhetoric than what’s coming out of Washington these days, it’s no surprise. Even before Abrams became minority leader in 2011, the state has been run by the GOP. To that end, she’s developed a reputation as a dealmaker, cutting bargains with the ruling party on issues such as teacher accountability. “I don’t usually have enough votes to stop anything [so] you have to be collaborative,” she says.
Since Georgia’s government is dominated by Republicans, Abrams says that she starts every negotiation with an endgame in mind. “I begin every conversation with the Governor and House Speaker asking ‘what’s our goal’,” she says, adding that it makes it easier to achieve a better outcome. “Americans have complex value systems and while our grounding may be progressive, we have to filter everything through reality.”
“She’s an extraordinary dealmaker,” says Lisa Borders, president of the WNBA and Abrams’ former boss. “She’s a pragmatist who understands her constituents while respecting others.” (Abrams’ Republican counterparts in the Georgia House declined to comment for this story.)
In some ways, Abrams is a profile of the typical Southern politician made good. Her father was a shipyard worker and her mom a librarian, before they became religious ministers. She attended a liberal arts college in Atlanta before graduating from Yale Law School, working as a tax attorney and running her own business. “We occasionally found ourselves in need of government support,” she says of her childhood. “But throughout my life, my parents were always involved in social justice.”
Her reality is even more colorful. Abrams is also a published romance novelist, writing under the pen name of Selena Montgomery. “I wrote two things in my final year at Yale—a paper on the Earned Income Tax Credit and a romance novel,” she says. But Abrams is quick to brush away charges of frivolousness that may accompany books with titles like “Hidden Sins” and “Rules of Engagement.”
“It demonstrates that I’m a well-rounded person whose history can’t be reduced to a single title,” she says, adding that she wanted to write spy novels but felt the publishing industry at the start of her career looked more kindly on women who wrote tales of love.
In any case, just being an active player in state politics will raise her political profile further. Georgia liberals have been energized by the congressional candidacy of Jon Ossoff, while others expect Sally Yates, the Deputy Attorney General turned liberal darling, to run for governor too. “I’m a Democrat and have proven my value,” Abrams says. “I think I can represent the state of Georgia well.”
© 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved