On Tuesday, former state representative Stacey Abrams won the Democratic nomination for Governor of Georgia, becoming the first black woman gubernatorial nominee of a major political party in U.S. history. She defeated her opponent handily, beating Stacey Evans with a three-to-one margin with a platform calling for Medicaid expansion, criminal justice reform, gun safety measures, affordable childcare, and universal pre-K.
Abrams faces a tough general election in November. Only four African-American politicians have served as governor in the U.S. ever, with none in the Deep South since Reconstruction. A run-off election will be held in July to determine the Republican nominee, and of the candidates likely to oppose Abrams, both support looser gun laws, tax cuts for high earners, and defunding sanctuary cities as part of a “crackdown on illegal immigration.” Abrams hopes to win by building a multi-racial coalition of progressives (including new voters) that taps into Georgia’s shifting demographics.
Abrams is part of a national wave of women running for office in record numbers, as well as a galvanizing energy among progressives partly inspired by opposition to President Trump. Her candidacy has drawn national attention; should Abrams win, one of the most populous red states could be in play for progressives seeking national office for the first time in decades. It could also signal a significant shift in values and priorities for the Deep South.
For a deeper dive, here are a few pieces that smartly contextualize Abrams’ victory, as well as what’s at stake in the fall.
On Stacey Abrams and the Georgia Primary
“Stacey Abrams Wins Democratic Primary for Governor, Making History.” (Jonathan Martin & Alexander Burns, New York Times, May 2018)
Martin and Burns consider the history-making moment of Abrams’ primary win and why the candidate has drawn support from Democrats at the federal level. The reporters also note other primary successes among progressive Democrats Tuesday night, especially women candidates like Amy McGrath of Kentucky.
“Stacey Abrams Makes History in the Georgia Primary.” (Charles Bethea, The New Yorker, May 2018)
Bethea talks to a cross section of conservative and progressive Georgia political insiders about Abrams’ chances in the general election.
“America Has Never Had a Black Woman Governor. Stacey Abrams Has Something to Say About That.” (Jamilah King, Mother Jones, April 2018)
Reporter Jamilah King profiles Abrams, capturing the candidate’s appeal to black women voters and her push to assemble a “rainbow coalition.”
On Change in the South
“Reverse Migration Might Turn Georgia Blue.” (Alana Semuels, Atlantic, May 2018)
Young, unmarried blacks and single women are moving to the South, especially Atlanta and its suburbs, in large numbers. Searching for lower housing prices and better quality of life, transplants tend to be more progressive than other residents. They could be instrumental in helping Abrams achieve victory.
“Racism is Everywhere, So Why Not Move South?” (Reniqua Allen, New York Times, July 2017)
Allen takes a closer look at why black millennials like her are flocking to southern cities.
“Slavery’s Southern Legacy.” (Sophia Nguyen, Harvard Magazine, May 2018)
Nguyen reports on a new book (by researchers Avidit Acharya and Matthew Blackwell), which claims that political attitudes in the South, especially on issues of race, can be predicted by how deeply individual counties relied on slavery prior to the Civil War.
“’Please God, Don’t Let Me Get Stopped’: Around Atlanta, No Sanctuary for Immigrants.” (Vivian Yee, New York Times, November 2017)
According to Yee, “the regional ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) office in Atlanta made nearly 80 percent more arrests in the first half of this year than it did in the same period last year, the largest increase of any field office in the country.” The Republican contenders in Stacey Abrams’ race have run strident anti-immigration campaigns.
“When the South Was the Most Progressive Region in America.” (Blain Roberts & Ethan J. Kytle, Atlantic, January 2018)
Roberts and Kytle, both historians, discuss how the post-Civil War’s South created multi-racial democracies based on state constitutions that were more progressive than many in the North. Reconstruction era activists and politicians, the authors contend, “[provide] a blueprint for a liberal resurgence that may already be under way in the 21st century South.”
On National Trends
“Red State, Blue City.” (David A. Graham, Atlantic, March 2017)
Graham posits that U.S. politics are growing increasingly polarized along a rural/urban divide.
“A Progressive Electoral Wave is Sweeping the Country.” (John Nichols, The Nation, June 2017)
Nichols details the importance of down-ballot victories, across the country, that signal a rising tide of resistance to the policies of President Trump.