Kerri Battles

This May, Stacey Abrams LAW ’99 became the first black woman to win a major party nomination for governor when she won the Democratic primary in Georgia.

During Tuesday’s midterm elections, Abrams will look to make history yet again.

If elected, Abrams will be the first black woman elected governor in the history of the United States. Her election would also make state history — Georgia has yet to elect a black or woman governor. Moreover, Georgia has not had a Democratic governor since 2003.

“There is this history in Georgia of boundary-breaking and grassroots mobilization,” said Noah Macey ’19, who is from Sandy Springs, Georgia. “I think that Stacey Abrams reflects that and is able to capitalize on that. And I think there’s a general larger trend in the nation of people being ready to run for office.

Abrams, who graduated from Yale Law School in 1999, is currently trailing her Republican opponent and Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp by two points — according to November polls by RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight. For the last 10 years, Abrams has served in the Georgia General Assembly. Since 2011, she has served as the minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, representing parts of Atlanta and neighboring towns.

During her tenure, Abrams gained recognition for her bipartisan work on criminal justice reform and transportation funding. According to TIME magazine, Abrams also “singlehandedly stopped the largest tax increase in Georgia history” in 2011. The tax bill in question failed after Abrams showed that 82 percent of Georgians would see tax increases if the proposal passed.

“[Abrams] is incredibly impressive, incredibly smart and has a long history of service in Georgia,” said Chloe Prendergast ’20, who interned on Abrams’ campaign this summer. “People know who she is. Also, people are just excited about having somebody who isn’t a white man running for the office.”

Increasing funding for Georgia’s public schools is a key component to Abrams’ progressive platform. On her campaign website and in an article Abrams wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the candidate emphasized that she will be the “public education governor” of Georgia. In particular, Abrams is a proponent of the “cradle-to-career” model, which emphasizes affordable childcare and prekindergarten programs, fully funded public school and stronger post-secondary education.

Abrams has also vowed to protect voting rights in Georgia, a state that has garnered media attention for alleged voter suppression. In 2013, she founded the New Georgia Project, which aims to increase registration among people of color and young adults. Abrams has also proposed online and automatic voter registration.

“The game book of Stacey Abrams’ campaign, which she has said …  is that Georgia is a democratic state, it is a blue state,” said Prendergast. “It’s just that people don’t vote. Or people aren’t able to vote.”

Kemp, who has served as Georgia’s Secretary of State since 2010, will be overseeing this year’s gubernatorial election, despite running as a candidate. According to a report by the Associated Press, Kemp’s office has placed 53,000 voter registration applications, mostly from black voters, on hold for failing to meet the “exact-match” rule, which requires that voter registration forms completely correspond to official IDs.

As evidenced by the “exact-match” rule, Georgia has relatively stringent voting policies. Although the U.S. District Courts ruled against the policy two days ago, previously submitted forms with missing hyphens and middle initials would have already been flagged prior to the court’s decision, according to NPR.

Macey, a Yale College student from Georgia, said that his absentee ballot request form was denied in 2016 due to failing “exact-match.”

During her campaign, Abrams has been the target of racism. Last week, white supremacist group Road to Power designed a robocall to Georgia voters, which impersonated Oprah Winfrey and referred to Stacey Abrams as a “negress” and “poor man’s Aunt Jemima.”

Current and former commanders-in-chief have also weighed in on the gubernatorial race. President Donald Trump called Abrams “one of the most extreme, far-left politicians in the entire country,” saying that her election would turn Georgia into Venezuela. Meanwhile, Trump has thrown his support behind Kemp since the Republican primary runoff election in July.

Former Presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter, as well as former Vice President Joe Biden, however, have endorsed Abrams. In addition, celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Will Ferrell have campaigned for her.

“She’s not running a campaign built on division or distraction,” said Obama at a campaign rally in Atlanta. “She’s running to lead one Georgia where everybody has opportunity, and everybody’s voice is heard.”

Prendergast says that in her neighborhood in Atlanta, there are lawn signs everywhere supporting Abrams. Macey also said that “this year feels different” and that he is “hopeful” about Abrams’ prospects. He also noted that he has a bottle of champagne in his fridge to celebrate if she wins.

“[Abrams] running and actually being able to stand her ground … means that Georgia and the residents of Georgia are changing for the better,” Karissa McCright ’21, who also lives in Atlanta, said. “I hope with all my heart that she wins, but Georgia sports always let me down, so I’m not betting on Georgia politics either.”

Closer to home, Jahana Hayes is set to become Connecticut’s first black Democratic congresswoman if she wins her bid to represent the state’s fifth district. Abrams and Hayes are representative of a larger wave of women of color running for office this midterm season. In New Mexico, Deb Halaand is running to become the first Native American woman in Congress. Young Kim, who is running on the Republican ticket in California, could also become the first Korean-American woman in Congress.

Ruiyan Wang | ruiyan.wang@yale.edu .