OPINION: The Georgia gubernatorial candidate’s clear ambition and declarative statements may make some feel uncomfortable, but it’s a posture she must maintain to effectively connect with voters. It’s also a posture that every other Black woman running in the 2022 midterms should adopt.
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
One thing about Stacey Abrams is that she knows exactly what she wants, and she won’t hesitate to tell you, just as she did at her Atlanta rally this week where she declared, “I did the work, and now I want the job.” Essentially, Stacey Abrams embodies the political version of “I said what I said,” and it’s this clarity, this posture that will sustain her through what will undoubtedly be a challenging bid to become the next governor of Georgia, riddled with state-sanctioned voter suppression and obstruction.
After “not winning” the Georgia governor’s mansion in 2018, Stacey Abrams didn’t miss a beat. And yes, the quotation marks are intentional and warranted considering that Gov. Brian Kemp was both a candidate and the secretary of state, aka the referee, during the 2018 election when voter rolls were purged of more than 340,000 voters, polling sites in Black and brown communities were being closed and consolidated, and hundreds of perfectly functional voting machines were locked away in government facilities while voters waited hours in lines—but I digress.
Only three months after the election, in February 2019, Abrams offered the Democratic response to Trump’s State of the Union address, quickly garnering buzz as a potential 2020 presidential candidate. Then Abrams repeatedly batted down internal pressure and recruitment efforts from the Democratic Party to run for Senate while remaining open to being named a 2020 vice presidential pick. Moreover, in the midst of it all, Abrams did what she does best—she prioritized the needs of the people of Georgia during the pandemic.
In partnership with her political organization, Fair Fight Political Action Committee, Abrams paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to relieve families by paying off their medical debt, she helped small businesses get paid faster so that they could stay afloat. In the early days of the pandemic, before government stimulus checks were cut and as unemployment systems were overwhelmed with applications, Abrams supported Project 100 to send cash payments to 100,000 families that were struggling financially. That direct action and support for the people of Georgia are what Abrams is running on. Now, as she kicks off her One Georgia tour and launches her newest ad, Stacey Abrams is essentially saying, check my credentials.
Abrams has been doing the work, and frankly, she has been filling in the gaps of a governor whom she described on Monday as “too lazy or too inept to decide what should be done” during this pandemic. This juxtaposition with Kemp will paint an explicitly clear picture for Georgia voters, particularly the Black and brown voters whom Abrams’ organizations have helped to register to vote during the past decade. And the reality is not lost on anyone that these are the same voters who will most likely feel the harmful impact of the voter suppression laws that Georgia officials passed and enacted in 2021, a blueprint for similar laws that Republican-controlled statehouses have been passing en masse since the 2020 election cycle ended.
That’s why the strength and conviction of Abrams’ words are critical for this 2022 gubernatorial race. The people must know and feel deeply how she is fighting for them, the same way she has been fighting for them throughout her entire political career. The people must know that she never stopped fighting, even after 2018, and she will deliver for them if elected. When Abrams says, “I’ve done the work,” voters know it’s a fact because they saw the fruits of that labor in January 2021 with the election of Senators Ossoff and Rev. Warnock, which gave Democrats control of the U.S. Senate. They saw the fruits of that labor with the medical bills she paid off. They saw the fruits of that labor with the cash deposits into their accounts, and they will continue to see the fruits of that labor.
And while Abrams’ clear ambition and declarative statements may make some feel uncomfortable, it’s a pitch and posture that she must maintain to continue to effectively connect with voters. It’s also a posture that every other Black woman running in the 2022 midterms should adopt. From Representative Val Demings, a candidate for U.S. Senate in Florida, and Former Chief Justice Cheri Beasly, a candidate for U.S. Senate in North Carolina, to Representative Karen Bass, a candidate for mayor of Los Angeles, and Deidre Dejear, a candidate for governor in Iowa, I can’t wait to see many more Black women candidates stand firmly and unapologetically in their work, their power and their ambitions. Now is not the time to shrink but to double down as Black women stand to make historic gains in the 2022 midterms.
Juanita Tolliver is a veteran political strategist and MSNBC Political Analyst who previously served as National Political Director at Supermajority and Director of Campaigns at the Center for American Progress. Follow her on Twitter: @juanitatolliver.
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