By Marshall A. Latimore, The Atlanta Voice
“I want to run for Georgia because we can do more,” an impassioned Stacey Abrams addressed a room full of supporters in a victory speech at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Atlanta Tuesday evening. “We can defend our Dreamers. We can build (our) infrastructure that connects us to one another. We can repeal Campus Carry and we can expand hope. We can lead a stronger Georgia, a more compassionate Georgia.”
The Georgia gubernatorial candidate won the Democratic primary against opponent Stacey Evans, making way for the former House Minority Leader to become the first African American woman governor in the state and in the nation. The state has never elected a woman governor.
Abrams, who ran a progressive campaign that targeted voters across the state, also secured nominations from national Democratic figures and celebrities alike, including Hillary Clinton, Vermont, Sen. Bernie Sanders, New Jersey, Sen. Cory Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris, Nina Turner, Tracee Ellis Ross, Uzo Aduba, Aisha Hinds, Rashida Jones and more. Abrams also found the support of organizations like Emily’s List and Planned Parenthood, along with a number of labor unions around the state.
Evans, on the other hand, ran a more traditional campaign, focusing on a campaign promise to restore funding to the HOPE Scholarship.
“I stand here tonight grateful to the thousands of you who have joined me on this drive to history,” Abrams said in her watch party address. “We are writing the next chapter of Georgia’s future. Where no one is unseen, unheard or uninspired. A Georgia where we prosper – together!
“I offer my congratulations to Stacey Evans and her campaign and all of her supporters tonight for a hard-fought race,” she continued. “And I know… for the journey that lies ahead, we need every voice in our party – and every independent thinker in the state of Georgia – energized, and by our side to succeed, so I hope you will join our fight for the future.”
As early as 7:30 p.m., a couple hundred of Abrams supporters filed into the campaign’s watch party hosted at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Atlanta. Around 9:30 p.m., the Abrams campaign claimed victory with campaign manager Allegra Loren Hardy declaring, “Abrams won by a wide margin.”
Darion Green, a 22-year-old Abrams supporter from Covington, Ga., said, ” I’m supporting Stacey Abrams because I like her message on education, jobs, health care, voting rights. We have an opportunity to vote for a Black woman who is qualified. Black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party. So I think it’s time to lift Black women up and elect them.”
By 10 p.m., Evans’ supporters who’d joined her watch party at The Gathering Spot in midtown Atlanta, shared messages of continued support to Evans.
“Tonight was not a night of defeat, (Evans)’s message of hope will continue to live on in the lives of the people she impacted,” said Timi Laney, a supporter from Atlanta. “(Evans) inspired women and men of all ages to back a campaign that was built on respect, trust, and HOPE.”
The Republican race, meanwhile, will now be headed to a runoff between Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and secretary of state Brian Kemp — the top vote earners in Tuesday’s primary. They are vying to replace Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who is term-limited.
In her victory speech, Abrams acknowledged the historic moment she is embarking on, considering that the state has not elected a Democratic governor in 19 years. The last Democratic governor was Governor Roy E. Barnes, who served from 1999 to 2003.
“We have a tough race to come,” Abrams said. “We can find it easy to forget, we are in the state where the red clay gives birth to dreamers. A Georgia that gave us the godfather of soul and a peanut farmer that went to the Oval Office. Where the unexpected becomes the truth. It reminds us of who we are, how we stumble and how we flourish and live up to Georgia’s promise of prosperity.”
The Atlanta Voice’s Terry Shropshire and Gene Hunter also contributed to this report.