Abrams sells herself as the person who can address these gaps in registration and turnout. In fact, she’s been working on it since 2014, when she founded the New Georgia Project, a nonprofit focused on registering voters from the “New American Majority”—people of color, people aged 18 to 29, and unmarried women. These groups make up “62 percent of the voting age population in Georgia, but they are only 53 percent of registered voters,” the organization suggests. The project, partly funded by big-time Democratic donor George Soros, aims to register more than 700,000 currently unregistered Georgians. But it has come under fire for an alleged lack of transparency, and for failing to meet its registration goals ahead of the midterms. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (who is now running for governor on the Republican side) investigated the organization and concluded it had submitted dozens of fraudulent voter applications, although the number was less than 1 percent of total registration forms.
“[Evans] is persuading folks to become Democratic, and our focus is more about reaching folks who do agree with us, and convincing them that voting actually matters,” the Abrams campaign spokesperson said. To do this, Abrams has pledged to work for a “fair and diverse economy”: tackling poverty and inequality through her proposed “Georgia Economic Mobility Plan.” She’s also advocating for criminal-justice reform, with goals like the “decriminalization of poverty” and improving community policing.
Abrams has received the endorsement of prominent legislators like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, California Senator Kamala Harris, and Georgia Representative John Lewis. And her approach has been championed by dozens of groups, including Our Revolution, an offshoot of Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign, and Democracy in Color, an organization “focused on race, politics and the multiracial, progressive New American Majority.”
Aimee Allison, the president of Democracy in Color, believes that the winning strategy for 2018 and beyond is for Democrats to lean heavily into their core base: black women. Democrats, Allison told me, didn’t do that enough in 2016, when the black-voter-turnout rate declined for the first time in 20 years. “Here you have a candidate who speaks to the base in such a deep way,” said Allison, whose group advises Americans to “Get in Formation” behind Abrams. “She inspires men and women of all races, and she’s deeply reflective of the core base of the Democratic Party.”
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National Democratic groups and party leaders see a chance to install the country’s first African American woman governor—in Georgia, no less—by taking advantage of a time when Democrats are relatively unified in their opposition to Trump. “Stacey Abrams is the perfect anti-Trump. He’s white, she’s black. Her hair is natural, his hair is … I don’t know what,” said the Georgia Democratic strategist, who was granted anonymity in order to speak candidly about the race. “She has all these amazing qualities. The problem is, she’s never been a Resistance-type person.”