Stacey Abrams

Stacey Yvonne Abrams (born December 9, 1973) is an American politician, lawyer, voting rights activist, and author who served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017, serving as minority leader from 2011 to 2017.[1] A member of the Democratic Party, in 2018 Abrams founded Fair Fight Action, an organization to address voter suppression, especially in Georgia and Texas.[2]

Stacey Abrams
Stacey Abrams in May 2018.png
Abrams in 2018
Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives
In office
January 10, 2011 – July 1, 2017
Preceded byDuBose Porter
Succeeded byBob Trammell
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
In office
January 8, 2007 – August 25, 2017
Preceded byJoAnn McClinton
Succeeded byBee Nguyen
Constituency89th (2013–2017)
84th (2007–2012)
Personal details
Born
Stacey Yvonne Abrams

(1973-12-09) December 9, 1973 (age 46)
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
RelativesLeslie Abrams Gardner (sister)
EducationSpelman College (BA)
University of Texas at Austin (MPA)
Yale University (JD)
Websitestaceyabrams.com

Abrams was the Democratic party's nominee in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, becoming the first African-American female major-party gubernatorial nominee in the United States.[3] She lost to Brian Kemp in an election marred by accusations that Kemp engaged in voter suppression.[4][5] In February 2019, Abrams became the first African-American woman to deliver a response to the State of the Union address.

Early life and educationEdit

Abrams, the second of six siblings, was born to Robert and Carolyn Abrams in Madison, Wisconsin, and raised in Gulfport, Mississippi.[6][7] The family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where her parents pursued graduate degrees and later became Methodist ministers.[8][9] She attended Avondale High School, where she was selected for a Telluride Association Summer Program.[10] While in high school, she was hired as a typist for a congressional campaign and at age 17 she was hired as a speechwriter based on the edits she had made while typing.[10]

In 1995 Abrams earned a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies (political science, economics and sociology) from Spelman College, magna cum laude.[1] While in college she worked in the youth services department in the office of Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson.[10] She later interned at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.[10] As a freshman in 1992, Abrams took part in a protest on the steps of the Georgia Capitol, during which she joined in burning the state flag. At that time Georgia's state flag incorporated the Confederate battle flag, which had been added to the state flag in 1956 as an anti-civil rights movement action. The flag was designed by Southern Democrat John Sammons Bell, an attorney and Chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia who was an outspoken supporter of segregation.[11][12]

As a Harry S. Truman Scholar, Abrams studied public policy at the University of Texas at Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs, where she earned a Master of Public Affairs degree in 1998. In 1999 she earned a Juris Doctor from Yale Law School.[1]

Legal and business careerEdit

After graduating from law school, Abrams worked as a tax attorney at the Sutherland Asbill & Brennan law firm in Atlanta, with a focus on tax-exempt organizations, health care, and public finance.[1] In 2010, while a member of the Georgia General Assembly, Abrams co-founded and served as the senior vice president of NOW Corp. (formerly NOWaccount Network Corporation), a financial services firm.[13][14]

Abrams also co-founded Nourish, Inc., a beverage company with a focus on infants and toddlers,[15] and is CEO of Sage Works, a legal consulting firm that has represented clients including the Atlanta Dream of the Women's National Basketball Association.[16]

Political careerEdit

In 2002, at age 29, Abrams was appointed the deputy city attorney for the City of Atlanta.[1][17]

Georgia General Assembly, 2007–2017Edit

In 2006, Abrams ran for the 89th district for the Georgia House of Representatives, following JoAnn McClinton's announcement that she would not seek reelection. Abrams ran in the Democratic Party primary election against former state legislator George Maddox and political operative Dexter Porter. She outraised her two opponents and won the primary election with 51% of the vote, avoiding a runoff election.[18]

 
Abrams with John Lewis in 2017

Abrams represented House District 89, which includes portions of the City of Atlanta and unincorporated DeKalb County,[19] covering the communities of Candler Park, Cedar Grove, Columbia, Druid Hills, Edgewood, Highland Park, Kelley Lake, Kirkwood, Lake Claire, South DeKalb, Toney Valley, and Tilson.[20] She served on the Appropriations, Ethics, Judiciary Non-Civil, Rules and Ways & Means committees.[21]

In November 2010, the Democratic caucus elected Abrams to succeed DuBose Porter as minority leader over Virgil Fludd.[22] Abrams's first major action as minority leader was to cooperate with Republican governor Nathan Deal's administration to reform the HOPE Scholarship program. She co-sponsored the 2011 legislation that preserved the HOPE program by decreasing the scholarship amount paid to Georgia students and funded a 1% low-interest loan program for students.[23]

According to Time magazine, Abrams "can credibly boast of having single-handedly stopped the largest tax increase in Georgia history."[24] In 2011 Abrams argued that a Republican proposal to cut income taxes while increasing a tax on cable service would lead to a net increase in taxes paid by most people.[24] She performed an analysis of the bill that showed that 82% of Georgians would see net tax increases, and left a copy of the analysis on the desk of every house legislator.[24] The bill subsequently failed.[24]

Abrams also worked with Deal on criminal-justice reforms that reduced prison costs without increasing crime,[24] and with Republicans on the state's biggest-ever public transportation funding package.[24]

On August 25, 2017, Abrams resigned from the General Assembly to focus on her gubernatorial campaign.[25]

2018 gubernatorial campaignEdit

 
Abrams campaigning in 2018

Abrams ran for governor of Georgia in 2018.[26] In the Democratic primary she ran against Stacey Evans, another member of the Georgia House of Representatives,[26] in what some called "the battle of the Staceys". Abrams was endorsed by Bernie Sanders and Our Revolution.[27][28] On May 22, she won the Democratic nomination, making her the first black woman in the U.S. to be a major party's nominee for governor.[29]

After winning the primary, Abrams secured a number of high-profile endorsements, including one from former President Barack Obama.[30][31]

Almost a week before election day, the Republican nominee, Brian Kemp, canceled a debate scheduled seven weeks earlier in order to attend a Trump rally in Georgia. Kemp blamed Abrams for the cancellation, saying that she was unwilling to reschedule it. Abrams responded, “We refuse to callously take Georgians for granted and cancel on them. Just because Brian Kemp breaks his promises doesn’t mean anyone else should.”[32]

Two days before the election, Kemp's office announced that it was investigating the Georgia Democratic Party for unspecified "possible cybercrimes"; the Georgia Democratic Party stated that "Kemp's scurrilous claims are 100 percent false" and described them as a "political stunt."[33] A 2020 investigation by the Georgia Attorney General's office concluded that there was no evidence of computer crimes.[34] Later that year, it was revealed that the alleged cybercrime against Kemp's office was in fact a planned security test that one of Kemp's staff members had signed off on three months prior.[35]

As Georgia's secretary of state, Kemp was in charge of elections and voter registration during the election. Between 2012 and 2018, Kemp's office cancelled over 1.4 million voter registrations, with nearly 700,000 cancellations in 2017 alone.[36] On a single night in July 2017, half a million voters had their registrations cancelled. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, election-law experts said that this "may represent the largest mass disenfranchisement in US history."[4] Kemp oversaw the removals as Secretary of State, and did so eight months after he declared that he was going to run for governor.[37] An investigative journalism group run by Greg Palast found that of the approximately 534,000 Georgians whose voter registrations were purged between 2016 and 2017 more than 334,000 still lived where they were registered.[38] The voters were given no notice that they had been purged.[39] Palast ultimately sued Kemp, claiming over 300,000 voters were purged illegally.[5] Kemp's office denied any wrongdoing, saying that by "regularly updating our rolls, we prevent fraud and ensure that all votes are cast by eligible Georgia voters."[40]

By early October 2018, more than 53,000 voter registration applications had been put on hold by Kemp's office, with more than 75% belonging to minorities.[41][42] The voters are eligible to re-register assuming they still live in Georgia, and they have not died.[43][42][44][38]

Kemp's office was found to have violated the law before and immediately after the 2018 midterm elections.[45] In a ruling against Kemp, District Judge Amy Totenberg found that Kemp's office had violated the Help America Vote Act and said an attempt by Kemp's office to expedite the certification of results "appears to suggest the Secretary’s foregoing of its responsibility to confirm the accuracy of the results prior to final certification, including the assessment of whether serious provisional balloting count issues have been consistently and properly handled." [46][47]

Abrams lost the election by 50,000 votes. Abrams considered but ultimately did not mount a legal challenge to the election results.[48] In her speech ending her campaign,[49] she announced the creation of Fair Fight Action, a voting rights nonprofit organization that sued the Secretary of State and state election board in federal court for voter suppression.[50] As of March 2020, the lawsuit was still ongoing.[51]

Since losing the election, Abrams has repeatedly claimed that the election was not fairly conducted[52] and that Kemp is not the legitimate governor of Georgia.[53] Her position is that Kemp, who oversaw the election in his role as Secretary of State, had a conflict of interest and suppressed turnout by purging nearly 670,000 voter registrations in 2017, and that about 53,000 voter registrations were pending a month before the election.[52][54] She has said, "I have no empirical evidence that I would have achieved a higher number of votes. However, I have sufficient and I think legally sufficient doubt about the process to say that it was not a fair election."[52]

After the gubernatorial electionEdit

 
Stacey Abrams and Nancy Pelosi in January 2019

On January 29, 2019, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that Abrams would deliver the response to the State of the Union address on February 5.[55] She was the first African-American woman to give the rebuttal to the address, as well as the first and only non-office-holding person to do so since the SOTU responses began in 1966.[56]

On April 30, 2019, Abrams announced that she would not run for the U.S. Senate in 2020.[57]

On August 17, 2019, Abrams announced the founding of Fair Fight 2020,[58] an organization that will assist Democrats financially and technically to build voter protection teams in 20 states.[59] Abrams is Fair Fight Action 2020's chair.[60] Billionaire and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed $5 million shortly after announcing his run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.[61][62] On ABC’s The View, Abrams defended Bloomberg’s spending, saying, “Every person is allowed to run and should run the race that they think they should run, and Mike Bloomberg has chosen to use his finances. Other people are using their dog, their charisma, their whatever.”[63] Abrams declined to endorse Bloomberg personally.[64]

During the 2020 Democratic presidential primary election, Abrams actively promoted herself for consideration as former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate.[65] Biden later shortlisted Abrams for the position.[66] Kamala Harris was officially announced as Biden's running mate on August 11, 2020.

Political positionsEdit

Abrams is pro-choice, advocates for expanded gun control, and opposes proposals for stricter voter ID laws. Abrams has argued that voter ID laws disenfranchise minorities and the poor.[67][68] Abrams pledged to oppose legislation similar to the religious liberty bill that Governor Deal vetoed in 2016.[69][70]

Health careEdit

In her campaign for governor, Abrams said her top priority was Medicaid expansion.[24][71] She cited research showing that Medicaid expansion improved health care access for low-income residents and made hospitals in rural locations financially viable.[71] She also created a plan to address Georgia's high maternal mortality rate.[72]

EducationEdit

Abrams would like to increase spending on public education.[24] She opposes private school vouchers, instead advocating improvements to the public education system. She supports smaller class sizes, more school counselors, protected pensions, better pay for teachers, and expanded early childhood education.[73]

Criminal justice reformEdit

Abrams supports criminal justice reform in the form of no cash bail for poor defendants, abolishing the death penalty, and decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.[67][74] She also supports community policing to keep communities safe as part of criminal justice reform.[75]

IsraelEdit

Abrams is a strong supporter of Israel and rejects "the demonization and delegitimization of Israel represented" by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign," which she has called "anti-Semitic."[76][77] But she voted against Georgia's anti-BDS legislation that punishes companies that choose to boycott Israel or Israeli-occupied territories.[78] Abrams wrote, "Boycotts have been a critical part of social justice in American history, particularly for African-Americans. As the Anti-Defamation League notes, the origin of BDS is based in the anti-apartheid movement."[76]

Writing careerEdit

Under the pen name Selena Montgomery, Abrams is the award-winning author of several romantic suspense novels. According to Abrams, she has sold more than 100,000 copies of her novels.[21] She wrote her first novel during her third year at Yale Law School and published her most recent book in 2009.[79] Montgomery won both the Reviewer's Choice Award and the Reader's Favorite Award from Romance In Color for Best New Author, and was featured as a Rising Star.[80]

Abrams has published articles on public policy, taxation, and nonprofit organizations.[81] She is the author of Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change, published by Henry Holt & Co. in April 2018.[82] Abrams is also the author of the upcoming book Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America, to be published by Henry Holt & Co. in June 2020.[83]

Honors and awardsEdit

In 2012 Abrams received the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award from the Kennedy Library and Harvard University's Institute of Politics, which honors an elected official under 40 whose work demonstrates the impact of elective public service as a way to address public challenges.[84] In 2014 Governing Magazine named her a Public Official of the Year, an award that recognizes state and local official for outstanding accomplishments.[85] Abrams was recognized as one of "12 Rising Legislators to Watch" by the same publication in 2012[86] and one of the "100 Most Influential Georgians" by Georgia Trend for 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.[87]

EMILY's List recognized Abrams as the inaugural recipient of the Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award in 2014.[88] She was selected as an Aspen Rodel Fellow[89] and a Hunt-Kean Fellow.[90] She was also named as #11 on The Root 100 by The Root.[91] Abrams was named Legislator of the Year by the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, Public Servant of the Year by the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Outstanding Public Service by the Latin American Association, Champion for Georgia Cities by the Georgia Municipal Association, and Legislator of the Year by the DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce.[92]

Abrams received the Georgia Legislative Service Award from the Association County Commissioners Georgia, the Democratic Legislator of the Year from the Young Democrats of Georgia and Red Clay Democrats, and an Environmental Leader Award from the Georgia Conservation Voters.[92] She is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations,[93] a Next Generation Fellow of the American Assembly,[94] an American Marshall Memorial Fellow,[94] a Salzburg Seminar–Freeman Fellow on U.S.-East Asian Relations,[95] and a Yukos Fellow for U.S.–Russian Relations.[95]

Abrams received the Stevens Award for Outstanding Legal Contributions and the Elmer Staats Award for Public Service, both national honors presented by the Harry S. Truman Foundation.[96][97] She was also a 1994 Harry S. Truman Scholar.[98]

In 2001 Ebony named Abrams one of "30 Leaders of the Future".[99] In 2004 she was named to Georgia Trend's "40 Under 40" list,[100] and the Atlanta Business Chronicle named Abrams to its Top 50 Under 40 list. In 2006 she was named a Georgia Rising Star by Atlanta Magazine and Law & Politics Magazine.[101]

Abrams received a single vote, from Rep. Kathleen Rice, in the 2019 election for Speaker of the U.S. House.[102]

Other workEdit

 
Abrams with Terri Sewell and Doug Jones at the 55th Anniversary Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, Alabama in 2020.

Abrams serves on the boards of directors for Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, the Center for American Progress,[103] Atlanta Metropolitan State College Foundation, Gateway Center for the Homeless, and the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education; and on the advisory boards for Literacy Action and Health Students Taking Action Together (HSTAT). She also serves on the Board of Visitors for Agnes Scott College and the University of Georgia,[104] as well as on the Board of Advisors for Let America Vote (a voting rights organization founded by former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander).[105]

Abrams has completed seven international fellowships and traveled to "more than a dozen foreign countries" for policy work.[106][107] She is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations[108] and spoke at CFR's Conference on Diversity in International Affairs in 2019.[109] She has also spoken at London's Chatham House,[110] the National Security Action Forum,[111] and a conference hosted by the Yale Kerry Initiative and Jackson Institute for Global Affairs.[112][113] In 2019, Abrams contributed an essay to Foreign Affairs magazine on how identity politics strengthens liberal democracy.[114][115]

Personal lifeEdit

Abrams is the second of six children born to Reverend Carolyn and Reverend Robert Abrams, originally of Mississippi.[8] Her siblings include Andrea Abrams, U.S. District Judge Leslie Abrams Gardner, Richard Abrams, Walter Abrams and Dr. Jeanine Abrams McLean.[116][117]

In April 2018, Abrams wrote an op-ed for Fortune revealing that she owed $54,000 in federal back taxes and held $174,000 in credit card and student loan debt.[118] She was repaying the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) incrementally on a payment plan after deferring her 2015 and 2016 taxes, which she stated was necessary to help with her family's medical bills. During the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, she donated $50,000 to her own campaign.[119][120] In 2019, she completed payment of her back taxes to the IRS in addition to other outstanding credit card and student loan debt reported during the gubernatorial campaign.[121]

BooksEdit

  • Montgomery, Selena (April 24, 2001). Rules Of Engagement. Harlequin Kimani Arabesque. ISBN 978-1583142240.
  • Montgomery, Selena (December 25, 2001). The Art of Desire. Harlequin Kimani Arabesque. ISBN 978-1583142646.
  • Montgomery, Selena (October 25, 2002). Power of Persuasion. Harlequin Kimani Arabesque. ISBN 978-1583142653.
  • Montgomery, Selena (June 14, 2004). Never Tell. St. Martin's Paperbacks. ISBN 978-0312993061.
  • Abrams, Stacey (April 24, 2018). Minority Leader: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change. New York: Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 978-1250191298.
  • Abrams, Stacey (June 9, 2020). Our Time Is Now: Power, Purpose, and the Fight for a Fair America. New York: Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 978-1250257703.

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit

Georgia House of Representatives
Preceded by
JoAnn McClinton
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
from the 84th district

2007–2013
Succeeded by
Rahn Mayo
Preceded by
Earnest Williams
Member of the Georgia House of Representatives
from the 89th district

2013–2017
Succeeded by
Bee Nguyen
Preceded by
DuBose Porter
Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives
2011–2017
Succeeded by
Bob Trammell
Party political offices
Preceded by
Jason Carter
Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia
2018
Most recent
Preceded by
Joe Kennedy III
Response to the State of the Union address
2019
Succeeded by
Gretchen Whitmer