(CNN) — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams defended herself from criticism that she never conceded her loss to Gov. Brian Kemp in 2018 on Friday, addressing what Republicans have already used against her in her newly announced 2022 rematch against Kemp.
Abrams, in the wake of her 2018 loss to Kemp by 1.4 percentage points, acknowledged that Kemp, who then worked as Georgia secretary of state, would be the governor of Georgia. But she specifically said in her final speech that she was not concede due to persistent voter suppression allegations, adding that conceding would mean acknowledging “an action is right, true or proper” and “as a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that.”
During an interview with CNN’s “New Day” on Friday, Abrams said Kemp “won under the rules of the game at the time, but the game was rigged against the voters of Georgia.”
“I, on November 16, 2018, acknowledged at the top of my speech that Brian Kemp is the governor of Georgia and I even wished him well at the end of the speech,” Abrams said. “And in the middle, I talked about the fact we had a system that he managed, that he manipulated, hurt Georgia voters and the responsibility of leaders is to challenge systems that are not serving the people.”
Abrams added that she has been “very well aware for three years I am not the governor of Georgia” but that as a citizen of the state she has a “responsibility… to challenge a system that would rob a single voice from being able to be heard if they are eligible.”
Even though Abrams lost her 2018 election, the race vaulted her into the upper echelons of the Democratic Party, landing Abrams as one of the top candidates on Biden’s vice presidential search. In response, Republicans have attacked the way Abrams ended her campaign, using her lack of a concession as a way to blunt criticism against some of the baseless Republican attacks the party made against election systems in the wake of former President Donald Trump’s loss in 2020.
“Abrams didn’t want an election loss to get in the way of her ability to leverage her political career into fame and financial success, so she paraded around the country as someone who didn’t lose,” said Jesse Hunt, spokesman for the Republican Governors Association. “Those lies now sow doubt in every word that comes out of her mouth.”
Asked about these attacks on Friday, Abrams said, “Yes, he became the governor, and we have watched him fail for three years.”
Since Abrams’ loss, Democrats have seen significant gains in Georgia. Both Democratic candidates running for Senate in Georgia in 2020 — Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock — won their campaigns, and President Joe Biden became the first Democrat in nearly 30 years to win the state.
Abrams argued on Friday that those wins are “proof that we have the opportunity in Georgia to elect strong Democrats up and down the ticket.”
The 2022 midterm elections, however, will be happening in a dramatically different political climate to both the 2020 and 2018 elections. While Democrats were able to use antipathy towards the Trump administration against Republicans over the last four years, Biden is now in office and poll after poll has shown Republicans are better positioned to win elections in 2022.
Abrams, however, told CNN on Friday that she has no plans to run away from Biden.
“I think that Joe Biden, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have been delivering for Georgia,” she said, telling CNN that she would happily campaign with any of them, including Biden. “Yes, I look forward to having anyone who is willing to invest in the state come down and talk about what a great future we can have.”
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