Many times, when history is being made, the moment is met with major pomp and circumstance. The bands play. The fireworks are discharged. The world grinds to a halt.
But sometimes, historical moments are quiet.
Such was the case on a rainy Tuesday morning when Stacey Abrams filed and then qualified, to be the first African-American woman to run for governor of the state of Georgia.
If one is to be honest, Abrams is no stranger to making history in Georgia. After all, she was the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly and also the first African American to lead in the Georgia House of Representatives.
But Abrams latest achievement—qualifying to run for the governor of Georgia—is a moment etched in history. Not simply because there has never been a woman who has served as governor of Georgia. But also because there has never been an African American woman governor of any state in this country.
And, based on her support, a number of key endorsements, and the latest crop of #blackgirlmagic in the political atmosphere, the former House Minority Leader could very well win!
That is if she is able to secure enough votes to best her opponent Stacey Evans in the Democratic primary on May 22, and then also best what promises to be a tough race against albeit controversial, yet still Republican Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and four other candidates. Georgia is still considered a red state.
“This moment is almost 50 years when Shirley Chisholm ran for president of the US in 1972,” Abrams said. “That was one of those moments when we got to think about what the future could look like—what leadership could look like—and I’m just excited to be a part of this legacy, a part of this conversation about changing the face of leadership in this country.”
Perhaps it is befitting that Abrams likens this moment in history to that of famed feminist Chisholm. After all, Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the United States Congress in 1968 and she represented New York’s 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1969 to 1983.
In 1972, she became the first black candidate for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.
Further, Chisholm’s legacy came into renewed prominence during the 2008 Democratic presidential primaries, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton staged their historic ‘firsts’ battle—where the victor would either be the first major party African-American nominee, or the first woman nominee—with at least one observer crediting Chisholm’s 1972 campaign as having paved the way for both of them.
Like Chisholm, Abrams believed in the power of women to make longterm change. It seems not by happenstance that Abrams qualifying moment was just shy of International Women’s Day and during Women’s History Month, a month that celebrates the achievements of women like Chisholm who have made historic contributions to advance the position of women and families all over the world.
“Women’s History Month, like Black History Month, identifies in a single encapsulated month, the story of who we are and how we’ve come to be,” Abrams explained. “I think it’s an extraordinary opportunity for us to explore the path that women have walked, especially in America.
“That Chisholm became a candidate for president, and did so at a time when people doubted her capacity is amazing,” she continued. “What I take for her experience, what I take from the stories of other women who will be celebrated this year, is the need for both tenacity and imagination, and also innovation.”
Continued after the jump…
Surrounded by a sea of smiling faces, including those of her parents and other family members, Abrams addressed the media in the atrium of the Georgia State Capitol. Fielding questions from various outlets, Abrams made her case for her run for governor.
“To come back to the capitol today is incredibly important to me because it is a continuation of the work I’ve tried to do for the last 11 years, seven of which I served as Minority (House) Leader,” she said. “But what I want to do next is occupy the second-floor office where we make the decisions that can transform the future of the state of Georgia.
“More than anything, I’m excited to be a part of #TeamAbrams, a team that is people-powered, is statewide, and that is going to transform the electorate of the state of Georgia.”
Abrams and her team have visited 155 of the state’s 159 counties so far. She plans to visit and revisit the remaining four well before the campaign season is up. The reason she has made it her purpose to stump throughout the entire state: “We have to believe that our capacity for greatness lies in every single person.”
“I’m running for governor because I see pathways to prosperity if we have the right leadership, if we have the right vision and if someone steps up with the right experience and that is me,” she said. “I am a proven leader who has been a tri-sector leader — the public space, the private space, the non-profit space. And by bringing all those sectors together, I believe I can lead Georgia into a much better, much stronger future.”
While Abrams is facing tough odds, it hasn’t seemed to stop her team or support from donors across the country. Just Wednesday, less than 24 hours of her qualifying to run for governor, San Francisco-based philanthropist Susan Sandler has spent $1 million on Abrams’ campaign, according to USA Today.
Sandler has also recruited other big donors and has commitments for another $1 million. The early money is aimed at increasing black turnout for the primary and boosting the name recognition of Abrams, who shares the first name of her opponent, Stacey Evans—also a former state legislator and lawyer.
“The upset election of Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race in December gave a glimpse of a new electoral equation,” Sandler wrote in a memo announcing her donation. “If we elect Stacey, we will show that we know how to win in the South without compromising our principles and beliefs.”
On Monday, Abrams received an endorsement from Our Revolution, a 501(c)(4) that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders started to build off the momentum of his near-victory in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, is one of the strongest signals that national progressive groups are in favor Abrams’ political strategy.
“I am proud to have Our Revolution by my side as we fight for bold new solutions for Georgia and bring progress to our state,” Abrams told BuzzFeed News. “With their help, we will continue to build an inclusive grassroots campaign strong enough to win.”
By endorsing Abrams over Evans, Our Revolution joins the Working Families Party, EMILY’s List, Daily Kos, Democracy for America, and MoveOn.org, among others. Evans has the backing of some big names in the state, including former senator Max Cleland, former governor Roy Barnes, and the Dekalb County district attorney.
But, Abrams is not resting on endorsements alone.
“It is my deepest honor to be able to put my name on the ballot and work alongside every Georgian in service of a brighter future. If we are united in our belief that progress is possible, we can change our state together,” she said.
Watch the historic moment when Mrs. Abrams qualified for the Governor’s race:
Editor’s Note: This article was updated March 9, 2018, to acknowledge Douglas Wilder as the first modern African-American governor in the US. Governor Wilder served Virginia from 1990-1994.