With the presidential election decided and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris elected the next president and vice president of the United States, Donald Trump’s attempts to ignore the will of the votes and maintain power notwithstanding, the focus now shifts to the Senate run-offs taking place in January in Georgia.
One way Stacey Abrams, former Georgia House of Representative and gubernatorial candidate, sees Black voters helping secure that Democrats take each of the two Jan. 5 run-off races, is to increase fundraising and engagement to combat voter suppression. Abrams said that of the absentee ballots that were rejected in 2018, Black and Latino votes were twice as likely to be rejected.
Another key to victory, according to Abrams, is securing more remote volunteers with Fair Fight, sending text messages and phone calls to remind Black and Brown communities to vote in the run off over the holiday season.
“So if we can run up the score in absentee balloting, knowing that we face Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s, if we can get those ballots banked, if we can run up the score again, that’s how we increase the margin of victory.”
Many are heralding Abrams, a former Georgia House of Representative and gubernatorial candidate, as the hero of the 2020 Presidential election, particularly Biden’s win in the Peach State. The work of Abrams and her organization Fair Fight, which helped raise money and rally a Democratic wave of voters in traditionally Republican Georgia counties.
Although Abrams lost an extremely narrow race to become Georgia’s first Black female governor in 2018, thanks to monumental voter suppression tactics of her opponent and then the state’s top elections official, Brian Kemp, her campaign raised over $70 million. Her narrow loss even after Kemp’s efforts threw hundreds of thousands of eligible voters off the rolls, brought more attention to the plight of voter suppression in Black and Latino communities. Abram’s organizing and Fair Fight’s efforts to checkmate voter suppression efforts paid tangible dividends when Biden took Georgia in this November.
Abrams, however, is not resting on her laurels. Far from it. She has two Senate run-offs happening in Georgia in January in her sites. Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock will face off against incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, the co-owner Atlanta’s WNBA team who has demonized Black Lives Matter and all its supporters. Georgia’s other race has Republican Sen. David Perdue going up against against Democrat Jon Ossoff. With Republicans only one seat away from regaining the U.S. Senate majority, these run-offs will be crucial for both Black people nationally and those who want to see the Biden Administration free of the shackles of a deadlocked Congress.
Abrams shared with theGrio what was at stake with this important Georgia Senate race — the first important issue being health care.
“We’ve got five million Americans in the south alone who do not have access to basic health care because the governors of these states refuse to expand Medicaid in the midst of the worst pandemic in this century or in modern times,” Abrams said.
“We are watching thousands and thousands of Black people losing their lives, losing their jobs, losing hope. And it’s because we do not have the public health infrastructure. We do not have access for everyone to public to to health care.”
The economic recovery is another issue Abrams wants Black voters to seriously consider when deciding whether to vote or not, and if voting, who to cast their votes for. She pointed out that over 90 percent of Black businesses eligible for PPP benefits during the coronavirus pandemic did not receive any, emphasizing the need for a U.S. Senate “willing to think about the needs of our communities.“
“We need to have economic recovery from COVID that sees Black America, that invests in Black America, and that understands that the traditional mechanisms do not work for everyone. And so we have to meet the people where they are,” said Abrams
Like many other Democratic and progressive pundits, Abrams views social justice asa huge issue in Georgia’s run-offs, two races that have taken on national implications.
“We have seen the debates and the protests. We have seen the slow steps forward,” Abrams stated. “If we want to see real justice and a real attention to the issues of police brutality, of criminal justice reform, we have to have senators who can get to work, access to health care, access to jobs and opportunity, access to justice.”
Abrams sees as key to a better justice system means demoting Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell from Senate Majority Leader to Minority Leader, a change in positions only possible if Democrats win both run-offs.
“If Black Americans want progress, if we don’t want to see more of the worst examples of the Trump administration, we must have a Democratic president who is enabled by a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House,” Abrams said.
Abrams realizes if just one Democrat wins, Vice President-elect Harris will serve as the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.
“And if we will not be the Senate majority leader, we will know that the tie is broken by the first Black and Asian-American vice president. That is something that means that we can look to our own to help make the decisions.”