Georgia 2018: Stacey Abrams sets a date for campaign kickoff

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Kent Johnson/AJC photo.

Democrat Stacey Abrams appears to have set a date for her campaign kickoff.

Abrams, the state House Minority Leader, will host a family-friendly barbecue and “brief speaking program” that starts at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

The location, though, is what really caught our eye: It’s not in vote-rich metro Atlanta, a slice of which she has long represented. It’s in Chehaw Park in Albany, a deep-blue pocket of rural southwest Georgia.

She’ll need to run up the tally in Democratic bastions like Albany to have any chance at flipping the state in 2018. About two-thirds of Dougherty County is African-American, and Abrams is aiming to be the nation’s first black female governor.

She’ll also need to perform well in those areas in next year’s primary to defeat state Rep. Stacey Evans, her lone Democratic opponent. Evans, who represents a portion of Smyrna, hopes her message has a particular appeal to voters in metro Atlanta’s fast-changing suburbs.

The Albany visit is also a likely unintentional reminder of some internal Democratic strife. It’s the backyard of state Rep. Winfred Dukes, a longtime legislator who challenged Abrams in November for her leadership role. In his unsuccessful bid, he lamented what he called a “lack of transparency, diversity and inclusion” in the caucus.

Abrams filed paperwork earlier this month to “explore” a gubernatorial bid, but there’s been no doubt that she intends to run for the office. Her campaign bills the event as a chance for her to “speak with community members about their vision for a brighter Georgia.”

The race to succeed a term-limited Gov. Nathan Deal is wide open, and Republicans are hoping to keep a grip on the office they’ve held since 2002.

Three Republicans are already in the contest: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp and state Sen. Hunter Hill. And several others, including state Sen. Michael Williams and GOP operative Nick Ayers, are considering a bid.

Read more on MyAJC: How Trump is shaking up the governor’s race

And: Georgia governor race: Who is running in 2018


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