Less than a week after a wrenching defeat in the Sixth District congressional race, Georgia Democrats have embarked on a volatile race for governor.
Early this morning, Gov. Roy Barnes endorsed state Rep. Stacey Evans of Smyrna in the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary. She faces state Rep. Stacey Abrams of Atlanta, who will give up her post as House minority leader this week. Both are attorneys.
In his announcement, Barnes referenced the all-important role the governor will play in redistricting after the 2020 census – give that both chambers of the Legislature are all but certain to remain in Republican hands.
From the Evans campaign press release:
“There’s a whole lot riding on this race for governor. Georgia is a changing state. If Republicans win in November, they get to redraw the maps. Again. And just like last time, they’re going to be able to draw those maps to keep Democrats in the minority. Georgia families cannot let that happen, and with Stacey Evans as our nominee, it will not happen.”
Barnes’ endorsement follows a fundraising weekend fundraising appeal from Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist with close ties to former Gov. Zell Miller. Evans intends to emphasize the preservation of the HOPE scholarship, pioneered by Miller in the 1990s, and Barnes emphasized the economic nature of Evans’ message:
“We can win this election and we have to win this election. I’ve never been more sure of anything. But this election is not won in Washington D.C. It is won right here, in Georgia. Georgians aren’t laying up worrying about what Washington D.C. wants or some national party divide. They’re worried about how they’re going to pay for their kids’ and grandkids’ college. They’re worried about their healthcare premiums, and if their wages are enough to cover it all.
“Stacey Evans gets that and that’s why I’m supporting her bid for governor. Stacey’s story is powerful. Her work for working Georgia families is powerful. It gives me hope. And I’ll be standing with her every step of the way through this election.”
Abrams was first elected to the legislature in 2006. Evans arrived after a 2010 election. Abrams is black. Evans is white. Therein lies the potential fracture. Which the Evans campaign acknowledged in these lines:
“Governor Barnes was elected governor of Georgia in 1998 and is the state’s last Democratic governor. He currently resides in Cobb County, as does Representative Evans.
“Governor Barnes’ popularity among Georgia Democrats was solidified in history because of his removal of the Confederate battle flag from Georgia’s state flag.”
Evans pronounced herself “honored to have the support of my mentor, Governor Barnes.” His support wasn’t unexpected. But Barnes’ entrance was far earlier than expected, and could prompt other heavyweight players to quickly choose sides as well.
As leader of the House Democratic caucus, Abrams followed DuBose Porter of Dublin, who is now chairman of the state party. Porter has been an unflinching fan of Abrams.