Stacey Abrams on Roy Barnes’ snub: It’s not 1998

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

So you know that, this morning, former Gov. Roy Barnes endorsed state Rep. Stacey Evans of Smyrna in the 2018 Democratic primary for governor.

The other Stacey – state Rep. Stacey Abrams of Atlanta, currently the House minority leader, announced her own Democratic candidacy for governor earlier this month. She’s been crisscrossing the state since then.

We called Abrams this morning for her reaction. She was not surprised by the announcement, and said this:

“We’ve spent the last month traveling the state, going from Albany to Dalton, from Macon to Savannah. And we have found in every one of those communities people who are excited about our candidacy, and who are excited about the coalition we’re building. In every single community, we’ve had multi-racial coalitions – multi-economic coalitions coming together. They’re excited about our message of success – that survival is not enough.”

This is where the conversation got interesting. Said Abrams:

“There are two theories of this case. One is that we attempt to recreate a coalition that has not really existed since the late ‘90s. And the other is we build a coalition based on the Georgia we have today – a Georgia that is racially diverse, that is economically, uniformly interested in how we move forward….”

We asked her to elaborate on the difference between the coalition she was building, and the one that elected Barnes as governor in 1998. Said Abrams:

“The previous coalition for Democrats was premised on a demographic that had a majority white population, and had a smaller coalition of people of color. Between 2000 and 2010, 1.5 million new people moved into Georgia, 80 percent of whom were people of color.

“As of today, our actual population is roughly 52 percent white, 48 percent people of color. That’s not how are voting shakes out, but what I would say is that any winning coalition this next election has to be reflective of the broadest set of conversations.”

It is worth noting that one of Abrams’ biggest fans, DuBose Porter of Dublin, is chairman of the state Democratic party and thus is required to be neutral. But we also know that Georgia’s unions are lining up behind Abrams.

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Just as on the Republican side, the math matters in Democratic politics.

Rather like cooking, the idea is to find the right proportions. Ed Kilgore, a former Zell Miller staffer who writes for New York magazine, has an excellent historical take on the topic that includes this paragraph on the post-Barnes decline of Georgia Democrats:

Like their counterparts in other Deep South states, Georgia Democrats were thwarted by the ideological sorting out of the two major parties, with white rural, small-town, and outer-suburbs conservatives trending rapidly toward the GOP.

 

The old formula for statewide success among Georgia Democrats in the post–Civil Rights era had been 40–90 — 40 percent of the white vote and 90 percent of the African-American vote. As the 21st century unfolded, the Democratic share of the white vote steadily sank. John Kerry won 23 percent of white voters in Georgia in 2004, and more alarmingly, moderate-conservative white Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Taylor won 27 percent of the white vote in 2006.

Democrats have been looking for the new formula ever since.

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Washington Examiner columnist Salena Zito calls the Democratic gubernatorial primary the race that “nobody is talking about that everyone should be talking about.” (Well, we sure are, but that’s besides the point.) Here’s a snippet about state Rep. Stacey Evans’ appeal:

State Rep. Stacey Evans. AJC file

In short, Evans has a message designed to appeal to rural, independent and conservative voters, and Abrams stands for a future in Georgia that is centered in urban Atlanta.

The truth is, most Democrats in Washington think that the urban Atlanta model is the one that is most likely to succeed for Democrats because where the numbers are — which makes Republicans strategists in Washington and Georgia happy.

 

Why? Because there was an audible gasp among every Republican who has watched Stacey Evans’ video, of “Oh my gosh, how are we going to beat that?”

Just a reminder: Zito is the writer who warned last year that while the media was taking Donald Trump literally but not seriously, his supporters were taking him seriously — but not literally.

 

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The cutting line from Maureen Dowd of the New York Times in her Sunday column:

With Jon Ossoff, as with Hillary Clinton, the game plan was surfing contempt for Trump and counting on the elusive Obama coalition. Heavy Hollywood involvement is not necessarily a positive in Georgia, though. Alyssa Milano drove voters to the polls but couldn’t bewitch the Republicans. And not living in the district is bad anywhere.

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This picture of Atlanta mayoral candidate Peter Aman posing with Georgia GOP chair John Watson and others at Karen Handel’s victory party last week quickly made the social media rounds:

Fred Hicks, an adviser to Aman, quickly replied that the mayoral candidate had also visited Jon Ossoff’s shindig that evening. But that’s an argument that would go over better with photographic evidence. Oh, wait:

 

 

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State Sen. Vincent Fort has lined up the support of nearly two dozen labor unions in his bid for Atlanta mayor, adding them to a list of supporters that also includes former Gov. Roy Barnes and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Atlanta Democrat’s new backers include local affiliates of the Teamsters, the Communications Workers of America, the United Auto Workers and the Georgia Federation of Teachers.

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Secretary of State Brian Kemp stepped up his endorsement game as well, announcing more than 300 supporters of his gubernatorial campaign. You can find all the names here.

 


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