By Myía Borland
Howard University News Service
Stacey Abrams shared her plans if elected as the Georgia governor this November and the challenges facing Black voters during a Q&A session hosted by the National Association of Black Journalists Political Journalism Task Force last week.
“People don’t live one dimensional lives,” Abrams said. “They don’t get to choose between being worried about housing and health care, between thinking about climate action and climate change when extreme weather events affect the coast. … We have to have conversations about all of the issues, and it’s important for voters to know where the candidates stand.”
One participant asked about the lack of “energy” surrounding the campaign and general desire for people to vote. “I can’t be a new candidate every time,” Abrams replied. The Democratic candidate reflected on her first campaign run, which took place for 18 months and had moments of defeat as well as triumph.
“What felt to folks at the end as sort of an inevitability, took 18 months to build, but it was also true that I was brand new,” she said. “At the time, the White House was inhabited by someone who was seen as anathema to almost every single community. … That is not the case this time. It’s much easier to generate enthusiasm when there is a clear understanding of who the opposition is, who the villain is.”
Abrams then directed her response to her Republican competitor, Governor Brian Kemp, whom she described as “getting credit for being a mainstream Republican when he is just as hard right, just as offensive as Donald Trump was to the needs of our community.”
Kemp serves as the 83rd governor of Georgia and is running for reelection against Abrams after winning the gubernatorial race in 2018 by just a few votes.
In terms of initiatives and issues that may attract Georgia voters to the polls in just a few weeks, Abrams pinpointed four areas of concern that require action: being able to make a good living. education, health care and housing.”
“There’s distrust,” Abrams said. “People aren’t quite clear. … They know what their challenges are; they don’t know whose fault it is. And thus, they don’t necessarily know who can fix it.”
When asked about her Coastal Resilience Response Plan and South Georgia Readiness Response Plan, Abrams shared that she would make environmental justice a priority as governor.
“Environmental justice is incredibly important to me,” she said. “I actually interned for the Office of Environmental Justice when it was first created under Bill Clinton, I did my summer internships with the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and I’m from a coastal community that was ravaged by hurricanes year over year. I want to first and foremost make certain that we have a transportation and evacuation plan for those who are typically left behind.”
Abrams, who grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi, emphasized the need to anticipate bad storms and have the course of action prepared prior to any destruction.
“We need to have a plan in place to move them inland and to provide housing for long term. It cannot be simply over a weekend. Typically, recovering from a hurricane takes weeks to months on end.”
To add to that, Abrams explained her Small Business Investment Fund, which was designed to combat financial hardships for business owners who do not have the same access to resources as larger corporations.
“I am building the Small Business Investment Fund, because small businesses statewide are 99% of the businesses 43% of the jobs. We need to be investing and making sure those small businesses have the same type of resilience that large companies get.”
Abrams’ final point for environmental initiatives stemmed from her claim that Kemp does not see climate issues as a real threat to Georgians.
“We need to anticipate that climate action is real,” she said. “This current governor refuses to say so; I do. It’s insufficient to bring a battery company to Georgia when you don’t acknowledge that the reason for that battery company is that we need clean air and clean water and that we need to stop drilling off the coast.”
As for how Abrams aims to get more African American voters to the polls this year, she said, “Voting is math.”
“You can carve out any certain community,” she began. “Unless you have 100 percent participation rates, the attribution of success or loss can always be characterized as a community’s fault. That is both disingenuous, and I think that it is wrong. I think the responsibility of candidates is to reach into communities and give people a reason to vote. But you have to understand what predicates their refusal to or their disengagement from voting.”
Abrams addressed challenges for African American voters and how she would provide support throughout the community if elected.
“For African American voters, voter suppression is a very real barrier, but so is the lack of delivery of resources and the consistent underinvestment in our communities,” she said. “My responsibility in this campaign is to point out why that happened. And this election year in a unique fashion, it can actually be solved. With this election we can elect a governor who can actually provide access to resources.”
“Georgia is sitting on a $6.6 billion surplus that can invest in every single fundamental that we need to see addressed.”
Myia Borland is a reporter for HUNewsService.com and an Inside Climate News Environmental Justice Reporting Fellow.