JONESBORO, Ga. — On the final day of voting in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff elections, Stacey Abrams reflected on her efforts to nudge the state blue.
“Today is one more proof point that Georgia is turning, that we are making progress in serving our people and, more importantly, that people believe in their power to change,” Abrams, Georgia’s former Democratic House leader, told Yahoo News outside the Slutty Vegan, a popular Black-owned fast food spot. “Every time we see an opportunity to improve the lives of others we should take it, but that means the people whose lives need to be improved the most have to have the power to do so.”
Credited as one of the primary architects for President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia, Abrams has been a fixture on the campaign trail in her home state for much of the past year.
On Tuesday, the former gubernatorial candidate was once again seeking to secure more votes for Democratic hopefuls Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, talking to potential voters in Clayton County, where 85 percent voted for Biden in November. Despite that impressive margin, Abrams isn’t taking any chances in the runoffs that will decide control of the U.S. Senate.
“Georgia is a divided state,” she said. “We are 50-50. My point is that the 50 percent that share Democratic values — making sure certain people have access to health care, jobs and to justice — their voices need to be heard.”
As Tuesday’s voting began, more than 3 million Georgians had already cast their ballots, shattering early voting records for a runoff. In part that’s because of the heavy stakes the two races hold.
Republicans currently hold the majority of Senate seats, 50-48, meaning both Ossoff and Warnock would need to win to give Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote in a deadlocked chamber. If either loses, Republicans would maintain control of the Senate and retain the ability to block Democratic initiatives, including Biden’s agenda and Cabinet appointments.
As ballots were being cast on Tuesday, two GOP strategists told Yahoo News that President Trump’s rhetoric had not made things easy for Republican incumbents Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
“Trump’s messaging has been unhelpful from the start, but he has managed to explicitly bat down boycott talk from folks like Lin Wood, and otherwise compartmentalize these races and their importance from his broader grievances,” veteran Republican strategist Liam Donovan said. “The stretch run has been a reminder that they can’t live with him, but can’t live without him. At the end of the day, vocal support from the president is necessary but not sufficient to mobilize the million-plus votes the GOP needs to marshal on Tuesday to win.”
In addition to troubling rhetoric from Trump at Monday’s rally for Loeffler and Perdue questioning the integrity of the election in the state, many Georgia Republican voters have to decide where their loyalty lies after a tape-recorded call published Sunday by the Washington Post revealed that Trump had pressured Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” and declare him the winner of the presidential election in the state.
“I was feeling pretty good, thinking we were going to get these votes, and then the secretary of state call happened,” Amy Koch, a Republican strategist and former Minnesota Senate majority leader, told Yahoo News. “It’s frustrating. … If Republicans don’t win, the president will have a large part to do with it.”
Regardless of the Senate runoffs’ turnout, Abrams says Democrats will need to work with Republicans to get anything done.
“As often as possible we need to hold the power necessary to make those principles and values true [accountable], but it’s always going to require partnership,” she said. “At least for the next decade.”
“Demographics are changing,” she added. “Politics are changing. Nothing happens overnight.”
Tuesday’s Senate race “is just the beginning,” Abrams said, adding, “We are in the next phase, and this is the phase that everyone knows it’s possible, and now we have to get to the place where it’s permanent. And I am very, very strongly convinced that we will come close to victory, if not take it.”
Below are key dates for Georgians to remember ahead of the state’s Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5.
(Cover thumbnail photo: Ethan Miller via Getty Images)
Video edited by Amit Sharma @cinemamit
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