Stacey Abrams Says She’s ‘Ready to Get to Work’


Ms. Abrams secured the Democratic nomination for governor of Georgia on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday morning, she spoke to The New York Times about what’s next.

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Stacey Abrams spoke after winning the Democratic primary at her primary election night watch party in Atlanta on Tuesday.CreditMelissa Golden for The New York Times

Stacey Abrams is flying high.

The former Georgia state legislator secured the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor Tuesday evening, making her the first black woman in the United States to secure a major party’s nomination for governor.

Ms. Abrams’s triumph has been hailed as a potentially transformative moment for a party that is still searching for its soul in the era of President Trump, but she still has a difficult road to securing a general election victory in a deeply conservative state. Georgia hasn’t had a Democratic governor since 2003.

On Wednesday morning, just hours after her victory party in downtown Atlanta, Ms. Abrams spoke to The New York Times about her win, her vision for the state, what it means to be a “progressive” in Trump’s America, and her love of romance novels.

Some responses have been edited and condensed.

There’s obviously a historic aspect to this. You’re the first black woman to be nominated for governor by a major party. How does the weight of that history feel?

I am humbled by the opportunity to, you know, sort of tile this ground for folks. But I’m also excited about what it means for everyone who has yet to see themselves reflected in leadership in America. And my goal is to make certain everyone has a seat at the table and that folks can see themselves and their values reflected in our government.

Much has been made about how this primary was a bellwether for the current state of the Democratic Party. What do you think your win says about where Democrats are right now?

I think it says that we are a unified party. I was incredibly grateful to be endorsed by Secretary Clinton, by Senator Sanders, and by Valerie Jarrett, who worked for President Obama as a senior adviser. We were able, in this campaign, to bring together every facet of the Democratic Party.

But more importantly, we were able to turn out voters at an unprecedented level in a midterm because we did the work on the ground. We invested in talking to voters and it showed.

There is still an uphill battle for a Democrat to win Georgia’s governor’s race. How can you be successful in November?

By doing at a larger scale what we did in this primary. We won across the state of Georgia. We won in areas that are very disparate and different from one another. But what unified these people was the belief that we need a leader who will invest in education, who will invest in small businesses, and will invest in expanding Medicaid. And I think those values will resonate.

We just have to make certain that more and more Georgians hear it — and that’s why we run the kind of campaign we run. We win when we talk to our voters, when we talk to all Georgians, and we give them a choice. And we’re going to make certain they have a very clear choice, with bold and detailed plans to know what’s at stake, and what’s available if we win this election in November — I mean, when we win in November.

If you could change one thing about Georgia, what would it be?

I would expand Medicaid. Medicaid expansion is transformative for our state. It will help every facet, every community, and I’m just I’m deeply saddened and ashamed that we haven’t done so already.

Read more about Tuesday night’s primary elections

There’s a whole bunch of people across the country who are about to be introduced to you for the first time. What do you want them to know about you?

Abrams: I’m the daughter of a college librarian and a shipyard worker who later became Methodist ministers, and they raised me to believe you fight for what you think is right. I’m someone who has done that — as a business leader, as a political leader and as a civic leader, and I’m ready to get to work. And on the side, I wrote romance novels.

What does being a progressive mean to you? And what’s your vision of a progressive Georgia?

Abrams: Progressive means that we want to make certain that we continue to advance opportunities, that every Georgian has the freedom and opportunity to thrive. And to me, that means working hard within our party to get good things done. But it also means being able to work across the aisle to ensure that the best results happen for everyone. I do not think that it means anything less than wanting progress for our people. And that’s what I’m working towards.

Stacey Abrams Says She’s ‘Ready to Get to Work’


Ms. Abrams secured the Democratic nomination for governor of Georgia on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday morning, she spoke to The New York Times about what’s next.

Image
Stacey Abrams spoke after winning the Democratic primary at her primary election night watch party in Atlanta on Tuesday.CreditMelissa Golden for The New York Times

Stacey Abrams is flying high.

The former Georgia state legislator secured the Democratic Party’s nomination for governor Tuesday evening, making her the first black woman in the United States to secure a major party’s nomination for governor.

Ms. Abrams’s triumph has been hailed as a potentially transformative moment for a party that is still searching for its soul in the era of President Trump, but she still has a difficult road to securing a general election victory in a deeply conservative state. Georgia hasn’t had a Democratic governor since 2003.

On Wednesday morning, just hours after her victory party in downtown Atlanta, Ms. Abrams spoke to The New York Times about her win, her vision for the state, what it means to be a “progressive” in Trump’s America, and her love of romance novels.

Some responses have been edited and condensed.

There’s obviously a historic aspect to this. You’re the first black woman to be nominated for governor by a major party. How does the weight of that history feel?

I am humbled by the opportunity to, you know, sort of tile this ground for folks. But I’m also excited about what it means for everyone who has yet to see themselves reflected in leadership in America. And my goal is to make certain everyone has a seat at the table and that folks can see themselves and their values reflected in our government.

Much has been made about how this primary was a bellwether for the current state of the Democratic Party. What do you think your win says about where Democrats are right now?

I think it says that we are a unified party. I was incredibly grateful to be endorsed by Secretary Clinton, by Senator Sanders, and by Valerie Jarrett, who worked for President Obama as a senior adviser. We were able, in this campaign, to bring together every facet of the Democratic Party.

But more importantly, we were able to turn out voters at an unprecedented level in a midterm because we did the work on the ground. We invested in talking to voters and it showed.

There is still an uphill battle for a Democrat to win Georgia’s governor’s race. How can you be successful in November?

By doing at a larger scale what we did in this primary. We won across the state of Georgia. We won in areas that are very disparate and different from one another. But what unified these people was the belief that we need a leader who will invest in education, who will invest in small businesses, and will invest in expanding Medicaid. And I think those values will resonate.

We just have to make certain that more and more Georgians hear it — and that’s why we run the kind of campaign we run. We win when we talk to our voters, when we talk to all Georgians, and we give them a choice. And we’re going to make certain they have a very clear choice, with bold and detailed plans to know what’s at stake, and what’s available if we win this election in November — I mean, when we win in November.

If you could change one thing about Georgia, what would it be?

I would expand Medicaid. Medicaid expansion is transformative for our state. It will help every facet, every community, and I’m just I’m deeply saddened and ashamed that we haven’t done so already.

Read more about Tuesday night’s primary elections

There’s a whole bunch of people across the country who are about to be introduced to you for the first time. What do you want them to know about you?

Abrams: I’m the daughter of a college librarian and a shipyard worker who later became Methodist ministers, and they raised me to believe you fight for what you think is right. I’m someone who has done that — as a business leader, as a political leader and as a civic leader, and I’m ready to get to work. And on the side, I wrote romance novels.

What does being a progressive mean to you? And what’s your vision of a progressive Georgia?

Abrams: Progressive means that we want to make certain that we continue to advance opportunities, that every Georgian has the freedom and opportunity to thrive. And to me, that means working hard within our party to get good things done. But it also means being able to work across the aisle to ensure that the best results happen for everyone. I do not think that it means anything less than wanting progress for our people. And that’s what I’m working towards.

In Red-State Races, Democrats Seek an Edge by Defying the N.R.A.


There is also a certain political expediency: Many of the Democrats airing misgivings about the N.R.A. and its views are now competing in primaries where they are playing to an audience of fellow Democrats and not yet the entire electorate. Their hostility to the N.R.A. in the spring could certainly fade by the fall, but in past election cycles, many candidates would have regarded openly crossing the N.R.A. as too risky even in primary races.

“I don’t know that voters would have been more receptive; I think that candidates would have been more timid,” Stacey Abrams, a Democrat running for governor of Georgia, said last month before she addressed a March for Our Lives rally near the southern tip of the Appalachian Trail and promoted her history of poor ratings from the N.R.A.

To be sure, some Democrats in conservative-leaning states, like Ms. Abrams, have long been willing to challenge the group, especially in urban areas — but there were rarely very many of them. Meanwhile, rural Democrats often did the opposite, and actively courted the N.R.A., whose seal of approval and potent ability to mobilize its members could lift a candidate of either party to victory.

That era is not completely over. But many Democrats have grown wary of an organization that they believe has effectively evolved into an extension of the Republican Party, and they have begun to wonder whether they would be better off putting some distance between themselves and the N.R.A. The most fervent supporters of gun rights, some Democrats reason, are unlikely to support their campaigns no matter what they do.

“I think those that are hypersensitive to this issue are likely not going to be voting for us anyway, and I understand that, because there are voters who believe that any discussion of the Second Amendment is the compromising of the Second Amendment,” said Walt Maddox, a Democratic candidate for governor of Alabama. “But I believe the vast majority of Democrats, independents and Republicans are not fearful of a discussion on this matter, especially if it’s reasonable, measured and common sense-oriented.”

For his own part, Mr. Maddox declares allegiance to the Second Amendment, but he declined to fill out the questionnaire that the N.R.A. sends to candidates. In the N.R.A.’s view, refusing to complete the questionnaire is “often an indication of indifference, if not outright hostility, to gun owners’ and sportsmen’s rights.”

Other Democrats have mounted far more pointed critiques of the group. The Democratic Party in Virginia, a state that retains a conservative streak despite recent Democratic successes, recently issued a statement referring to N.R.A. “blood money” and declaring that Virginians were excited about “kicking out politicians who value National Rifle Association money over the safety of their sons and daughters, mothers and fathers.”

And in Kentucky, a Democratic state representative from an overwhelmingly conservative district stood on the House floor in February to call for new gun control measures, and said he was surrendering his A rating from the N.R.A.

Some Republicans have also calculated that they can now afford to cross the group to some extent. Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, who is running for the Senate this year, recently signed a Republican-backed gun-control package that was almost immediately challenged in a lawsuit by the N.R.A.

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While some red-state Democrats take on the National Rifle Association, others are treading more warily. Grant Kier, a Democrat running for Montana’s House seat, said he sees health care, not gun safety, as the dominant issue in the race. He chatted with voters on Sunday at the Ten Mile Creek Brewery in Helena.

Credit
Lynn Donaldson for The New York Times

The mass shooting in Parkland, which helped prompt the legislation Mr. Scott signed, appears to have been a political turning point even in places like Montana, which has one of the nation’s highest rates of gun ownership and where candidates often talk about their hunting credentials.

At a candidates’ forum less than a week before the Parkland shooting, the Democrats vying for the party’s House nomination — there were then five — were asked whether they supported expanded background checks for gun purchasers. None said yes. Then came the rampage in Florida.

In short order, the race was infused with fresh calls to ban bump stocks, outlaw military-style weapons like the AR-15 and eliminate loopholes for sales at gun shows.

Mr. Heenan, one of the candidates in the race, soon released an essay apologizing for not giving “a more straightforward answer” to a grandmother who had asked him how he would help prevent gun violence.

Another candidate, Kathleen Williams, made prevention of gun massacres central to her platform, and later said, “If the N.R.A. wants to give me an F for that, then I will proudly stand with all of you and say that F means ‘fearless.’ ”

Lynda Moss, who is also running for the seat, spoke this week about a column she wrote years ago, when she described “how Montana’s gun policies became a facade of the N.R.A. — a false front used to broadcast fear and misinformation perpetuating the myth of the Wild West.”

Some supporters of gun rights said they were skeptical that attacking the N.R.A. would do any of the candidates much good in a state like Montana, where gun ownership is deeply entwined with the state’s history and culture.

“In Montana, every candidate is going to say, ‘I’m going to support the Second Amendment’ — and then some will add, ‘but,’ ” said Gary Marbut, the president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, who has helped push nearly 70 gun rights bills into state law since the 1980s. The suddenly vocal critics of the N.R.A., he said, were “clearly political opportunists.”

The group backed the Republican incumbent in the House race, Greg Gianforte, in a special election in 2017 and is expected to do so again this year, when he is favored to win re-election. Neither the N.R.A. nor Mr. Gianforte’s campaign responded to requests for comment for this article.

Some Democrats in the state are confident that their party can succeed with a candidate who pushes away from the N.R.A. but finds a way to appeal to individual gun owners.

“We’ve hit a moment in time where the N.R.A. is denigrating a whole lot of responsible gun owners, so it’s not that surprising that folks finally say, ‘Enough’s enough — they don’t represent me, and they don’t represent either the mainstream of America or the mainstream of firearm owners,’ ” Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, said in an interview in his office at the State Capitol.

Still, some Democrats in the race have remained cautious. Grant Kier, who is seen as one of the front-runners in the primary along with Mr. Heenan, recently called Mr. Marbut of the sport-shooting group to discuss gun rights.

“I think somebody who doesn’t respect people’s gun rights is not going to do well in Montana, period, regardless of the N.R.A.’s involvement,” Mr. Kier said. “I don’t see myself as running against the N.R.A.; I see myself as running against Greg Gianforte.”

He said he sees health care, not gun safety, as the dominant issue in the campaign. “I think that being sensitive to people’s desires to find sensible gun laws in our state and country is important, but I think there are far more issues on people’s minds that we need to be working on, too, and I think that’s how we win this election,” he said.

As the June 5 primary approaches in Montana, where the State Constitution decrees that the right to bear arms “shall not be called in question,” even those Democrats who have expressed deep misgivings about the N.R.A. appeared eager to show that they are not anti-gun.

“We love our wildlife, and we love a good elk burger,” Ms. Williams said. “That’s different than things that threaten our kids at school.”

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