ATLANTA — She lost her last election and holds no political office. Yet Democrat Stacey Abrams is emerging as an important figure in one of the two Georgia races for US Senate -- especially among the two leading Republicans.
Video that has emerged on social media shows US Sen. Kelly Loeffler embracing Abrams in 2018, before Loeffler entered politics.
When she ran for governor in 2018, Abrams made an appearance on the court at a WNBA game alongside Loeffler, one of the Atlanta Dream's owners. It was more than a year before Gov. Brian Kemp named Loeffler, a millionaire donor with no political experience, to replace US Sen. Johnny Isakson.
As an announcer is describing Abrams as the "Democratic nominee for Georgia governor," Loeffler is seen returning an embrace from Abrams and applauding afterward.
It speaks volumes to fellow Republican Doug Collins, who is trying to unseat Loeffler in November's special election.
"You saw how Kelly’s face brightened up and she clapped and they hugged. This just shows that that relationship is deeper" than Loeffler has portrayed, Collins said Monday. "It's the tale of two Kellys - the Kelly before and the Kelly she's trying to be. We're just simply pointing out, you can't be both."
Collins has been getting some of the same treatment in a TV ad produced by Loeffler’s campaign – visually based on a photo Collins and Abrams took together about a decade ago when both were in the Georgia legislature.
"That’s typical politician Doug Collins. He voted with Stacey Abrams over three hundred times," an announcer says in the ad, which Collins calls "disingenuous."
Collins says he and Abrams posed for the photo after passing bipartisan legislation to strengthen the HOPE scholarship.
Loeffler's campaign has been trying to portray Collins as a closet liberal, despite a voting record that largely suggests otherwise.
“The worst kept secret in Georgia politics is that Doug Collins and Stacey Abrams have been best friends for over a decade," wrote Loeffler's campaign communications chief Steven Lawson in an email to 11Alive News.
Abrams herself is actually a full-throated backer of Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock – who is also running against Loeffler and Collins in the special US senate election. There are 18 other candidates on the ballot for that election as well.