ATLANTA — Stacey Abrams is back in the race for Georgia governor again, and she's clearing the air on conceding, the All-Star game controversy, and what she plans to do differently this time around.
Abrams lost by 1.4 points to Governor Brian Kemp in 2018. Kemp recently said he loves the fact that Abrams is running against him. Abrams said she's ready for the fight.
Less than 24 hours after announcing her bid to run for governor, Abrams sat down with 11Alive's Hope Ford to talk about the past, present, and her future for the state should she win.
Hope Ford: You seem to have a lot of opportunities outside of being Governor, why run again?
Stacey Abrams: I've had three years in the private sector and I've tried to fully maximize my time. But my heart is in service. And I've spent as much of that time working to help serve the people of Georgia, making sure people have access to the resources they needed to keep their small businesses afloat, making certain that we had a census that fully counted Georgia, and getting access to broadband to communities that didn't have it. My responsibility is someone who says she wants to be in public services to do it, whether I have a title or not, because the most important title for me is being a Georgia citizen.
Ford: What do you want to do differently this time around?
Abrams: We know that there are hundreds of thousands of new voters who are on the rolls. We know that the 2020 election shows that those numbers can transform and translate into victories for Democrats. But I also know that we have a current governor who has failed the people of Georgia, that the pandemic has raged, he has left behind too many communities, that he seems to ignore the real pain that's hurting families and hurting areas of the state, and that he seems to be focused on those who agree with him. I want to be the governor for all of Georgia, for one Georgia.
Ford: When’s the last time you talked to Governor Kemp?
Abrams: I've not spoken with Governor Kemp in quite some time.
Ford: If he were sitting here, what would you say?
Abrams: Expand Medicaid?
Ford: Right off the bat?
Abrams: That's, that's the linchpin. We're in the midst of a pandemic, where only half of our state is vaccinated. But where we know we've already lost two hospitals during his tenure, that is, that is a shameful outcome. It's mean, and it's callous, and it does nothing for Georgians, I would tell him to protect the rights of women, that his push for anti-choice legislation is going to not only hurt women, it's going to continue to hurt jobs in our state that his egregious attack on voting rights is a terrible legacy for a state that should be leading in voting rights and voter access, and that he's picking fights with mayors and county commissioners rather than doing the work of pulling people together, does not do credit to him or to our state. And hopefully, we'll have a chance to have that conversation.
Ford: Let's talk about conceding. Your political rivals have brought this point up many times. [Secretary of State] Brad Raffensperger said former President Trump pulled a move from the "Stacey Abrams playbook." In hindsight, would you have done anything differently?
Abrams: Here's what happened, I acknowledged the outcome of the election at the beginning of my speech. But what I said is I will never agree to a system that takes the rights of voters away from them. And I don't understand how anyone else would do so, how anyone who calls themselves a leader, how anyone who believes that they're an American citizen and believes in patriotism, with suborn, the loss of the right to vote for any Georgian. And so my work has been focused on that laser-focused on that. I never once challenged the outcome of the elections in the courts, I've only challenged the process because by challenging the process by challenging leadership, that's how you make better progress. That's how you get things done. That's what I've done as a citizen. That's what I've done as a legislator.
Ford: The All-Star game, do you think you have any responsibility for the game being pulled by the MLB?
Abrams: What I have done is twice now tried to keep jobs in Georgia when Brian Kemp sent them away. In 2019, after he signed that egregious anti-choice bill, that stripped away women's rights to choose, I was the one who had to talk to folks who were trying to pull their businesses out of Georgia, I was the leader of the anti-boycott movement. And when he once again decided to look backwards and try to erase voting rights in the state of Georgia, I did the work of trying to keep jobs here, trying to keep businesses here, trying to keep the game here. They called me and I said, 'please stay, stay and fight.' I can't control what people decide to do, I can only control what I try to invest in. And that is making sure that we have a forward-looking vision for the state and doing the work possible. But in the end, if people want to say that the laws as they stand are not right. I cannot disagree. In fact, I very clearly said that any company that spoke out against those bills, we're doing the right thing. I don't agree with pulling the game. But I do agree with disagreeing with in saying that those laws were wrong.
Ford: What's your platform and focus for the campaign process?
Abrams: We're going to be building this campaign and conversation with Georgians, but I can tell you right now, Medicaid expansion is top of mind. It is how we provide health care. And it is egregious. And it is a shame that in a state that is facing the pandemic that we are facing that we have a governor who still refuses access to health care to more than half a million Georgians, he tells them to go and talk to their doctors knowing they don't have hospitals, that they don't have insurance. I know that we have to focus on education that too many of our children suffered during the pandemic, not only because of the pandemic but because they didn't have access to the internet. I know that we have to have conversations about growing businesses and growing opportunities. I'm a small business owner, and I spent my time making sure that other small businesses have access to the resources they need. But we have too many communities that are still suffering.
Ford: How do you plan to tap into voter participation and will we see Senators Warnock and Ossoff on your campaign trail?
Abrams: My responsibility as a Georgia citizen has been to try to make sure every single person in our state who is eligible to vote can do so. And that's the work that I've done for the last decade and a half building capacity in our party. And what I saw in 2020, and 2021, is that when people are reached out to, when we talk to them, and we meet them where they are, they will vote and they will turn out. And so my mission is to spend this campaign talking to those voters using the infrastructure we built, adding more to it and working with, yes, our Senators Ossoff and Warnock, especially Senator Warnock as he runs for re-election to make certain that every single Georgian understands the bright future that lies ahead.