Jimmy Carter won't take sides in Georgia's governor race

Update: Former President Jimmy Carter said in a statement he won't choose a side in Georgia's race for governor, and that his kind words about Democrat Stacey Abrams were not a suggestion of who he would support in the wide-open contest.

His statement came after video emerged of him at a July 25 fundraising dinner in Americus for the Boys and Girls Club as he introduced Abrams.

“I shouldn’t say it, but she’s going to be – possibly, and hopefully for me – our next governor of Georgia,” he said to applause. The Plains native goes on to call her a “remarkable” politician who “knows how to reach out to both sides.”

A spokeswoman for the ex-president previously said that was not meant as an endorsement, and he said hours later in a statement that his plan is "to support the Democratic nominee."

See the video here:

Abrams is in a fierce competition with state Rep. Stacey Evans for her party’s nomination. Evans has cemented support from former Gov. Roy Barnes and glowing remarks from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, while Abrams notched the endorsement of Rep. John Lewis and several prominent left-leaning groups.

Most other Democratic heavyweights – including Carter’s grandson Jason Carter, the party’s 2014 nominee – are staying on the sidelines for now.

Democrats hope to win back the governor’s mansion for the first time since Barnes' 2002 defeat, but first they must put to rest a bitter divide over competing strategies that has split the party.

Abrams hopes her progressive policies will mobilize a legion of left-leaning voters, many of them minorities, who rarely vote. Evans wants to recapture working-class and suburban voters who once voted solidly for Democrats but have fled to the GOP with a platform centered on bolstering the HOPE scholarship.

Four Republicans are in the contest: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp and state Sens. Hunter Hill and Michael Williams.

More AJC coverage of the governor's race:

A new ‘religious liberty’ debate in Georgia takes aim at Cagle

Health policy splits Georgia gov candidates after repeal’s fail

Governor’s race revives a familiar feud between Kemp, Abrams

Gov contenders slam Georgia's income tax

How Trump is shaking up the governor’s race

Georgia governor race: Who is running in 2018

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.