Stacey Abrams launches new Southern policy project

Since losing last year's race for governor, Stacey Abrams has launched organizations aiming to promote voting rights and secure an accurate count of the 2020 U.S. census. Now, she's delving into new think-tank territory.

The Georgia Democrat will head the Southern Economic Advancement Project, which aims to hone policies that influence how race, class and gender intersect across 12 Southern states.

The research director is Sarah Beth Gehl, a public policy professor and former Abrams campaign deputy who wants to position the project to connect elected officials and experts to develop ideas and then implement them.

A broader goal, Gehl said in an interview, is to “change the narrative of the South” by contributing research in the areas of climate change, healthcare and economic security.

“We want to lift up the good things happening in the South, to raise up the innovative things happening across the region that could improve the lives of Southerners,” she said.

The project will receive financial backing from the Roosevelt Institute, a nonprofit under the Roosevelt Presidential Library's umbrella. The group features four staff members: Abrams, Gehl, Ali Bustamante and Genny Castillo.

Her new venture coincides with Abrams' rising ambitions. Although she's ruled out a 2020 presidential bid, she's regularly floated as a potential runningmate of next year's Democratic nominee.