Stacey Evans to mount a political comeback after gov run

‘Being in the fight matters’

Democrat Stacey Evans will run for an open seat in the Georgia Legislature a year after she waged an unsuccessful campaign for governor, saying the Republican push for anti-abortion restrictions helped convince her to return to elected politics.

Evans told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she’ll seek the seat held by retiring state Rep. Pat Gardner, a heavily Democratic-district in Atlanta. Evans moved from Smyrna to Atlanta shortly after Stacey Abrams defeated her in the 2018 gubernatorial primary.

“I have been watching what’s going on in the state and around the country and I have too much experience to sit on the sidelines during this critical time,” said Evans, an attorney. “And the heartbeat bill was the No. 1 factor. That was the worst thing that’s happened under the Gold Dome since I left.”

First elected to the Legislature in 2010, Evans staked her campaign for governor on a relentless message about restoring the HOPE scholarship. She was one of a handful of House Democrats to oppose the 2011 GOP-backed deal to cut HOPE awards.

It was personal for Evans, who had a tumultuous childhood in rural north Georgia and credited the scholarship with setting her on a successful path. She met her husband at the University of Georgia, where she also earned her law degree and built a network that would propel her to public office.

She told the AJC the push to bolster the scholarship will still be a priority, but she'll also focus her campaign on expanding the Medicaid program, increasing education spending and advocating for legislation that provides anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community.

“It’s ridiculous that Georgia is one of very few states that have no protections for the LGBTQ community when it comes to housing, employment and accommodations,” she said. “I’m surprised the movie industry hasn’t come down hard on us for that.”

She also intends to emphasize her long-standing opposition to abortion restrictions, including the 2012 vote against a 20-week abortion ban.

Evans was nine months pregnant during that vote, which was scheduled on the day she was to be induced into labor. She spoke against the bill in a videotaped statement played for House lawmakers hours before she gave birth to her daughter Ashley, who is now 7.

“I can immediately be involved in strong efforts to push progressive policies that we need,” Evans said. “And at a time when we’re hopelessly divided, I have a proven track record that gets things done by working across the aisle on progressive issues.”

She has no known primary opponent for the seat held since 2001 by Gardner, who told supporters last week that "after the 2018 campaign and especially after the contentious 2019 session, I knew it was time to move on to new endeavors."

Evans said she's been sharpened by lessons learned from traveling the state during the bitter 2018 campaign against Abrams that served as a test of competing strategies. She was trounced in that race by Abrams, and quickly endorsed her adversary shortly after the polls closed.

“If the 2018 campaign taught me anything, it’s how much good leadership is needed,” she said. “It was disheartening to see communities suffering from the same problems for years. Leadership, experience, focus – all of that matters. Being in the fight matters.”