Stacey Abrams’ speech to the nation Tuesday night was a promising moment for some metro Atlanta college students who supported her campaign last year and eager to see the issues she ran on addressed locally, and now, the across America.
“I was pleasantly surprised to hear she was going to do the rebuttal,” said Tyler Lochan, 21, a third-year Georgia Tech student originally from San Diego.
Classmate Tyler Holt, 19, a first-year Georgia Tech student, nodded his head in agreement.
“I thought it was awesome,” Holt, an Atlanta native who voted for Abrams, said of her speech. “She covered everything I wanted to hear.”
Both students watched the President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address and Abrams’s Democratic Party response from Noni’s, a bar near downtown Atlanta. It was one of three locations in Georgia where Abrams’ supporters held parties to watch her speech. The two young supporters and others, inspired by her barrier-breaking campaign, were curious to hear what she would say - and about her next political move.
Students on both sides of the political aisle held watch parties across the state Tuesday night.
Some young conservatives gave Trump high marks for his speech. University of Georgia senior Erin Cooke said she was impressed with Trump’s remarks on issues important to conservatives, such as bolstering national security, supporting the pro-life movement and limiting the size and scope of the federal government.
She wasn’t impressed with Abrams’ remarks, comparing her to 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, saying Abrams “just won’t go away.”
“I don’t think she represents Georgians,” said Cooke, who also is the Georgia field director for Turning Point USA, a conservative and small markets student organization. “She has a clear agenda that is focused on gaining power for herself...Abrams cannot accept the fact that she lost, just like Hillary couldn’t in 2016.”
Benjamin Grayson, a fourth-year University of Georgia student and former chairman of University of Georgia College Republicans, said after the president’s address: “President Trump delivered a powerful State of the Union address that highlighted our country’s undeniable winning streak while advancing a bold vision for a safer, stronger, and more prosperous America.”
Noni’s was Abrams terrain. Signs that read “Free & Fair Elections for all” were posted throughout the crowded bar. An autographed Bernie Sanders magazine cover hung on one wall.
Abrams and now Gov. Brian Kemp aggressively courted young people during the campaign last year. Abrams and her supporters particularly relied on support from entertainers who campaigned for her on college campuses.
The students and other young people in the crowd said they were eager to hear her discuss issues like immigration and climate change. The loudest cheers came when Abrams discussed voter suppression.
Nathan Posner, 18, interned for the Abrams campaign and watched the speech at Noni’s. He wanted to hear Abrams talk about immigration and early childhood education.
“It was such an inspiring campaign and I want to see where she goes next,” said Posner, a senior at the Weber School, a private, Jewish high school in north Atlanta.
Some young Abrams supporters said they hoped to see her run for the U.S. Senate in 2020. Lochan said an Abrams endorsement in the 2020 presidential race may sway him to support the candidate she supports.
Posner still has his “I Voted” sticker on his cell phone cover. He voted for Abrams.
“I’m sure I’ll vote for her in future elections as well,” Posner said.
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