Former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams publicly put her support behind Gwinnett County’s MARTA referendum at a Monday night stop in Duluth on her statewide “thank you” tour.
Abrams, a Democrat and former state house minority leader, has been touring the state with her new voting rights group Fair Fight Georgia after a close loss to now-Gov. Brian Kemp in the 2018 election. While she won Gwinnett County by 14 percentage points, Kemp won by a razor-thin statewide margin. She cited issues including malfunctioning machines and hours-long lines at Snellville’s Annistown Elementary School in Nov. 2018 as examples of alleged voter suppression that occurred in Gwinnett County.
The county’s election processes were challenged by Democrats including 7th Congressional District candidate Carolyn Bourdeaux, who lost to incumbent U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall by fewer than 500 votes. Since his win, Woodall has announced he will not run again and Bourdeaux has said she will run again for the seat in 2020.
Bourdeaux’s campaign challenged the county’s rejection of more than 3,000 absentee and provisional ballots over issues concerning signatures and incorrect birthdates. A judge later ruled that the county had to accept some of those ballots.
As Gwinnett’s March 19 transit referendum approaches, Fair Fight Georgia will be engaged with county elections officials in order to “make sure everyone gets a fair vote,” Abrams said after a speech in a Duluth hotel ballroom.
“We can get MARTA in Gwinnett County if we can have a fair election in Gwinnett County,” Abrams said.
The referendum would use a 1 percent sales tax to bring MARTA service into Gwinnett County. That would extend heavy rail into Norcross and expand bus service across the county. Abrams said the expansion of MARTA into Gwinnett is necessary to provide economic and educational opportunities for young and low-income county residents.
“We can’t talk about economic opportunities if people in Gwinnett can’t get to college,” Abrams said in her address to a crowd of 400. “Economic mobility requires actual mobility.”
Abrams is the most prominent Democrat to come out in support of Gwinnett’s transit referendum. Because of ethics rules regarding referenda, many elected officials have been reticent to voice their opinion on the issue.
As Abrams spoke Monday night, many in the crowd implored her to run for the U.S. Senate in 2020. She insisted that she has not yet made up her mind, but will come to a decision about the race at some point in March. Shannon Bryan, 41, of Lawrenceville, was hopeful Abrams would step back into the political ring.
“I hope she beats the socks off David Perdue,” Bryan said.
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