Democrat Stacey Abrams, riding on a wave of attention following her delivery of her party’s response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, has remained in the spotlight as she waits to announce what race she’ll run in next. Some are even suggesting the presidency, but a writer who analyzed that prospect says it would be a different terrain than the one she faced when she came close to winning Georgia’s race for governor. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Capitol Recap: Abrams stays in spotlight while waiting to pick a race

The state of Stacey Abrams’ calendar is busy.

Still riding high after giving the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, Abrams is still more than a month away from the deadline she set to decide what office to seek next.

It could be another run in 2022 against Gov. Brian Kemp, who beat her in the closest race for the state’s top job in more than 50 years. She could opt for something sooner, facing off against Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue next year.

Nathaniel Rakich of FiveThirtyEight examined her prospects for another job: president.

He found that some of the things that helped her come so close to reaching the Governor’s Mansion won’t be there if she makes a bid for the White House.

“(I)n a national campaign,” Rakich wrote, “Abrams could not necessarily bank on carrying African-Americans, who have been her base in Georgia, since voters may have a dozen candidates to choose from, including at least two other black candidates, one of whom is a woman.

“And despite her fame, Abrams has never won an election for any office higher than state representative; it would be unprecedented for a career politician to earn the party nomination with so little experience.

“Abrams’s most challenging obstacle may not even be specific to her. In such a crowded primary field, even a front-runner is more likely to lose than to win.”

Also on the presidential front, the consulting firm Bold Blue Campaigns included Abrams in a poll of potential Democratic candidates in 2020. Five percent of likely Democratic primary voters backed Abrams.

That put her behind former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Beto O’Rourke, who — like Abrams — gained national attention as a Democrat mounting a serious but unsuccessful challenge in November in a conservative state, in his case a run against Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

She did, however, place ahead of others, including U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

Abrams has shown few signs that she’s seriously considering a run for president. She is, however, maintaining a high profile in Georgia.

Her “thank you” tour recently stopped in Gwinnett County. She used the opportunity to endorse the county’s MARTA referendum and also make a case for bipartisan voting rights legislation. She cited the example of Dan Gasaway, the incumbent in a May GOP primary race for a state House seat in North Georgia that still has not been settled nine months later. A second do-over election, following significant court time, has yet to be scheduled in Gasaway’s race against Chris Erwin, who was sworn in as a legislator and then removed from office by a judge.

“He had to fight his party and the state to get democracy in his election,” Abrams said of Gasaway. “This is not a partisan issue. This is a people issue. This is a democracy issue. This is our issue.”

A new tax problem for Abrams surfaced this past week, although it appears to have been solved. It was reported that a nonprofit Abrams had formed was hit by the state with three liens totaling about $3,500. A spokeswoman attributed them to an error made by a third-party contractor and then produced an email from the state Department of Labor noting that it is working to correct its records to show the liens have been paid.

Abrams, who touted full Medicaid expansion while on the campaign trail last year, also found some gratification in seeing Kemp back a push for “waivers” that could lead to a limited expansion of the state’s health care program for the poor and disabled. She called it a “pale facsimile” of what she had sought but also expressed happiness in seeing the state’s Republicans, many who have long resisted Medicaid expansion, at least take steps in that direction.

“I don’t care why they came to the party,” Abrams said. “I’m glad they finally showed up, and I hope they finally do the right thing now that they’re here.”

On his radar: Watching Abrams with the intensity of an air-traffic controller is state House Speaker David Ralston, who told Fannin County Republicans at a recent dinner that GOP conservatives need to think about their colleagues in metro Atlanta before pushing hard-right positions. Legislation on issues such as abortion, guns and “religious liberty” could put their suburban brethren — that is, those that are left after big Democratic gains in November for legislative seats on the outskirts of Atlanta — in a difficult spot come election time.

“Stacey Abrams is coming,” Ralston said. “I don’t know whether she’s running against Senator Perdue or Governor Kemp. But she is a serious opponent. They have other serious people out there.

“We have to approach this challenge as if our future depends on it,” he said. “Because it does.”

Kemp may feel the same way.

Since becoming governor, he has made no public push for legislation that would allow Georgians to carry concealed weapons without a permit, even though he made it a central subject during the early days of his campaign.

Asked by Chelsea Beimfohr of 13MAZ in Macon whether he would support such a bill, Kemp said:

“I’m not really commenting on that. There’s all kinds of pieces of legislation that are in. I’ve said and I’ll continue to be a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. I hunt and I shoot and I carry. I won’t just support, but I’ll advocate. We’ll see what the Legislature wants to roll out this year. My positions from the campaign have not changed.”

It doesn’t sound like the governor would object if legislators decide to keep such a bill in their holster.

A 7th District sweepstakes: The dominoes are beginning to fall now that U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, has chosen not to seek re-election in 2020.

Carolyn Bourdeaux, the Democrat who lost to Woodall in November by 433 votes once all the ballots were counted and recounted in the 7th Congressional District, is ready for another campaign.

Now that she’s gone through the process once already, Bourdeaux has a lot of things going for her. They include name recognition, money in the bank and endorsements from former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, and U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson and John Lewis.

Former state Rep. Buzz Brockway, another Lawrenceville Republican, is out.

Brockway said on Facebook that it “is not the right time for me to run for Congress.”

“There are a couple of good candidates considering running — friends whom I would be proud to support,” he wrote.

Whether that means Narender Reddy is anybody’s guess. Reddy, an Indian-American businessman and board member for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, says he’s thinking about running as a Republican to replace Woodall.

John Eaves’ plans are vague. But the former Fulton County Commission chairman, who also ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Atlanta, announced on Facebook that he is moving to Gwinnett County. That would put him in the 7th District. Eaves, however, has said nothing about whether this move to the suburbs includes making a run for Congress.

Plenty of other names are being thrown around as potential candidates for Woodall’s seat. On the Democratic side, there’s state Reps. Brenda LopezPete Marin and Sam Park, as well as Marquis Cole and Nabilah Islam. On the Republican side, there’s state Sens. P.K. Martin and Renee Unterman, state Rep. David Clark, former state Sen. David Shafer, former state Rep. Scott Hilton, as well as Rick Desai, Shane Hazel and Mike Royal.

A payday pop? State legislators would be in for an increase in salary if Senate Bill 81 wins passage. But this pay raise would come with a bonus: Additional bumps in compensation in the future could come without one of those votes that always appear inconvenient at election time.

Doug Richards of 11Alive brought attention to the legislation, which he says would raise the lawmakers’ $17,000-a-year salaries by 300 percent.

State Sen. Valencia Seay of Riverdale is the the sponsor. She’s a Democrat in a GOP-controlled chamber, so prospects for the bill and subsequent raises would seem dim.

That is until you look down the list of co-sponsors. The fourth signature is that of Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, whose clout always makes him a good guy to have in your corner.

The bill is set up to tie salaries to the state’s median annual household income, so raises would go up automatically.

In 2017, the most recent year available, the U.S. Census Bureau listed Georgia’s median household income at $52,977. That’s some upward mobility.

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