Abrams aims to shape Georgia down-ticket races with new endorsements

Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has endorsed candidates in three of the down-ticket races to be settled later this month in the Democratic primary runoffs.

Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has endorsed candidates in three of the down-ticket races to be settled later this month in the Democratic primary runoffs.

Stacey Abrams has already notched the Democratic nomination for governor. Now she’s trying to shape the rest of the statewide ticket ahead of this month’s runoffs.

The Democrat has endorsed a trio of down-ticket candidates since the May 24 primaries, putting her political capital on the line as she prepares for a November showdown against Gov. Brian Kemp.

The endorsements reflect a concern held by Abrams and other Democrats that a weak down-ticket candidate could bog down other contenders, including in the races for governor and the U.S. Senate.

And they reflect a different approach than senior Democrats took in the runup to the May vote, when Abrams and many other party figures steered clear of picking favorites in crowded statewide races.

“Hailing from different parts of Georgia, all have a deep love for our state and a strong track record of advocating on behalf of all Georgians — no matter their background or ZIP code,” Abrams said of her choice candidates.

Abrams’ first pre-runoff endorsement came last week when she backed state Rep. Bee Nguyen over former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler in the race for secretary of state.

Nguyen, who represents the same Atlanta-based House district Abrams once did, has built a national profile as a voting rights advocate and received the most votes in the five-candidate primary. The winner faces incumbent Brad Raffensperger, who avoided a runoff in the GOP primary.

State Rep. Bee Nguyen picked up gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams' endorsement in her for secretary of state in this month's primary runoff. She faces former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler in the contest. (Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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Credit: Steve Schaefer

Abrams added support on Thursday for Charlie Bailey in the race for lieutenant governor and state Rep. William Boddie in the contest for labor commissioner.

Party leaders encouraged Bailey, who was the runner-up in the 2018 race for attorney general, to abandon another bid for the same post and switch to a run for lieutenant governor.

Senior officials are hopeful that Bailey’s background as a prosecutor will help counter GOP attacks that paint Democrats as soft-on-crime supporters of the “defund the police” movement.

Finishing with 18% of the vote, Bailey lagged far behind Kwanza Hall, a former Atlanta City Council member who was briefly a member of the U.S. House. Hall captured about 30% of the vote. The runoff’s victor will faces Republican state Sen. Burt Jones.

Abrams’ third endorsement benefited Boddie, a three-term state legislator from East Point, who faces entrepreneur Nicole Horn. Boddie captured 28% of the primary vote while Horn netted 25%. Republican Bruce Thompson awaits the winner.

State Rep. William Boddie gained support Thursday from gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in this month's Democratic primary runoff for labor commissioner. He faces entrepreneur Nicole Horn. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

She is steering clear of picking sides in other Democratic runoffs, including the race for insurance commissioner. Other statewide races for agriculture commissioner, attorney general and state schools superintendent were decided without runoffs.

Though the May primary showed the downside of a high-profile endorsement — each of former President Donald Trump’s four picks in races against GOP incumbents flamed out — Abrams’ camp hopes her blessing makes the difference in a low-turnout runoff.

In a statement, Abrams nodded to the “vibrancy” of a Democratic slate helmed by U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, the state’s first Black senator, and Abrams, who would be the nation’s first Black woman elected governor if she wins in November.

“To build a stronger Georgia,” she said, “we need leaders who will work for quality, affordable healthcare, defend civil and human rights, protect the right to vote and build an economy that works for everyone.”