Abrams hasn’t specified what led her to bypass Biden’s event, though Bringman on Wednesday said it was a private “commitment she could not break.” He said by the time a colleague was sent an invitation from the White House for Abrams to attend, her plans were already set.
Several voting rights groups with ties to the Democrat boycotted the speech over frustration they weren’t seeing enough concrete action in Washington on a federal voting rights law. They later praised Biden’s speech and pivoted to demanding that the U.S. Senate take action on the stalled measure.
Her decision triggered speculation in Washington – and attacks from Republicans in Georgia – that she was avoiding the president’s souring approval ratings.
But that narrative hasn’t reflected her strategy. She has closely aligned herself with Biden, campaigned to be his running-mate and launched her bid with a promise to back the president’s agenda.
“I’m running to be the governor of Georgia and anyone willing to invest in Georgia and improve our infrastructure and keep our voters safe is welcome to come work with us,” she said in a recent interview of her plans to ally herself with Biden throughout the campaign.
The campaign’s statement Wednesday echoed that approach. Bringman blasted “manufactured narratives by those unfamiliar with her work to help win the state for the Biden-Harris ticket along with her consistent advocacy for Biden Administration priorities.”
Biden also cited a scheduling issue and said the two talked hours before the event.
“We have a great relationship,” the president said. “We got our scheduling mixed up.”
Gov. Brian Kemp‘s campaign, meanwhile, happily mocked the internal Democratic bickering.
“With dismal approval numbers, skyrocketing inflation, and a border in crisis all ignored by this administration, there’s any number of reasons why Abrams’ ‘scheduling conflict’ kept her from joining President Biden,” said Kemp spokesman Tate Mitchell.
While Georgia Democrats typically celebrate a Democratic president’s visit to the state, Biden’s trip was met with complaints from activists and party officials.
Some grumbled about the lack of coordination with local Democratic leaders and the timing of an event scheduled a day after Georgia played in the college football championship game in Indianapolis.
Others questioned why Biden didn’t hold a fundraiser for Georgia candidates during his trip and lamented that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris made the trip at all given that the Democratic U.S. senators who needed to be convinced to relax filibuster rules were in Washington.
The AJC reviewed correspondence between the White House and the Abrams campaign that showed there was never a request or an inquiry about a speaking slot, nor were there any conditions on attending.
The emails, which redacted personal information, also show Abrams was given rough details of the event on Jan. 9 and never confirmed she would attend.
Bringman pointed to a lengthy statement by Abrams issued late Tuesday expressing support for Biden’s push to change Senate rules to pass legislation to expand federal voting rights.
“It’s a disservice to voters across the country and a waste of time and energy amid the fight of our lives for the freedom to vote,” he said.
Here’s Bringman’s full statement:
“It’s a disservice to voters across the country and a waste of time and energy amid the fight of our lives for the freedom to vote that unnamed aides would spread false rumors rather than help build momentum for this once-in-a generation opportunity to lead.
“An inadvertent miscommunication occurred regarding the president’s visit to Georgia, and, as a candidate for state office who had stepped down from her official voting rights leadership position to run, Stacey did not presume she would receive an invitation, nor did she or any member of our team ask for her to have a speaking spot at an event she could not attend.
“By the time she received an invitation, Stacey had already made a commitment she could not break, and our team shared this conflict with the White House as soon as possible.
The White House understood, and while Stacey could not join the throngs of supporters at yesterday’s speech, President Biden and she spoke about how she will continue to work with the White House on this critical issue.
“Additional details about her private commitment will not end manufactured narratives by those unfamiliar with her work to help win the state for the Biden-Harris ticket along with her consistent advocacy for Biden Administration priorities.
“No one should wonder where she stands; she issued a statement of welcome on Monday that reiterated her multiple past statements and an unequivocal statement of support yesterday.”
—Seth Bringman, spokesman for Abrams