Bypassed by Biden, Abrams likely to focus on 2022 rematch against Kemp

June 6, 2019 Atlanta - Stacey Abrams speaks during the DNC's IWillVote Gala at Flourish Atlanta on Thursday, June 6, 2019. White House hopefuls court Georgia: Presidential candidates swarmed Atlanta on Thursday for a convention geared at African-American strategists and a joint fundraiser featuring four of the best known Democratic contenders on the same stage. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
June 6, 2019 Atlanta - Stacey Abrams speaks during the DNC's IWillVote Gala at Flourish Atlanta on Thursday, June 6, 2019. White House hopefuls court Georgia: Presidential candidates swarmed Atlanta on Thursday for a convention geared at African-American strategists and a joint fundraiser featuring four of the best known Democratic contenders on the same stage. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The 2022 race for Georgia governor got off to an unofficial start Tuesday with the news that Stacey Abrams would not be Joe Biden’s pick to be his running-mate.

The presumptive Democratic nominee selected U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris to join his ticket, making the California politician the first woman of color to appear on a major party’s presidential ticket.

Biden’s decision to bypass Abrams clears the way for a widely-expected rematch against Gov. Brian Kemp in 2022. She came within about 55,000 votes of defeating the Republican in 2018 to become the first Black female elected governor in the nation.

»MORE: Biden chooses Harris as running mate, making her first Black and woman VP candidate

Abrams had proactively jockeyed to be picked by Biden, flipping the script of potential running mates who usually sidestep public talk of a promotion while working behind the scenes to do just that.

Though there was initial talk of an alliance between the two, some political observers cited the fact that she didn’t endorse Biden until he had effectively secured the nomination as a cause for concern.

And earlier Tuesday, she didn’t appear on a list of speakers for the Democratic National Convention, a group of prominent Biden supporters that includes Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates.

»MORE: Inside Joe Biden’s search for a running mate

Still, Abrams raised eyebrows hours later when she revealed she had spoken “at length” with Biden over the weekend, suggesting she was in the mix in the final days. Abrams also said she talked with Biden on Tuesday, when she was told she wouldn’t be his selection.

“He is building a team that can rebuild America and restore our faith in what lies ahead,” she said. “I look forward to doing all I can for Team Biden-Harris to deliver Georgia’s 16 electoral votes and a Senate majority, and to fight voter suppression across the country.”

She is one of two Georgians who were considered a credible contender for the post. The other was Bottoms, an early supporter of Biden who was his top surrogate in the state during the contentious primary. The mayor is seen as a possible Cabinet appointee, and chairs the national party’s platform committee.

March 1, 2020 Selma: Former candidate for governor Stacey Abrams speaks at Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church with Joe Biden, Former United States Vice-President and Democrat candidate for President looking on during Selma's re-enactment of Bloody Sunday on Sunday, March 1, 2020, in Selma.  Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
March 1, 2020 Selma: Former candidate for governor Stacey Abrams speaks at Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church with Joe Biden, Former United States Vice-President and Democrat candidate for President looking on during Selma's re-enactment of Bloody Sunday on Sunday, March 1, 2020, in Selma. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Abrams passed on a run for Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats – both are up for grabs in November – last year to focus on expanding the Fair Fight voting rights group she launched shortly after her 2018 defeat.

She also made a direct case to be vice president in all manner of outlets — on daytime talk shows and late-night TV, podcasts and magazines, national outlets and hyperlocal publications. She and her aides say she was simply following one of her hallmark principles: answering questions forthrightly.

“As a young black girl growing up in Mississippi, I learned that if I didn’t speak up for myself, no one else would,” she said at one point. “My mission is to say out loud, if I’m asked the question, ‘Yes, I would be willing to serve.’”

Though Abrams said Tuesday she’s focusing her attention on helping Democrats win in November, the prospect of a rematch against Kemp looms just beyond November. She’s made clear she plans to run for elected office again, and she’s parlayed her 2018 defeat into even greater political prominence.

It’s led her to a coveted spot to rebut the State of the Union, political super-celebrity status and sold-out crowds. Her book’s appearances on best-seller lists have helped buoy her finances. Kemp allies joked in the early days of 2019 that she’s far surpassed his public profile.

She’s also created a financial juggernaut since refusing to concede the race against Kemp. Her Fair Fight group has raised about $26 million since 2018, and she keeps a packed schedule of fundraisers and public appearances.

Kemp, who is hovering around 50% approval in some recent polls, offered a reminder last week of the fight that could come. His supporters launched a super PAC – with the initials G-U-V – that pumped more than $6 million into the campaign of top ally U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the span of a week.

“Congratulations Stacey Abrams,” wrote Ryan Mahoney, a top Kemp adviser. “You ‘won’ again.”

Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams are the major-party candidates in Georgia’s race for governor.
Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams are the major-party candidates in Georgia’s race for governor.

About the Author

ajc.com