5 questions now that Stacey Abrams is running for governor

Democrat Stacey Abrams ended speculation about whether she will run for governor next year when she launched her campaign Wednesday. But that also set in motion new speculation about how Republicans will respond, how Abrams will run her campaign and how Georgia Democrats will approach the midterms. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

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

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Democrat Stacey Abrams ended speculation about whether she will run for governor next year when she launched her campaign Wednesday. But that also set in motion new speculation about how Republicans will respond, how Abrams will run her campaign and how Georgia Democrats will approach the midterms. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

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

Stacey Abrams ended the guessing game about her future when she announced a second bid for Georgia governor, setting up a possible rematch against Brian Kemp.

She focused her campaign launch on several of the same issues she pressed in 2018, when she narrowly lost to the Republican: income inequality, expanded access to health care and a push for more economic opportunity.

Abrams’ campaign will be led by her top aide, Lauren Groh-Wargo, and she’ll spend December mostly focused on smaller events and fundraisers. An attention-grabbing campaign rollout is planned for early next year.

That’s some of what we know. But plenty of questions remain about what’s next for her bid.

Will David Perdue now speed up his decision?

The former U.S. senator has told activists and allies that there’s one reason he’d divide the party by challenging Kemp next year: a fear that the governor would get walloped by Abrams in November and that only Perdue could save the Georgia GOP from a devastating defeat.

Now that an Abrams candidacy is no longer a hypothetical, the pressure will only intensify on Perdue to make up his mind. We’re told he’s still conflicted about whether to run, though some of his friends say he’s leaning toward pulling the trigger.

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Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, shown embracing Brian Kemp during the 2018 campaign, is said to be conflicted about whether to now challenge Kemp in the GOP primary for governor. Now that Democrat Stacey Abrams has launched her bid for governor, will that speed up Perdue's decision process? HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, shown embracing Brian Kemp during the 2018 campaign, is said to be conflicted about whether to now challenge Kemp in the GOP primary for governor. Now that Democrat Stacey Abrams has launched her bid for governor, will that speed up Perdue's decision process? HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, shown embracing Brian Kemp during the 2018 campaign, is said to be conflicted about whether to now challenge Kemp in the GOP primary for governor. Now that Democrat Stacey Abrams has launched her bid for governor, will that speed up Perdue's decision process? HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Kemp, meanwhile, is taking aggressive steps to ward off a challenge. He’s lined up new endorsements, built a fundraising edge and made use of his bully pulpit, all in hopes of consolidating GOP support to thwart Perdue’s threat.

But none of that has helped tamp down attacks from former President Donald Trump or his allies. Late Wednesday, Fox News personality Sean Hannity added his voice to the din by calling on Kemp to “bow out” of the race and make way for Perdue.

How much influence will Trump have?

Nearly four years ago, Trump’s endorsement of Kemp turned what could have been a nail-biter GOP runoff into a rout of then-Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. At Trump’s last rally in Georgia, he suggested he would have preferred if Abrams had won.

Trump remains infuriated that Kemp wouldn’t take steps to overturn the former president’s election defeat. And he welcomed Abrams to the race by warning that his “MAGA base will just not vote” for Kemp in 2022.

“But some good Republican will run, and some good Republican will get my endorsement,” Trump said in a statement, “and some good Republican will WIN!”

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Former President Donald Trump is still feuding with Gov. Brian Kemp, who refused to illegally overturn the results in Georgia in last year's presidential election that helped Joe Biden capture the White House. Trump has actively encouraged former U.S. Sen. David Perdue to challenge Kemp in the GOP primary. He also welcomed Democrat Stacey Abrams in the race after she launched her campaign Wednesday, saying his “MAGA base will just not vote” for Kemp in 2022. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Former President Donald Trump is still feuding with Gov. Brian Kemp, who refused to illegally overturn the results in Georgia in last year's presidential election that helped Joe Biden capture the White House. Trump has actively encouraged former U.S. Sen. David Perdue to challenge Kemp in the GOP primary. He also welcomed Democrat Stacey Abrams in the race after she launched her campaign Wednesday, saying his “MAGA base will just not vote” for Kemp in 2022. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Combined ShapeCaption
Former President Donald Trump is still feuding with Gov. Brian Kemp, who refused to illegally overturn the results in Georgia in last year's presidential election that helped Joe Biden capture the White House. Trump has actively encouraged former U.S. Sen. David Perdue to challenge Kemp in the GOP primary. He also welcomed Democrat Stacey Abrams in the race after she launched her campaign Wednesday, saying his “MAGA base will just not vote” for Kemp in 2022. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

The former president has actively tried to recruit Perdue to join his pro-Trump slate that already includes U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker; Burt Jones, a contender for lieutenant governor; and U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, who is running for secretary of state. If Perdue declines a bid, it’s not clear who else Trump would seek to run.

Some state Republicans predict that Trump’s influence is starting to wane. There may be no better test of how strong his grip on the GOP is in 2022 than Kemp’s reelection bid.

How will Abrams’ platform take shape?

The Democrat ran in 2018 as an unapologetic liberal with a focus on broad-based issues. While her support for gun control measures and abortion rights upset conservatives, she was more likely to talk about expanding Medicaid or boosting education funding on the campaign trail.

Those issues are certain to make a comeback in 2022, along with Abrams’ calls to strengthen voting rights laws. She also seems certain to promote policies to bolster public health programs and offer new incentives for needy Georgians.

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When Democrat Stacey Abrams launched her campaign Wednesday for Georgia governor, she several of the same issues she pressed in 2018:income inequality, expanded access to health care and a push for more economic opportunity.

Credit: Nathan Posner

When Democrat Stacey Abrams launched her campaign Wednesday for Georgia governor, she several of the same issues she pressed in 2018:income inequality, expanded access to health care and a push for more economic opportunity.

Credit: Nathan Posner

Combined ShapeCaption
When Democrat Stacey Abrams launched her campaign Wednesday for Georgia governor, she several of the same issues she pressed in 2018:income inequality, expanded access to health care and a push for more economic opportunity.

Credit: Nathan Posner

Credit: Nathan Posner

But other planks of her platform are still unknown, along with how she’ll seek to pass her priorities in a state Legislature that’s almost certain to remain in GOP control.

Will Abrams and Raphael Warnock team up on the trail?

The last time a Georgia governor’s race coincided with a U.S. Senate contest, then-Gov. Nathan Deal and Senate GOP nominee David Perdue only occasionally teamed up on the campaign trail. They even had competing bus tours the final stretch of the race.

But the Democratic dynamic in 2022 is far different. Abrams and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock are close allies, and she helped recruit him to run for the open U.S. Senate seat in 2019.

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, shown bumping elbows last year at a Warnock campaign stop, will likely work together next year when each is running for office. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, shown bumping elbows last year at a Warnock campaign stop, will likely work together next year when each is running for office. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, shown bumping elbows last year at a Warnock campaign stop, will likely work together next year when each is running for office. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

It’s not hard to imagine the two uniting at the top of the ticket throughout the campaign to promote shared ideals and energize Democratic voters, particularly Black Georgians who form the cornerstone of the party’s base.

How do Georgia Democrats buck the midterm blues?

If there’s a defining challenge for Georgia Democrats next year, it’s trying during a lower-turnout midterm to re-create the same coalition that fueled Joe Biden’s narrow victory in November 2020 and powered the upset Senate runoff victories in January.

Democrats are under pressure to prove that their victories were not a Trump-driven anomaly but part of a foundational change in Georgia’s firmament.

And they must do so in a challenging political climate: The party in power typically loses seats in a midterm vote, and Biden’s approval ratings have taken a hit.

State Democrats in 2020 weren’t shy about tying themselves to national candidates, in a break from conventional campaign strategy in Georgia. That approach, though, might prove more complicated to pull off in 2022.