The Jolt: Stacey Abrams: ‘If Black men vote for me, I’ll win Georgia.’

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Stacey Abrams could make history as Georgia’s first Black governor. But during the Democrat’s videotaped appearance at a Pod Save America taping in Cobb County over the weekend, she acknowledged that she’ll need the overwhelming support of Black men, support that polls show she’s currently lacking, in order to win the race.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll last month showed Abrams underperforming with Black voters, with about 80% of the vote, and significantly trailing Gov. Brian Kemp among male voters, 57% to 33%.

At the podcast taping, Abrams said Black men have a “remarkable power” to swing an election.

“They have a capacity that sometimes it's not met by their turnout, which is legitimate and honest and I don't disparage those who make the decision not to vote, because often the leadership that gets elected is not reflective of their needs.

“That said, I know that if we have the kind of turnout possible among black men and they vote for me, I will win this election. That is why my campaign has been so focused on making sure we're addressing those challenges."

- Pod Save America

That echoed comments she made at a recent “Stacey and the Fellas” event in Cobb County where she said: “If Black men vote for me, I’ll win Georgia.”

Abrams’ performance among Black men, in particular, is one reason she’s lagging behind Kemp in public and internal surveys. That’s a metric she and her campaign are working to change in the months ahead.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, the state’s first Black U.S. senator, is also trying to boost his support among Black voters ahead of a November matchup against former football star Herschel Walker.

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VOTING RIGHTS. Stacey Abrams might still be best-known nationally as a voting rights advocate who fought to expand access to the ballot and famously refused to concede her 2018 defeat to protest the “erosion of our democracy.”

In her rematch, Abrams has devoted more attention to economic issues and her opposition to GOP-backed abortion limits and gun policies than on voting rights measures.

But more comments during the Pod Save America taping offered a reminder that ballot access is still at the core of her agenda.

“We know that this is about democracy. If we do not have a governor in 2022 elected and taking office in ‘23, our 270 electoral votes across the country are going to be in jeopardy. Georgia is going to be a pivot point.”

She referred to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to hear a North Carolina case that could give state lawmakers more power to set election rules, a decision that has the potential to affect the 2024 race.

“Governors matter. This governor matters. And if we want governors to do what’s right for our people, I need to be the one” in the Governor’s Mansion, she said.

Kemp has said he signed the election rewrite last year to boost confidence in Georgia’s elections, though Republicans rarely mention that it was Donald Trump’s attempts to reverse the outcome that undermined that trust.

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PUBLIC SAFETY. Meanwhile, Gov. Brian Kemp is sticking to what his aides believe is a powerful message of his own with a new 30-second spot this morning that highlights the 107 sheriffs who back his reelection.

The ad claims Stacey Abrams is “demonizing” law enforcement and asserts that she wants to defund law enforcement.

She has repeatedly said she has no such plans. But Kemp’s line of attack has already forced Abrams to film two response ads highlighting her criminal justice platform – including her proposal to increase the pay of key law enforcement officials.

At a speech on the economy last week, Abrams said, “I will raise the wages for state law enforcement officers,” and added, “I will also raise and increase accountability for police misconduct and violence.”

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WALKER in WSJ. The campaign for GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker took its pushback against a recent GOP attack ad to the pages of the Wall Street Journal last week.

The ad in question played footage of Walker’s ex-wife, Cindy Grossman, speaking to ABC’s Nightline in 2008 when she described incidents when he choked her and put a gun to her head. “Think you know Herschel Walker?” the ad says. “Think again.”

In the Journal op-ed, Walker calls the ad “gutter politics” and writes that he and Grossman did the Nightline interview together at his request.

That interview was part of my life's mission to advocate for mental-health awareness and treatment. I wrote a book about my experience—every painful detail. I visited military bases around the world to deliver the message that seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder isn't a sign of weakness but of self-awareness and strength.

- Wall Street Journal

Walker’s book, “Breaking Free,” described his struggles with his mental health following his retirement from professional football, including a rage when he plotted a way to shoot a man who failed to deliver a car to him on time.

Contrary to his assertion that he explored “every painful detail,” Walker’s book did not directly mention his violence against Grossman. The closest we could find is on page 205 of Walker’s book, where he wrote: “I can’t point to any major blowups between us, but I felt like things had eroded.”

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MONEY TALKS. Is the state’s record surplus, fueled in part by federal COVID relief money, a “generational” opportunity to reshape state government as we know it? Or “one-time money” to help Georgians fight higher prices in the short term?

The rival plans by Stacey Abrams and Gov. Brian Kemp for using Georgia’s flush reserves show just how deeply their economic philosophies differ. Read more here.

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FACT CHECK. Politifact published an analysis over the weekend that concluded that Stacey Abrams has “distorted” Brian Kemp’s position on the state’s anti-abortion law by claiming that he “wants to investigate and punish women for having miscarriages.” Read it here.

The fact check says that Kemp has not advocated investigations following a miscarriage. But it also notes that, “Some legal experts believe women could be investigated if there are questions about whether their pregnancies ended in a miscarriage or an illegal abortion.”

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DONE DEAL. In a party-line vote, the U.S. House on Friday approved a package that aims to lower healthcare costs for senior citizens, combat climate change and raise taxes on large corporations, our pal Jamie DuPree reported.

The bill also includes funding to bolster the IRS in hopes of catching wealthy Americans who are evading their tax obligations.

The Senate approved the measure on a party-line vote earlier last week, with Georgia’s two Democratic members casting key votes. The president is expected to sign it later this week.

Expect Democrats to celebrate the passage of another piece of the Biden agenda, capping off a busy summer that also included bipartisan gun legislation, expanded healthcare benefits for veterans and new funding to boost U.S. semiconductor production.

Republicans aim to unify their supporters against the measure, which they say will result in higher taxes and IRS harassment for Americans, while doing little to actually address inflation.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter said in a floor speech Friday that provisions related to climate change could hurt Georgia’s burgeoning electric vehicle industry, such as Hyundai’s expansion in Bryan County.

“You are messing with a $5 billion investment, 8,000 jobs,” the Pooler Republican said.

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HOME SWEET HOME: With the U.S. House and Senate on recess through early September, delegation members are fanning out across Georgia for official visits with constituents and campaign events.

  • U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff is meeting with seniors in four cities Monday to talk about Democratic wins to lower prescription drug costs for Medicare recipients, including a cap on the cost of insulin. He will start in Atlanta then travel to Columbus, Macon, and Augusta. Local elected officials will join him at each stop.
  • On Wednesday, Ossoff and Sen. Raphael Warnock will host Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed on a visit to Robins Air Force Base in Middle Georgia.
  • U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux is hosting a telephone town hall meeting for constituents on Wednesday evening. RSVP here.

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SAFETY NET. The Democratic National Committee is out with a new digital ad campaign aimed at Georgia seniors.

The DNC ad campaign focuses on GOP proposals to sunset Social Security and Medicare programs, along with Democratic efforts to cut seniors’ prescription drug costs, which passed last week under the Inflation Reduction Act.

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RAMPING UP. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ probe of Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election is entering a more combative phase, the AJC’s Tamar Hallerman reports.

Fulton County prosecutors will be traveling to New Mexico and Colorado for hearings soon and are scheduled to question Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani under oath in Atlanta on Wednesday.

At the same time, Hallerman reports that the former president’s allies are planning an attempt to recall Willis, similar to a successful campaign in San Francisco earlier this year.

But Trump’s increasingly likely decision to run for another term in the White House could complicate the investigation. And Willis will also be on the ballot in 2024.

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JOINT TICKET. State Rep. Bee Nguyen, the Democratic nominee for secretary of state, was asked by the Pod Save America crew about the likelihood of the Democratic slate hitting the campaign trail together.

As we’ve noted before, the marquee contenders from both parties haven’t been on the stump together. Gov. Brian Kemp and Senate hopeful Herschel Walker haven’t rallied together, and Stacey Abrams hasn’t joined with U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock at a 2022 campaign event yet.

Nguyen said to expect more Democratic coordination.

“We are working together. We celebrate the diversity and strength of our ticket,” said Nguyen, adding: “We all understand that in order for us to build a strong Georgia, in order for us to build a strong country, all of our races are important and critical.”

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RUSHDIE RECOVERING. Author and former Emory University Professor Salman Rushdie suffered serious injuries after being stabbed by a man who rushed the stage during a lecture at a retreat center in upstate New York.

Rushdie was initially put on a ventilator, although he is now breathing on his own.

The author’s manuscripts, private journals and notebooks are housed at Emory, where he joined the faculty in 2006. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the university in 2015 after being promoted to a distinguished professorship.

Other prominent Georgians who have spoken to Chautauqua Institution audiences include gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and the late Congressman John Lewis.

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AS ALWAYS, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.

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