It’s a pretty good crowd for a Friday.
Make that a Friday morning, when many people have their minds on weekend plans. But on this day, an overflow crowd of more than 100 people gathered at the Old City Hall to see Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former state House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams.
“There is a time and season for everything,” said Shauntia Lewis, neighborhood revitalization manager for the city of Brunswick, opening the event. “And now is the time and season to rebuild, restructure and grow.”
Beyond the hype from out-of-state publications regarding Abrams’ shot at being the first black female governor in American history, there were some basic politics at work among those gathered at Old City Hall. This year marks 20 years since a Democrat won statewide for governor, during a wave of Democratic victories that also resulted in wins in Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina.
For the party to rebuild, restructure and grow, it will also need to show that it can win. That’s coming off a 5.1 percent loss in 2002, a 19.7 percent loss in 2006, a 10 percent loss in 2010 and a 7.86 percent loss in 2014.
Suffice it to say, Democrats in Georgia have been in the wilderness for some time, and the enthusiasm on display at the Abrams event belied an eagerness to win again. To do that, Abrams is banking on her core issues of education, economic opportunity and expanding Medicaid. In discussing her past and her family, Abrams touched on her parents’ call to their children to service.
“My parents took us to soup kitchens and homeless shelters, to juvenile justice facilities and nursing homes, when we teach reading in the parking lots of public housing facilities, because my mother said, no matter how little we have, there is someone with less,” Abrams said. “Your job is to serve that person.”
She later added, “And in my time back in Georgia since 1999, I’ve been privileged to stand in this space and look around this state, and understand what you’re capable of. To know that we have to have a state that has leadership that believes everyone should have the freedom and opportunity to thrive.”
Among Abrams’ education priorities are to make sure that children do not begin from behind.
“I see a future where we educate bold and ambitious children from cradle to career,” Abrams said. “Where we expand early childhood learning, and we make certain that families can afford it, which is why I’m the only candidate to have proposed a childcare tax credit, to give a parent of a toddler who makes $40,000 a year $5,700 to help make sure that child has a good education right from the start.”
She also noted her intention to make need-based aid part of the HOPE scholarship program.
In regard to moves to lure an Amazon facility to Georgia and its 50,000 jobs, Abrams said she would like to put that sort of effort into the state’s small businesses.
“We could put money in 5,000 businesses to create 10 jobs and that’s 50,000 jobs,” Abrams said. “Those are Main Street jobs. Those are jobs that don’t disappear when the economy changes. Those are jobs that can’t be stolen away by another county or another city or another state.”
On health care, Abrams drew her largest applause line with the statement that her first act in office would be to expand Medicaid throughout the state.
The party primaries are scheduled for May 22, and the general election is slated for Nov. 6.