‘We needed Stacey Abrams to run.' Columbus Democrats react to 2022 governor's race

Stacey Abrams is running for Georgia governor in 2022 and some Columbus Democrats say she gives the party its best shot to win the state’s highest office in nearly two decades.

A Democrat hasn’t held governor’s mansion since Republican Sonny Perdue defeated incumbent Roy Barnes in 2002. Abrams fell just short in 2018, losing to Gov. Brian Kemp by about 55,000 votes. She acknowledged that Kemp would be certified as the victor, but she refused to concede the race citing an “erosion” of voting rights and democracy.

Speculation about her political future swirled. She ended it Wednesday. Three years later, she stands poised to face Kemp in a rematch — assuming both win their primaries. Kemp may face a primary challenge from former U.S. Senator David Perdue.

Columbus Democrats see the 2022 Gubernatorial contest as a chance to secure another historic victory after recent statewide wins. If elected, Abrams would be Georgia’s first Black governor and the first Black woman elected to the governor’s office nationwide.

Tonza Thomas, Chair of the Muscogee County Democrats

Tonza Thomas poses for a portrait at her alma mater Carver High School in Columbus, Ga, on Dec. 4, 2020.

Tonza Thomas, chair of the Muscogee County’s Democratic Party, worked on the Abrams campaign as a supervisor for her Columbus office during the 2018 election. Thomas said she plans to put “put her best foot forward” and do it again in 2022.

“We needed Stacey Abrams to run,” Thomas said. “So, when the announcement came out over Twitter I was like ‘Hell, yeah!’

“We gotta win this time,” she added. “Last time, we went into overtime. This time, I don’t think we’re going to have that problem.”

The Abrams loss, Thomas said, energized Georgia Democrats. Thomas credits Abrams’ organizing skills and grassroots campaigning efforts for ultimately flipping both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats blue earlier this year and President Joe Biden’s victory in the state during the 2020 presidential election.

“We wouldn’t have a (Sen. Raphael) Warnock or a (Sen. Jon) Ossoff if it wasn’t for Stacey Abrams doing the work in 2016 and 2018,” she said. “There was no other choice but for her to run again.”

Carolyn Hugley, State Representative, District 136

Georgia State Representative Carolyn Hugley, D-Columbus.

Carolyn Hugley is a longtime Abrams supporter. Hugley served as minority whip in the Georgia House of Representatives when the gubernatorial candidate served as minority leader.

Hugley told the Ledger-Enquirer that she was “excited” and “delighted” by Abrams’ announcement earlier this week.

“Stacey has been working hard for the people of Georgia. She did not stop when she did not become governor in 2018,” Hugley said. “Stacey is a person of integrity. She is very thoughtful. She plans. She looks at it from all sides before proceeding. …Georgia would have a leader at home in any part of the state. She would be a governor who would inspire a lot of young people.”

Debbie Buckner, State Representative, District 137

Georgia State Representative Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City.

State Rep. Debbie Buckner told the Ledger-Enquirer that Abrams is a “great candidate” and that her announcement earlier this week to challenge Kemp was not a surprise.

Buckner said Abrams’ support of Medicaid expansion is important for Georgians. Rural healthcare, she said, is a key issue.

“That fits in with my concerns about do we have a sustainable healthcare payment system in Georgia to take care of all of the people who are uninsured or under-insured,” she said. “I think there’s a lot of people who sit around the kitchen table and worry about that.”

Toyia Tucker, Columbus Council

Columbus Councilor Toyia Tucker

Tucker told the Ledger-Enquirer that she is “100% committed to ensuring that (Abrams) will defeat the opposition.”

“Stacey Abrams stands firmly on the side of democracy and will make it a priority to protect lives and livelihoods of all Georgians,” Tucker said. “Over the past four years, Abrams has remained committed to improving the quality of life for all Georgians through advocacy.”

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