clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Stacey Abrams passes on a 2020 Senate run

It’s a blow to Democrats, who tapped her as their best bet to unseat incumbent Republican David Perdue.

Stacey Abrams during a conference on April 11, 2019. She believes gun violence in America is a national security problem.
Stacey Abrams speaks at David H. Koch Theater at the Lincoln Center on April 11, 2019, in New York City.
Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Stacey Abrams, a historic 2018 gubernatorial candidate, has decided she won’t be running for US Senate, dealing a blow to Democrats who had seen her as one of their best chances to take on Georgia Republican David Perdue in 2020.

Abrams, who’s also been floated as both a potential presidential candidate and possible pick for vice president, announced her decision in a Twitter post on Tuesday.

“The Senate provides a singular platform from which to address the issues of access to justice, economic security, health care and restoring the integrity of our nation’s democracy,” she said, adding, “I do not see the U.S. Senate as the best role for me in this battle for our nation’s future.” Abrams didn’t indicate, however, if she was planning to run for another elected position.

Abrams has previously told Politico she could wait until the fall to declare a run for the presidency and disputed reports that she was planning to sign on as Joe Biden’s running mate. She’s also said she could run for Georgia governor in 2022 and challenge Brian Kemp again, after a 2018 loss that nevertheless brought Democrats closer to state leadership than they’d been in years.

While Abrams won’t be running for Senate herself, she emphasized she would be throwing her backing behind the Democrat who ultimately goes up against Perdue. “Let me be clear: I will do everything in my power to ensure that Georgia elects a Democrat to the United States Senate in 2020,” she said. Teresa Tomlinson, former mayor of Columbus, Georgia, is a Democrat who’s launched an exploratory committee for a potential run.

As ABC News reports, Abrams, who is widely seen as a rising star within the Democratic party, has stated that she leans more toward an executive role than a legislative one. But she’s offered no other hints about which campaigns could be in her future.

Abrams’s gubernatorial run had key lessons for Georgia Democrats

While Abrams ultimately lost to then-Secretary of State Kemp in her governor’s race, she ran an extremely effective campaign, narrowing the gap between the Democratic and Republican candidates to the closest it’s been in years in a statewide Georgia race.

As New York Times’s Susan Chira writes, Abrams’s approach to the gubernatorial race — which relied on connecting with “politically engaged women, people of color and left-leaning voters” — was so successful that it could offer a potential playbook for Democrats to flip key states in 2020.

Abrams came within striking distance of Kemp last fall by turning out a record number of voters of color and building a coalition with white progressives. It’s a strategy Democrats could harness again as they try to retake Perdue’s Georgia Senate seat in 2020, one of several Republican seats that are seen as vulnerable this cycle.

“In 2018, 1.2 million African-Americans cast their ballots for me. We tripled the voter turnout rate among active non-Latinos. We tripled Asian Pacific Islander voting rates,” Abrams said in a February speech describing her gubernatorial campaign strategy. “We increased youth participation rates by 139 percent. ... And when people got afraid that my identity politics was going to cost me the white vote, I am proud to announce that I received a higher percentage of white voters than anyone since Bill Clinton in the state of Georgia.”

Abrams intends to continue her work combatting voter suppression

Abrams’s 2018 run was also plagued with ongoing concerns about voter suppression, buoyed by the fact that Kemp declined to recuse himself as secretary of state from overseeing an election he was running in. The race was marred by numerous voting issues including limited machines and inaccurate voter rolls, so much so that Abrams refused to concede when she ultimately ended her campaign.

Fair Fight Action, a group Abrams started, aims to reform voting systems in Georgia after concerns were raised about how black voters were possibly disenfranchised by Kemp’s office purging voters from the rolls ahead of the 2018 midterms and other Election Day irregularities. Abrams has argued that the handling of the election was simply undemocratic, and sought to prevent a similar situation from unfolding again.

“Voter suppression is rampant and it is real,” she said in her Tuesday announcement. “Bad policies are a direct result of people’s voices not being heard.”

Fair Fight Action has since filed a lawsuit that seeks to overhaul Georgia’s entire election system, Vox’s P.R. Lockhart reports.

It’s clear that Abrams plans to continue making the fight for voting rights a priority —regardless of which elected roles she may potentially pursue down the line.

Correction: This story previously stated that Teresa Tomlinson was formerly Mayor of Columbia, Georgia. She was formerly Mayor of Columbus, Georgia.