Political activist Aimee Allison (left) and Stacey Abrams, Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia, at a campaign event in June. (Photo courtesy of Aimee Allison)
Rae Peoples is ready to do everything she can – rally her friends, open her checkbook, knock on doors — to help Stacey Abrams, the Democratic leader of the Georgia Statehouse, become the nation’s first black female elected governor.
And it doesn’t matter that Peoples lives all the way across the country in Oakland, Calif.
“Why wouldn’t I lend my energy, financial support and political muscle to support her?” People said, adding that an Abrams victory would be a point of progress and pride for black women everywhere.
“Get in Formation,” a campaign launched this week by three black political action committees, hopes to recruit more women like Peoples to pledge their personal and financial capital to help Abrams in her history-making question. The effort will primarily be run online via a website and social media.
The initiative brings together Democracy In Color, which focuses on organizing and engaging voters of color and progressive whites; Higher Heights for American, whose goal is to get more African American women elected to office; and the Collective PAC, which recruits and supports progressive black candidates for public office.
“This is our most exciting opportunity to get behind a political leader since 2007, when then-Sen. Barack Obama came on the scene,” said Aimee Alexander, president of Democracy in Color. “The Get in Formation campaign is about bringing our money and focus to one of the most exciting, transformational candidates we have an opportunity to work for.”
The effort also is aimed at making sure Abrams gets support early on in the long election cycle. The gubernatorial primary is next May and the general election is in November.
“I am heartened by the support that my campaign has received in just a few short weeks from across communities, and including the strong enthusiasm from black women in Georgia and across the country,” Abrams said in a statement to The Washington Post. “It is my hope that by working to become governor of Georgia – the first African American woman to do so here or anywhere else in the country – I will not only have the ability to uplift all families in my state, but to redefine our belief in who can lead.”
Abrams, 43, hopes to replace Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who has exhausted his two four-year term limit. Although she is widely considered by members of both parties to be a skilled and savvy political leader, winning the state’s top elected office will not be easy. No Democrat has won statewide office in Georgia since 2006, and just 11 black women have ever been elected to statewide positions nationwide. Abrams also has to get through a primary, which so far includes her legislative colleague Rep. Stacey Evans, 39, who also is a lawyer.
Some national groups already have endorsed Abrams, a graduate of Spelman College and Yale Law School, who runs a small financial services firm and has published several romance novels. Emily’s List, which supports pro-choice women running for office is backing Abrams, along with Democracy for America, a liberal PAC founded by Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, presidential candidate and Democratic National Committee chairman.
“Get in Formation” is seeking to engage black women, who during the past three presidential elections proved to be the Democratic Party’s most loyal voters. Black women turned out at a higher rate than any other group of voters to elect Obama as the nation’s first black president in 2008 and to reelect him in 2012. Last year, although turnout for black women was down, they voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton at the highest rate of any group – 94 percent.
Glynda Carr, co-founder of Higher Heights, said she is excited about partnering with the other two groups, “the notion of coming together and recognizing that, collectively we’re stronger.” She hopes to recapture the energy of the Obama campaigns “to organize our communities to elect a candidate like Stacey Abrams, to be able to break a glass ceiling with a qualified candidate.”
Alexander said “Get in Formation” will work independently of Abrams’ campaign, asking women around the country to “activate their networks,” both professionally and socially. Visitors to the website can take a pledge to make a donation and raise money for Abrams, spread the word online and in their communities about her candidacy and organize and recruit black women in Georgia and around the country to support her.
“Whether you’re in Seattle or Mississippi, there’s something concrete you can do,” Allison said.
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Peoples described Abrams is “a strong candidate, with a very significant platform.” She also said it’s important to her that as a black woman Abrams “represents this notion of a new American majority, a multicultural, multiracial, progressive coalition that will take the lead in ushering in this new political narrative that is more inclusive and just and representative for our country.”
Peoples, 39, an administrator at Golden State University School of Law, said she would join a “California Crew” of volunteers to go to Georgia “to lend on-the-ground support – whether that be volunteering at campaign offices, knocking on doors, or even visiting key HBCUs down there to reach out to college students, particularly black women … That’s something I could totally go for!”
Allison thinks that many more women out of Georgia will follow Peoples’s lead and will want to help Abrams because of what she’s heard in talking about her candidacy. “When I’m having the conversations about the possibility of having the first black woman elected governor, transforming the deep South and recognizing the political power of black women, it’s an exciting moment for black women, wherever they live, because they feel like if we can do in Georgia, we can do it anywhere.”