Stacey Abrams, who unsuccessfully ran for governor of Georgia in 2018, has officially ruled out a run for the U.S. Senate.
The announcement comes today, her self-set deadline for making the decision, and it puts Georgia Democrats in a bit of a bind.
Abrams fell just short of a gubernatorial win in 2018, losing to former secretary of state Brian Kemp. Since the defeat, Abrams and her allies have referred to Kemp as the man who stole the election and have even started putting an asterisk next to his name when referring to him.
However, Abrams really wants to be governor. A run for the Senate is a risky gamble for someone who wants to be governor, as there are multiple factors that can make or break her political future.
Abrams was being recruited heavily by Chuck Schumer to run against David Perdue, who is up for re-election in 2020. The Democrats believe that, as close as the 2018 gubernatorial campaign was, they have a chance to get a Democratic Senator in a deep red state.
The fact is, though, that she spent so long teasing a run that Georgia Democrats are bound to be upset this morning. Other qualified Democrats stepped out of the way until she made a decision, and now that she’s said she won’t despite the months of teasing, they feel cheated out of valuable campaign and fundraising time.
But, Abrams likely never wanted to run. She wants to be governor. Running for the Senate means quitting that job either two years in to run against Kemp or waiting six years to run against Kemp’s successor.
What’s worse for her is the fact that she has already lost one statewide election, even though she won’t officially concede that race. Brian Kemp is the governor and she is not. The Democrats can chalk one loss up to fluke/cheating, but two losses are much harder to shrug off. If she lost to Perdue in 2020, state and national Democrats would be forced to recognize something we can already extrapolate from certain data: Abrams never really had a chance to beat Kemp.
It is a fact that Abrams drove out more voters than the Democrats could even get out for Hillary in 2016. It is a fact that she got voters registered and out to the polls at a rate that should alarm Georgia Republicans. But Kemp didn’t steal the election. If anything, his time as Secretary of State hampered his own race.
During his time in that office (and not just when Abrams was pushing it), registration in Georgia shot up. We now know that a lot of new voters went for Abrams. So, that’s already pushing Abrams ahead of where she would have been if the race had been held in 2016.
A few issues also hampered Kemp in Georgia. There are deep red pockets of the state that do not like Trump, and his endorsement may have caused Kemp supporters to stay home (I suspect Trump’s endorsement did this only because we saw some Georgia Congressional swing Democratic), but draw out a lot more rural voters (those voters arguably saved the Georgia legislature from turning blue). Other issues, like running ads on immigration, also irritated some more moderate Georgia Republicans but rallied those voters.
So despite a registration discrepancy, Kemp won on issues. Abrams ran a far-left campaign in a far-right state and alienated moderate voters.
If she were to run for Senate and lose, she’ll then have lost two statewide races and her career is basically over by the time Kemp runs for re-election. If she runs for Senate and wins, it would piss off Georgia Democrats if she quit that job less than halfway into her term to run again. She’ll essentially be clearing the field of statewide competitors three times in four years, which prevents the Democrats from building up a backbench of fresh faces to lead the party.
The alternative if she were to run for Senate and win is that she serves a full six-year term and then runs in 2024 against Kemp’s successor, but by that time she’s been out of state politics long enough that a new face would be better prepared to take on the GOP.
So it’s likely the Senate was never really an option, and the teasing was simply a ruse to keep her name in the headlines. That, however, makes her incredibly selfish because, as mentioned earlier, other Democrats cleared the field for her. She is taking up a spotlight that could have been used to put forward a new face – and one that hasn’t already lost a statewide race once.