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High hopes but tough road for black woman in governor's race

Published:Thursday | May 24, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Democratic candidate for Georgia Governor Stacey Abrams


She's a Yale-educated attorney and a romance novelist who served a decade in the Georgia Legislature. Now, Stacey Abrams has gained a shot at becoming the first black woman elected governor in US history.

Abrams, 44, easily won the Democratic nomination in Tuesday's primary, and strong turnout among Democrats has fueled hopes she can take back the governor's mansion in November in a state where Republicans hold every statewide office from US senator to insurance commissioner.

"We are writing the next chapter of Georgia's future, where no one is unseen, no one is unheard, and no one is uninspired," Abrams said in her victory speech late Tuesday after defeating fellow Democrat and former legislative colleague Stacey Evans.

Democrats see a potential window for victory in the race to succeed term-limited GOP Gov Nathan Deal, but experts say it won't happen without a hard fight.

"As long as Republican turnout doesn't drop off dramatically, the advantage is still in their court," said Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta.

Republicans won't have their nominee until a July 24 run-off between Lt Gov Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp two white men who were the top vote-getters in a crowded five-candidate GOP primary Tuesday in which contenders focused on the sanctity of gun rights and talked tough on immigration.

Regardless of who emerges as the Republican nominee in nine weeks, Abrams faces a tough political road in what remains a deep red state.

Georgia hasn't elected a Democrat governor since 1998. And no Democrat seeking that office in the past 20 years, including former President Jimmy Carter's grandson in 2014, has got more than 46 per cent of the vote.

Abrams is betting she can succeed by abandoning the political playbook of previous Democratic nominees, who ran centrist campaigns aimed at luring back older white voters who had come to favour Republicans. She is instead hoping to appeal to young voters and non-whites who have been less likely to participate in elections.