ALBANY, Ga.— Glenn Singfield, Sr. takes a lot of pride in the racially diverse clientele that enjoys his meals at Albany Seafood Company, a family-owned business that’s been around since 2014.
“Look around this place and see who’s here,” he told me Saturday night, noting the 50-50 split of black and white customers. “The only thing that matters here is your heart. I don’t care if you’re as dark as the pepper shaker or white as that salt shaker.”
He, his wife and son have opened various businesses in Albany for the past 30 years and have seen the political landscape evolve to where they have been able to vote for Stacey Abrams.
His customers are supporting her, too.
“Hey Bill. Y’all already voted,” he asks a man sitting near us.
“Of course,” Bill responded.
Who you voted for? I asked.
“Excuse me,” he said in a perturbed tone.
“Stacey,” Glenn Sr. said. “Who you think?”
There are more than 400 black women running for public office, but none of them reflects the essence of their collective campaigns more than Abrams. At 44 years old, she stands to be the first black woman to lead a state in America’s history if she wins. That’s an astonishing possibility to the many people here who remember Lester Maddox, the segregationist governor who resisted integration so fiercely, he once ran black people out of his restaurants with a pistol. They remember the blood of black people that dripped into the soil because a baton met them whenever they tried to cast a ballot.
In October, an older woman in Waynesboro, near the state’s eastern coast, recalled the 1960s when black people feared violence from local officials who tried to keep them away from the polls. This midterm environment reminds her of those days. Still, she thinks Abrams will overcome it and win.
“I feel like she is going to win,” Betty Debbie Green said defiantly. “That’s what I feel within me.”
Even with Kemp’s voter suppression tactics? I asked her.
“She’s still going to win. I have that feeling because we have been under depression for the last two years,” Green said. “And if you think straight and want things to get straight, you better get some of us in that White House and in the governor’s mansion, so everything can smooth out.”
For all of the confidence Green has in Abrams, nothing has been smooth about her trajectory to national political star. Her campaign has been rocked with sexism, racism and downright ugliness—even within her own party, as The Root reported previously.
If she wins tonight, she will not have only defeated Kemp—she will have defeated Trump and his 2018 Jim Crow vision for Georgia.
On her campaign bus heading to Thomson back in October, Abrams reflected on the 18-year-old girl she was when her father had to convince the guard at the governor’s mansion that his daughter was one of the high school valedictorians who was to be honored that evening. From that day forward, she vowed to return to that house again as governor.
The bus passed cotton fields that, not too far in the past, were likely picked by people who looked like her. Abrams took it all in as she thought about the excuses that could have stopped her from running, starting with her debt and how Kemp—who has his own money issues—tried to shame her because of it. Abrams held off on paying quarterly taxes to pay for her father’s cancer treatment and is paying the IRS monthly payments to get back on track.
“Money tends to be one of the barriers to leadership,” Abrams told be between stops on her campaign bus October 17. “We’re taught to be ashamed of the challenges we face. We’re to think we can’t be ambitious until we’ve fixed everything.”
Nationally, party elites could have come in earlier to support Abrams, but they didn’t. The Democratic National Committee claims it doesn’t endorse during primaries but broke that rule when Chairman Tom Perez traveled to New York to endorse Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Given how black female voters have won close elections at all levels, many feel the DNC should have backed Abrams over Democratic primary opponent Stacey Evans, the white candidate who thought it was a good idea to run a campaign video of herself at Dr. King’s church showing an image of the martyred icon appearing over her face as the 44-second clip ends.
She was dragged to high heaven.
Christina Greer, an associate professor of political science at Fordham University, said the Democratic Party will have to undergo its own autopsy report. Given how few black women are in elected office compared to their overwhelming support of the Democratic Party, party leaders should have been begging to endorse someone like Abrams.
“It will force the Democratic Party to have a reckoning,” Greer said. “I don’t think anyone will be convinced immediately. We have far too many Democrats...saying, ‘If we want to be successful around the country, we need white male charismatic leadership.’ And let’s come to the harsh reality that we as Democrats have a lot of blind spots and racism in our party.”
Black women also have to beat back false perceptions as they rise through the political ranks. They will tell you publicly and privately how much care they take to not come across as “angry” or “threatening.”
Abrams has had to contend with those challenges. She doesn’t talk about it publicly, but there were many folks who tried to get her to change her image. People have whispered about her weight, clothing, you name it. But, mostly, people have asked her to change her hair.
“There have been well-meaning folks who have had opinions about my hair, my lipstick, my dresses, my shoes,” she said. “I appreciate all of their input, but my hair is my hair and I don’t begrudge anyone on how they want to wear their hair. This is how I wear my hair. This is who I am. And I think who I am is sufficient for Georgia.”
Black folks down here overwhelmingly agree. How the rest of the state views her is something we’ll find out tonight.
Back in Albany, Glenn Singfield and the son who shares his name chatted it up with customers about Abrams. Glenn Jr. told me the first time he met her was when she knocked on his front door to ask for his vote.
“She came to my home, to my front door personally,” Glenn Jr. said. “She didn’t know who we were. She asked for our vote, and said she would stand for us. I’ve never had any governor candidate do that.”
You can’t get Glenn Sr. to say too many nice things about Trump, but he admits the recent corporate tax cut reduced his taxes by 50 percent, Glenn Jr. told me. But he could do without it.
“It’s the only good thing he’s ever done, and I’d give it up because he’s that bad,” Glenn Sr. said. “You have to decide what you can live with. I’m a moral person. I can’t stand his disrespect. I can’t stand his racial overtones. I can’t stand his rhetoric as it relates to the handicapped, to women. He’s got homegrown terrorists coming out of the woodwork, all because of his rhetoric.”
That’s why he is so excited about Abrams, who is Trump’s antithesis. And that’s why he bristles at those who claim Georgia isn’t ready for a black woman to be governor. A Georgian by birth, he tells me that I am in a very rural part of the state that needs everything: infrastructure, healthcare, jobs, hope.
He believes Abrams can bring all of that if she wins. I told him I would be at her campaign headquarters on election night. He had a message for her.
“Tell Stacey thank ya’,” he said. “Thank gawd for Stacey Abrams. Tell her thank you for for all she is doing. And thank her for dealing with all of this shit they putting her through. Tell her thank ya!”