The Stacey Abrams watch party at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Atlanta had more mood swings than a 13-year-old boy at his first homecoming dance.
One minute the room was quiet and sullen, the next it was boisterous and proud. The evening started with loudspeakers pumping old-school Whitney Houston and by midnight everyone was swag surfing. Why? Despite racism, racism, racism and more racism mixed with a secret recipe of eleven herbs and spices of Southern white male incompetence, Stacey Abrams is probably going into a runoff against Republican Brian Kemp. Given everything her campaign has faced this election season, that in and of itself is a victory.
Abrams, the Yale-educated lawyer, author, Spelman grad and Democratic nominee who could be the first black woman elected governor in American history had an uphill battle. Yes, it’s Georgia and it’s a Red State but the real fight was because she was running against Kemp who was double dipping as a candidate for governor while still serving as Secretary of State, overseeing the election.
That means he sent flunkies out to eliminate polling places for black voters in Randolph County two months ago. That means he got sued and lost twice in the last week for blocking voters and registrations. That means on Election Day there were various reports of voting machine problems primarily in majority black Democratic districts. The most egregious was an elementary school in Snellville, Ga., where electric voting machines were not provided with power cords on Election Day. Power cords. In Georgia. The state where Home Depot was founded. You can literally buy power cords anywhere in Georgia, I think you get a free one when you sign up for your open carry license at Sunday service. Yet somehow election officials didn’t have any to begin Election Day in a majority black voting precinct.
In case there was any question about Brian Kemp’s intentions once you got closer to Atlanta, his negligence got even more obvious. Even though every analyst predicted massive surges in turnout in the metro Atlanta area, and some precincts faced three- and four-hour waiting times, Kemp kept over 700 voter machines hidden under bubble wrap. Yet another curious decision by a man facing a political opponent he clearly couldn’t beat in a fair fight.
Yet ... Stacey Abrams persisted.
Around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday night Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo got on stage to say the words that everyone wanted to hear: runoff. A runoff in Georgia is automatically triggered if no one receives more than 50 percent of the vote and most polls put Kemp around 50.6 percent to Abrams 48.5 percent.
Groh-Wargo announced that with all of the outstanding ballots, potential suits and late-vote counting, the campaign predicts a run-off election is the most likely outcome. Is that as good as a victory? Of course not. But on a night where Andrew Gillum got whitelashed in Florida, Steve King kept his job in Iowa and Republicans elected a dead pimp in Nevada, Stacey Abrams pulling off a runoff in Georgia can be called a victory. Abrams herself hit the stage minutes after her campaign manager and made it clear to the crowd she was not about to let a Trump acolyte with poor management skills and a penchant for hanging out with white nationalists win this race.
So where do things stand now? As of 9:52 a.m. Wednesday, the Abrams campaign only needs to net another 15,539 votes to force a runoff with Brian Kemp. Dougherty County, considered ripe with Democratic votes, had to re-route their mail through Florida in the wake of Hurricane Michael so literally thousands of votes in that area are still outstanding. There are more than 1,000 rejected ballots that are known of as of today, and it’s safe to say, given the history of Georgia, most of those ballots would be from black voters and can likely be contested and submitted.
Also, according to the best estimates of the Abrams campaign, there are over 90,000 votes yet to be counted in DeKalb, Gwinnett and Fulton counties, all of which are heavily black, Democratic and in the metro Atlanta area where Stacey Abrams is from. There will be lawsuits for votes, ballot recounts, and that’s just to determine when and if the final tallies can be certified.
In other words, this race is far from over. The Abrams campaign is ready to fight to the end and given what she had to go through to even get to this point, I wouldn’t discount her chances.