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Credited with boosting Democrats in Georgia, Stacey Abrams looks to January

"She was determined to show what Georgia really could be," said Michael Collins, the longtime chief of staff for Rep. John Lewis. "And I think what we're witnessing today is the result of that."
Georgia Senate
Stacey Abrams, a former candidate for governor of Georgia, at a campaign event for Raphael Warnock, a Democratic candidate for the Senate, near Coan Park in Atlanta on Nov. 3.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Stacey Abrams isn't slowing down.

Soon after it became clear Friday that Georgia, once a reliable Republican stronghold, wouldn't easily bend toward victory for President Donald Trump, Abrams, the voting rights activist and former candidate for governor, took to social media.

First, she recognized the achievement, thanking elated voters and activists in a video posted to her social media accounts for their efforts over the years to create "this new Georgia." Then, she turned their attention elsewhere: to the state's two potential Senate runoff races.

"We have seen what is possible when we work hard and when we work together," Abrams said in the video statement. "We know we can win Georgia. Now let's get it done, again."

That laser focus on turning out voters and protecting their votes has come to define Abrams, who is being widely applauded for her work in transforming Georgia into a battleground.

"When I think about the work that went into it, I have to just pause and say this was truly an act of faith," Hillary Clinton told Abrams in an episode of her podcast, "You and Me Both," that aired Tuesday. "You believed in the potential for Georgia to have an election that would empower people to vote, to have a stake in that vote, and it's so exciting to see all that hard work pay off."

Although Abrams, a former state lawmaker, has worked on issues related to voting rights for a decade, she became a household name in 2018, when she narrowly lost her bid for governor in a contest marked by allegations of voter suppression affecting mostly Black voters.

"We will channel the work of the past several weeks into a strong legal demand for reform of our elections systems in Georgia," Abrams said in a speech after the loss.

Then she got back to work, launching Fair Fight, an organization that encourages voter participation and fights suppression. The organization says it has registered 800,000 first-time voters over the past two years.

"She never considered it a defeat. She was determined to show what Georgia really could be. And I think what we're witnessing today is the result of that," said Michael Collins, who was the longtime chief of staff for Rep. John Lewis, who died in July. "It's the true result of her commitment to Georgia and to the people of Georgia to turn it around for something good."

Collins said that he worked in lockstep with Abrams for many years and that she propelled the Democratic voter turnout. Her influence, he said, reflects her skill, wit, intellect and determination.

"She took it and she turned it into what we see today: positive change," Collins said in a telephone interview Tuesday.

Although the presidential race is still too close to call in Georgia, tributes have been pouring in for Abrams from prominent Democrats, activists and celebrities as President-elect Joe Biden's vote margin over Trump has widened.

"Either way this goes in Georgia, we owe @staceyabrams our greatest gratitude and respect," former national security adviser Susan Rice tweeted Nov. 4. "Rarely does one person deserve such disproportionate credit for major progress and change."

Abrams has demurred, tweeting Tuesday, "It's not about me — it's about us." She has thanked a list of people and organizations for delivering a "new Georgia."

Democrats are hopeful that the momentum she and other organizers have built will be enough to oust Republicans from Georgia's Senate seats.

Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, will face Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler in a runoff Jan. 5. Meanwhile, Republican Sen. David Perdue's race against Democrat Jon Ossoff is still rated "too close to call" by NBC News. It could also go to a runoff if Perdue remains short of the 50 percent threshold he needs to win outright.

Abrams has already fired up her campaign to get Warnock and Ossoff elected, doing media rounds this week and calling on Georgia voters and fundraisers.

"We can have access to health care, access to justice and access to jobs. Those are the three things that are most essential," she told Clinton. "These are the two men who will get it done if we do our part and we don't relax, we don't relent and we do everything we can to push them over the finish line on Jan. 5."

Asked by Clinton whether she had taken the time to savor the moment, Abrams said she had "like 14 minutes on Sunday."

And she added, "We got some work to do."