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Balancing the ticket: Stacey Abrams, Kamala Harris top VP picks for 'She the People'

The group shared its internal poll with NBC News, arguing diversity is more vital than ever with a white man certain to be the nominee.
Image: Stacey Abrams
Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams declares victory in the primary on May 22 in Atlanta.Jessica McGowan / Getty Images file

Stacey Abrams and Kamala Harris are the leading Democratic vice-presidential picks among members of She the People, an influential group of women of color, according to an internal poll the group released on Wednesday.

Women of color are among the most loyal Democratic voters in the country — 94 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016, according to exit polls — making their preferences especially relevant to Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, the only two presidential candidates to emerge from the most diverse field in the party's history.

Because both are white men in their 70s, whoever wins the nomination is expected to face pressure to pick a woman and/or a person of color as a running mate.

"We need record-high voter turnout of women of color to win battleground states in November. Now that both front-runners are white men, alarm bells should be ringing for Democrats," said Aimee Allison, the founder and president of She the People, which shared its survey with NBC News. "They need a woman of color for vice president to inspire the base or they risk losing the White House."

She the People, which formed after the 2016 election, asked members to select from a list of prominent women of color they would like to see on the 2020 Democratic ticket. Nearly 900 members responded and were allowed to select multiple options.

Abrams, who narrowly lost a Georgia gubernatorial bid in 2018, was the clear front-runner, with 63 percent picking her. She was followed by Harris, the California senator and former presidential candidate, who was chosen by 42 percent of respondents.

Other top VP options included Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Barbara Lee of California, who were both chosen by about 11 percent.

They were followed by Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth; Florida Rep. Val Demings (who garnered attention for her role as a Trump impeachment manager); Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib; New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland; former Obama national security adviser and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice; Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto; and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Former first lady Michelle Obama, who has expressed zero interest in going into politics herself, earned some write-in votes.

She the People's membership has already started debating the "veepstakes," the quadrennial speculation about running mates.

"Stacey Abrams has the necessary lived experience and leadership capacity to be our next vice president," Andrea Mercado, the executive director of the progressive group New Florida Majority. "She is the right choice to galvanize and inspire an expanded electorate to defeat Trumpism in November."

Royce Brooks, the executive director of Annie's List, a group that helps to elect women in Texas, opted for Harris.

"Kamala Harris is a courageous leader with the legislative relationships to help drive a Democratic president's strong agenda through Congress. She also has the experience and judgment needed to be able to step into the presidential role herself at any time," Brooks said.

Pamela Mays McDonald, a Philadelphia-community volunteer, chose Demings, citing her background in law enforcement as the first female chief of the Orlando Police Department.

"She has a unique view that other candidates lack," McDonald said. "I appreciated her civility and acumen as she teased answers from sometimes reluctant witnessed in the House Impeachment Hearings. ... The fact that she is from the key swing state of Florida would make her a plus on any ticket."