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Dec. 5, 2020, 11:44 p.m. EST

Stacey Abrams, who may hold key to Democrats’ chances in Senate runoffs, campaigns at virtual get-out-the-vote rally

Georgia runoff elections on Jan. 5 set to determine control of U.S. Senate

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By Donnell Suggs

Stacey Abrams, who came to national prominence with her 2018 run for governor in Georgia, delivered the Democratic response to the President Donald Trump's State of the Union address in February 2019.

Former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams may or may not be gearing up for another run at the governorship in 2022, but these days she is receiving wide credit for the record voter turnout that delivered the state to a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in three decades.

“I want to talk about why we’re here,” said Abrams, who moderated a get-out-the vote virtual rally on Friday that featured Rep. Nikema Williams, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Democratic senatorial candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, and former President Barack Obama. “A few weeks ago we did something no one thought was possible,” Abrams continued. “We turned Georgia blue.”

Georgia may now be on the road to enduring swing-state status, particularly after President-elect Joe Biden became on Nov. 3 the first Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton in 1992 to carry the state.

Don’t miss: Trump airs election grievances in 100-minute address at largely maskless rally in Georgia

Georgia’s two Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, failed to win more than 50% of the vote on Election Day and now face Democratic rivals Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, respectively, in runoff elections on Jan. 5. (Perdue had a 1.8-percentage-point edge on Ossoff on Nov. 3, while Warnock, with 33% of the vote, came in first and Loeffler, with 26%, in second in a crowded special election for the Senate seat to which Loeffler was gubernatorially appointed a year ago.)

If Democrats were to win both seats, the balance in the U.S. Senate would be 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris positioned to deliver tie-breaking votes as necessary. That would enable Biden to pursue a more ambitious agenda.

Abrams, 46, beginning with her historic gubernatorial nomination and campaign in 2018, has been a major political player in the state, and at no time has that been more true than now. Georgia notched record voter turnout for last month’s election and, though it would be a stretch to give Abrams sole credit for the 4 million–plus votes cast, she does bear ample responsibility for persuading hundreds of thousands of voters to recognize and embrace their right to vote via Fair Fight, the organization she founded after her controversial loss to Republican Brian Kemp, who as secretary of state oversaw his own race for governor, in 2018.

See: Trump says he’s now ‘ashamed’ of endorsing Georgia’s Republican governor

Plus: Trump presses Georgia governor to help subvert election

Asked whether Abrams’s presence is pivotal to Democratic senatorial candidates Ossoff and Warnock in the upcoming Jan. 5 runoff election, Georgia State University political scientist Robert M. Howard answered in the affirmative: “She’s extremely important. Abrams is the most powerful political figure in the Democratic Party in Georgia. Clearly she’s the leader of the party and has star power.”

Alan Abramowitz, a professor of political science at Emory University in Atlanta, said he understands how important Abrams has been to the Democratic Party in Georgia but noted that she’s not alone. “[Abrams] is very important, but she is not the only reason Georgia has been trending blue. Obviously, long-term demographic shifts have been crucial along with Donald Trump’s norm-breaking presidency, which has alienated many college-educated white voters.”

During the virtual rally Abrams talked about Republicans Perdue and Loeffler and allegations that the two had more interest in their stock portfolios than in the risk to public health posed by COVID-19 back in March. “This cannot simply be measured by the stock market; it has to be measured by the supermarket,” she said.

See: How the pandemic presented a stock-market opportunity to Sen. David Perdue of Georgia

And: Senate Republicans Burr and Loeffler under scrutiny over selling stock before the coronavirus market crash — but do insider-trading laws apply?

“In the Senate we have the opportunity to match the needs of the people with the power of our senators. We have two Senate seats up for grabs, but we know how to win those seats.”

Thousands were in attendance for the virtual rally, which included a sign-language interpreter and displayed on screen throughout the phone number for a voter-services hot line.

Early voting for the Georgia runoffs begins on Dec. 14, three week’s before the election on Jan. 5.

President Donald Trump appear Saturday at a rally for Loeffler and Perdue in Valdosta, Ga.

Vice President Mike Pence has campaigned in Georgia on behalf of Loeffler and Perdue, as well. Pence visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta on Friday and was slated to appear in Savannah at a rally for the Republican runoff candidates.

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