May The Best Stacey Win: Why The Georgia Primary Is So Important

@wesbtv/ Stacey Evans and Stacey Abrams face off in a recent debate.
The tale of two Stacey’s will come to an end tonight in the Peach State. Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans are both lawyers who have served in the Georgia legislature. They’re both women who have overcome great adversity to rise in their careers in state politics. They’re both Democrats. And, most crucially, they’re both running for Governor of Georgia in Tuesday’s primary election, which is being watched by politicos across the country as not only a test of different electoral strategies, but also as a bellwether of a coming blue wave in the conservative state.
The Peach State hasn’t had a Democratic Governor since Gov. Roy Barnes left office in 2003. It also hasn’t voted for the Democratic nominee for president since 1992.
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But in 2016, Hillary Clinton came closer to carrying Georgia than she did in more reliably blue states, Ohio and Iowa, suggesting that a changing of the guard might be on the horizon. Making things even more interesting is that, at a time when historic numbers of women are running for office, the two people on the ballot this year for the Democrats are both women. And they both just happen to be named Stacey.
The Staceys have similar policy platforms. But what sets them apart is their differing views on how Democrats can win the general election in November. (The Republican primary is also being held Tuesday in Georgia, featuring a field of five white men, one of whom has been touring the state with a “deportation bus.” Sigh.)
Abrams, who is the favorite in the race, is a Black woman placing her bets on a new vision for the Democratic party in Georgia, which focuses on mobilizing young people, minority voters, and single women. In fact, her entire campaign is an outgrowth of a voter mobilization effort she’s been working on for years, called The New Georgia Project. "We can win if we talk to a different coalition of voters — keep the ones we have, but expand who we can get,” she told NBC News. Abrams is backed by powerful Democratic groups like EMILY’s List, Planned Parenthood, and NARAL, as well as national figures like Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA), and Bernie Sanders (I- VT).
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Evans, meanwhile, is focused on convincing moderate swing voters (most of whom are white). She has the support of most of the state party’s insiders, including about half of the Black elected leadership in Georgia. “I see myself as a champion for common sense,” Evans told New York magazine. “Sometimes that makes me moderate, sometimes that makes me liberal. Maybe every now and then it makes me a conservative.”
This strategy disagreement may seem superficial, but at the end of the day, politics is a numbers game. And this one is important because it echoes a debate Democrats are having across the country, which when you break it down largely centers on race and identity. The traditional wisdom is that to win, Democrats need to make a play for the white working class and moderate white suburbanites turned off by Trump. On the other hand, a growing cadre of voices argues that Democrats need to focus their attention on their most reliable voters: people of color, young people, and women, and work harder to bring more of the people in those groups into the process. The Georgia gubernatorial race will be among the first tests of these dueling schools of thought, with the winning strategy likely to be adopted by Democrats in other states.
Tuesday’s primary is just the first step in that debate, of course. Either Abrams or Evans will face an uphill battle in convincing the statewide electorate come November. But one thing’s for sure, after tonight the state will be one step closer to electing its first female Governor.
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