Washington: Stacey Abrams, who drew a national following during her 2018 campaign to become Georgia’s governor, will deliver the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union next Tuesday, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday.
The charismatic Abrams came up short in her bid to become the first black woman governor in the nation, losing to Republican Brian Kemp in a nationally watched race tinged with issues of race and voting rights. Although she lost to Kemp, Abrams came within 2 percentage points of winning in a strongly Republican state in the Deep South.
The party not occupying the White House – the Democrats, this year – are provided a platform to respond to the president’s speech. Party leaders typically ask a rising star to deliver a rebuttal on a nationally televised platform.
Schumer said he had asked Abrams three weeks ago to consider delivering the response and she accepted.
“She is just a great spokesperson. She is an incredible leader. She has led the charge for voting rights, which is at the root of just about everything else,” Schumer told reporters at the Capitol Tuesday.
By picking Abrams, Democratic leaders are steering clear from any announced or potential 2020 presidential candidates whose choice might have been seen as playing favorites.
Georgia’s former House minority leader, Abrams attracted national attention, endorsements and money this year with a progressive campaign that energized new voters in the deep red state.
Abrams said in a statement that the country “needs to hear from leaders who can unite for a common purpose” and that she planned “to deliver a vision for prosperity and equality, where everyone in our nation has a voice and where each of those voices is heard.”
The Yale-trained lawyer won the most votes of any Democratic candidate in Georgia history, but lost the bitterly fought election to Kemp by 1.39 percentage points.
Throughout the race, Abrams criticized Kemp’s office of mismanaging the midterm election. She and her supporters accused Kemp, as secretary of state, of suppressing the minority vote.
During her gubernatorial campaign, Abrams generally refrained from attacking Trump or invoking his name as she tried to win a state the president captured by 5 percentage points in 2016.
Trump comments on Abrams have ranged from harsh criticisms to predictions of a bright political future for her.
In October, as the race between Abrams and Kemp was heating up, the president warned in a tweet that she would “destroy the state” if she won.
Trump also said she was “not qualified” for the job of governor, a remark that later drew a rebuke from Barack Obama during a campaign visit in Georgia days before the election.
After Kemp had won, Trump praised Abrams in a tweet for fighting “brilliantly and hard – she will have a terrific political future!”