Georgia’s Democratic candidate for governor, Stacey Abrams, admitted electoral defeat on Nov. 16, but vowed to continue fighting, through a federal lawsuit and a political action committee called Fair Fight Georgia.
The lawsuit will be filed under the auspices of the newly formed PAC, she said, which is the latest effort at political fundraising that in the past has garnered millions of dollars in donations from sources she has refused to identify.
“Let’s be clear: This is not a speech of concession,” Abrams said. “In the coming days, we will be filing a major federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia for the gross mismanagement of this election and to protect future elections from unconstitutional actions.”
Abrams’s attempt to become the nation’s first black female governor fell 17,000 votes short of her Republican opponent Brian Kemp, whom she blames for her election loss. Kemp served as Georgia’s secretary of state from 2010 until Nov. 8, or two days after the polls closed.
“I acknowledge that former of Secretary of State Brian Kemp will be certified the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial election,” she said. “But to watch an elected official, who claims to represent the people in the state, baldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling.”
As the state’s chief elections officer, Kemp was ultimately in charge of state election integrity procedures. Abrams accused him of purging thousands of minority voters from voter rolls, while Kemp maintained that incorrect voter registrations and those lacking sufficient identification were properly moved to “pending” status. Citing election abuses, Abrams didn’t end her campaign until 10 days after Nov. 6.
Fair Fight Georgia’s website alleges systematic voter suppression, and states that “elections in Georgia, and throughout much of our country, are not fair.” The site also seeks donations: “Contributions currently support the Democratic Party of Georgia’s voter protection efforts. Fair Fight will start collecting funds on its own behalf shortly.”
Voter suppression is a message that resonates with many Georgia voters, as evidenced by Abrams earning more total votes than any Democrat in the state’s history. It was a prime campaign theme, and arguably the issue that has most defined her political career.
In 2014, Abrams ran unopposed in a race for Georgia’s state House District 89, which she represented since 2007. But a massive influx in unforeseen political donations purportedly aimed at supporting voting rights began raising eyebrows not just among Republicans, but other Democrats and so-called good government groups.
According to public records, Abrams raised $12.5 million from 2013 to 2016, through two voting rights nonprofits she founded, Third Sector Development and Voter Access Institute. Abrams has refused to acknowledge where the money came from although she personally benefitted to the tune of nearly half a million dollars, the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) reported in Sept.
“Absolutely, 100 percent, no doubt,” the foundations set the stage for Abrams’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign, a former Democratic candidate told the AJC on the condition of anonymity, citing a “fear of political retaliation.”
Prior to 2018, Third Sector organized a statewide voter registration drive known as the New Georgia Project. The effort relied on support from wealthy progressive donors who continued giving millions to Abrams during her bid for governor. But activities performed by the New Georgia Project led to a fraud investigation by the State Board of Elections, and the group’s lack of transparency caused concern among many Democrats.
When pressed on the campaign trail, Abrams defended her anti-voter-suppression foundations by suggesting that questions about her donors and outsized salary were sexist.
“The implicit question is: Why didn’t you do it for less—or for free?” Abrams said in an interview with Glamour magazine in April. “I can’t imagine that any man at the head of a non-profit, who achieved what we achieved, and raised the kind of money that we raised, would be asked that question.”
Public records reveal that Third Sector Development and Voter Access Institute were funded in part by the national progressive groups, American Votes, the Sixteen Thirty Fund and Priorities USA. The entities are backed respectively by labor unions and gun control advocates, environmental activist groups, and Democratic Party super PAC contributors.
In a separate interview in March, Abrams let slip one of her anchor donors: George Soros.
“George Soros and the Soros family have demonstrated nothing but deep investment and commitment to social justice. That is how I came to know them because they were early investors in the New Georgia Project, a project whose sole purpose was to expand the ability of people of color and low-income people of color to exercise their right to vote, and my experience of open society and the work they have done has been that of a family committed to social justice. And I am proud to have their support,” Abrams said.
Abrams said the billionaire mega-donor had given $1.25 million to another political action committee she controlled, called GeorgiaNEXT, and $1 million to the Georgia Democratic Party on her behalf—the same state political party currently receiving donations from Abrams’s Fair Fight Georgia.
Abrams has not ruled out future elections, such as challenging Georgia’s Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue in 2020. In the meantime, a team of allied lawyers is amassing testimony and evidence for her impending federal lawsuit.