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Amy Walter and Stuart Rothenberg on GOP immigration friction, Democratic primary races
Stacey Abrams is the first African-American woman to be a major party nominee for governor in the U.S. Abrams, former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, joins Judy Woodruff to discuss her historic win, her platform and why her strategy worked and what it means for Democrats around the nation.
We return now to the historic win in the state of Georgia last night.
As we reported earlier, the former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, Stacey Abrams, became the first African-American woman to be a major party nominee for governor in the United States.
And Stacey Abrams joins us now from Atlanta.
Congratulations on your win yesterday.
And do you see this as history-making?
And, first of all, I want to say thank you.
Yes, but it's not just history for me. It's history for changing the face of what leadership looks like in America. And I'm excited to be part of a vanguard. But I also am excited about what this means for the people of Georgia, having someone who is really ready to look out for their needs and their interests.
Why do you think you won?
Because we ran an incredibly concentrated effort, where we were on the ground 11 months ago.
We really focused on talking to voters, asking them questions, and putting out bold and detailed plans, so they knew why voting for me would matter.
And we were very grateful to see a resounding response, 75, 76 percent of the vote.
There's a lot of conversations, Stacey Abrams, about how you were able to turn out voters, many of whom had not voted before. What did you say to them? What was the message?
I talked about three things.
One is educating bold and ambitious children. Every family wants to know that they have opportunities from cradle to career for their children, and we have very specific plans about how we can invest and have access for every family.
Number two, it's about making certain there are good jobs in every single county in Georgia, and we have a lot of them, 159, and really focusing on small business investment, because we know those are the jobs that pay the best and stay for the long term.
And the third is making sure government works for everyone. And at the center of that is the conversation about expanding Medicaid in Georgia. Medicaid expansion would cover more than 500,000 people, create more than 50,000 jobs, and save 15 rural hospitals.
So, as we know, that all well be what you said, and you did win the primary, Georgia is still a very red, a very conservative state. Donald Trump won, beat Hillary Rodham Clinton by 5 percentage points two years ago.
Can you win, Stacey Abrams, unless you turn back some of those Democratic voters, independent voters who went for Donald Trump in 2016, but maybe who had voted Democratic before?
I want every voter in the state of Georgia. I want every independent-thinking voter.
But I do think that Georgia is actually a bluer state than people realize. We have an opportunity to turn out voters who haven't voted in recent years. They vote in the presidential election, but not in the gubernatorial election.
And we have more than enough of those voters to win, without compromising our values and pretending to be moderate to conservative to appeal to a certain segment. There are places where we differ on policy, but at the core of being a progressive in Georgia, it's about making sure that we're helping families have the freedom and opportunity to thrive.
And I know from my personal experience as a Democratic leader that that message resonates across the state.
So, The New York Times, of course, covered your race.
And, among things, they wrote today, they said, "She has signaled that she is not likely to spend much time pleading with rural whites to return to the Democratic Party."
Is that accurate?
That's a mischaracterization of the state.
Number one, in the rural communities of Georgia, it's a very diverse community. A third of Georgia — a third of rural Georgia is African-American. But the reality is, whether you're rural or urban or suburban, you want your kids to have a good education, you want good jobs, and you want your hospitals to stay open.
Those are all issues that appeal to everyone. What I have said is that I don't intend to pretend conservative values that demonize immigrants, that say that we have to put a gun in every counter, that say that we can have gun safety laws without sacrificing the Second Amendment.
I'm not going to pretend to be a conservative to win. I'm going to run the same way I have run my entire career, and that is with authenticity, and with honesty, but with clear plans for how we can lift up every Georgian.
Does that mean you don't talk about those issues?
Oh, no, I talk about them very aggressively.
In fact, I talked about the fact I had only D's and F's from the NRA, and I'm very proud about that. I'm proud to have been endorsed by NARAL and Planned Parenthood, because the reality is, these are issues that matter to everyone, whether you live in rural Georgia or in the city of Atlanta.
The realty is, Democrats cannot win by pretending to be Republicans, Republicans see through it and Democrats see through it. I want to win by turning out voters who want the best lives possible. And that's how I ran this campaign, and that's how we're going to win in November.
Another thing, when we were in Georgia a couple of years — two years ago to talk to you about the Hillary Clinton-Donald Trump contest, you said, among other things, it was going to be a challenge at that point — this was a couple months before voting day in November.
You said it was going to be a challenge to turn out black voters, especially young black voters, for the Democrat, for Hillary Clinton, to get them engaged. It's two years later. Have things changed?
And part of what we were facing when you and I spoke a few years ago was that we were nearing the end of the campaign and there hadn't been the investment in voters everywhere. There hadn't been that deep investment in lifting up their voices.
That's what we have done differently in this campaign. But we have not only done that for young African-Americans. We had one of the highest turn out of Latino voters in Georgia history. We had a high turnout among Asia-Pacific Islanders.
And, in fact, for Democrats in Georgia, we nearly matched Republican performance, something that hasn't happened in the last 15 years. Those are all very strong signals of the energy and the enthusiasm that is available if we have candidates willing to do the investment of cultivating the voters.
And that's what I have been doing the last 11 months. And that is what I'm going to keep doing for the next six months until we win.
Does it help you or hurt you if Donald Trump campaigns in Georgia?
Donald Trump appeals to a very specific part of the state.
And I — you know, the Republican Party and the Republican electorate is its own beast. My mission is not to beat Republicans. My mission is to galvanize and energize Democrats and independent-thinking voters who understand that our mission and our message are the right ones for Georgia.
And I think that what we saw happen yesterday across the state of Georgia is that, whether you live in rural north Georgia near the border of Tennessee, or down on the coast near Savannah, that people heard our message and they turned out in record numbers.
My job is to simply scale the message and scale the numbers.
Stacey Abrams, winner of the Democratic primary for governor of the state of Georgia, congratulations.
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