Stacey Abrams’s history-making bid to become the country’s first black woman governor moved closer to reality on Tuesday, as the Georgia Democrat secured her party’s nomination for the state’s top executive post.
News of her win set Twitter timelines on fire with celebratory tweets, including high-profile “congrats” from the likes of Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Bernice King, the daughter of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Strategists working to elect more women of color, meanwhile, are already buzzing about the broader effects Abrams’s success could inspire.
Kimberly Peeler-Allen, co-founder of Higher Heights for America, said she was “thrilled beyond words” at the results. “It just shows that the people of Georgia and people across the country are ready to reshape what leadership looks like in the South and that means so much for black women, our communities and our nation,” Peeler-Allen said. “That we have the first black woman in U.S. history being one step closer to stepping foot into the governor’s mansion is just really exciting.”
Abrams, a 44-year-old state representative, is an ambitious rising star in her party. Her primary campaign against fellow Democrat Stacey Evans, also a state legislator, garnered support and endorsements from major players like Hillary Clinton.
Emily’s List, the political action committee that backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, said it joined forces with another group to pour seven-figures into the race.
Of course, not all candidates will receive such high-octane boosts, especially in a competitive midterm cycle nationwide.
But Peeler-Allen says is already seeing a Stacey Abrams effect among candidates who don’t enjoy the same national support and name identification.
Even before the primary, she heard from office-seekers inspired by the endorsements and press Abrams received.
“I’ve talked to candidates who have said that it really shows the opportunity for their individual candidacy,” she said of Abrams’ bid.
More women stepping up in the wake of Abrams’s win could make a major difference in representation beyond Georgia. Women of color remain vastly underrepresented at all levels of elected office.
The 2016 elections set a new record for women of color in the U.S. Senate, but that record is a mere four officeholders. Women of color fill 34 of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Only eight women of color serve in statewide elected office nationwide, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. They hold just 6 percent of the country’s more than 7,000 state legislative seats.
Peeler-Allen is hopeful that those numbers will start to change this year. And results so far are suggesting they might. Abrams isn’t the only woman of color celebrating a recent win. Lucy McBath, a Moms Demand Action spokeswoman who became a national gun-control advocate after the 2012 shooting death of her son, will face a fellow Democrat in a runoff election later this summer in hopes of competing in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District.
In Texas, Lupe Valdez made history as the first Latina woman to secure a Democratic nomination for governor. And just last week, Idaho gubernatorial hopeful Paulette Jordan’s primary win brought her closer to becoming the country’s first female Native American governor.
For many of these candidates, winning in November is far from a sure thing — especially in a state like Georgia, which hasn’t elected a Democrat as governor in 15 years. But Abrams’s candidacy in particular is expected to receive national support as Democrats try to turn the state blue. And Peeler-Allen said she’s encouraged by how mobilized black women are to help boost these candidates on the ballot; Higher Heights volunteers flooded phone banks, fundraisers, and social media to support Abrams “because we all felt ownership in making history,” she said.
Success this year could propel some of these candidates even higher in the political world. Abrams, for example, hasn’t been shy about her ambitions to run for president someday.
Should she make it into the governor’s mansion, Peeler-Allen said she “absolutely” sees Madame President Abrams becoming a reality: