ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis on Monday threw his support behind the woman seeking to become the nation’s first female African-American governor, calling her bid an opportunity to make the state “a model for our nation.”
Lewis called state Rep. Stacey Abrams, who until recently led Georgia House Democrats, “the only leader” bidding to replace Republican Gov. Nathan Deal with “the experience and an ambitious vision to uplift all families.”
“Georgia must seize the opportunity to be a model for our nation by electing this transformative leader, who strives to empower the people she will serve,” Lewis said in a statement.
Abrams, an attorney from Atlanta, has built a national network largely based on work to boost voter registration among minorities and often joined Lewis as a surrogate for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.
Four Republicans and two Democrats are in the 2018 race to replace Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican who is limited to two terms.
Abrams first must win a primary against state Rep. Stacey Evans of Smyrna. Evans rolled out a key endorsement of her own this summer: Roy Barnes, the last Democrat to hold the Georgia governor’s office.
Evans reported respectable fundraising totals in her first campaign report, knocking down some concern that she couldn’t keep pace with Abrams’ ability to raise money. Evans also drew the attention of some prominent figures in the national party with an introductory video focusing on her experience growing up with a single mother in north Georgia.
The endorsements illuminate a larger debate among Georgia Democrats as they try to reverse more than a decade of losses for statewide offices.
Abrams and her supporters argue that boosting voter registration among new voters and focusing on turning out minority voters, will give the party the edge it needs. Some Democrats backing Evans, though, believe the party also must win back white voters who have backed Republicans in recent years.