House Minority Leader Kicks Off Georgia Gubernatorial Campaign

By John Celock

Georgia’s state House minority leader is seeking to become the first black woman to be elected governor in the nation’s history.

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) filed paperwork Tuesday to enter the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in next year’s election. The first woman to lead a legislative caucus in Georgia history, Abrams is entering what looks to be a competitive race to succeed term-limited Gov. Nathan Deal (R).

A romance novelist and businesswoman, Abrams has served in the state House of Representatives since 2006 and was first elected to the minority leader’s post in 2010. She has focused on health care, education, transportation and tax policy as a state lawmaker.

Abrams enters a Democratic field that is starting to take shape in the race to succeed Deal. Former state Sen. Jason Carter, the 2014 Democratic gubernatorial nominee and grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, has been considering making another run for the governor’s mansion, while Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and state Rep. Stacey Evans are also considering jumping in.

On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Secretary of State Brian Kemp and state Sen. Hunter Hill have all entered the race. Former U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, state Sen. Burt Jones, state Sen. Michael Williams, political consultant Nick Ayers and former U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland are considered potential gubernatorial candidates.

If elected Abrams would make national and state history, including serving as Georgia’s first female governor, an historical feat that both Evans and Tomlinson are looking to accomplish.

Currently five woman – Alabama Gov. Kay Ivery (R), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D), New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez (R), Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) and Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) – serve as governors, with Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) poised to succeed to the office when Gov. Terry Branstad (R) is confirmed as the next ambassador to China, likely this month.

Martinez and Fallin are both term limited next year, while Brown, Raimondo and Reynolds have indicated that they plan on running next year. Ivey has not indicated if she will seek a full term in next year’s election. New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno (R) is the only woman seeking a governorship in 2017, while women have declared candidacies in several gubernatorial races next year, including in Ohio and New Mexico.

Abrams is seeking to become the third African-American to be elected to a governorship in American history – following former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) and former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder (D) – and the fifth overall to serve. Former New York Gov. David Paterson (D) in 2008 and former Louisiana Gov. P.B.S. Pinchback (R) in 1872 both succeeded to the office.