Stacey Abrams breaks gender and race barriers in Georgia primary

Democrat becomes first black woman to be candidate for governor for major US party

Stacey Abrams has won the Democratic primary for governor of Georgia, raising the possibility that Ms Abrams – the first black woman to be the gubernatorial nominee for a major US party – could also become the country’s first female African-American governor.

Ms Abrams, the former minority leader of the Georgia General Assembly, will face a tough race in November in a state that Donald Trump won in 2016 by a five-point margin.

But on Tuesday night, as primaries were run across the south of the US, she defeated Stacey Evans, another former Democratic state legislator. The run-off to select Democratic candidates is the first stage in an electoral process leading to midterm elections in November, which will be a test of Mr Trump’s support.

The races in Georgia and elsewhere included a roster of female candidates. In Texas’s seventh congressional district, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, a corporate lawyer, defeated Laura Moser, a progressive activist, while Latina sheriff Lupe Valdez, beat businessman Andrew White to become the Democratic nominee for governor.


Opposition memo

Texas’s seventh congressional district had attracted particular attention because of the decision by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to release an opposition memo on Ms Moser, whom the political action committee worried could not win a general election in Texas.

While the DCCC memo attracted criticism from local supporters of both candidates, Ms Fletcher’s win will be seen as a victory for the organisation as well as the broader Democratic establishment, which has been battling for the soul of the party with the party’s progressive left flank.

To win in November, Ms Fletcher will need to defeat Republican incumbent John Culberson who has held the seat since 2001. However, she and other Democrats are hoping the fact that Hillary Clinton narrowly edged out Donald Trump in the district in the 2016 election will give Ms Fletcher an edge, flipping the district blue and perhaps helping Democrats win the House.

In Kentucky, retired marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath won the Democratic nomination to represent the state’s sixth congressional district, defeating Jim Gray, a former mayor of Lexington.

Female surge

The strong showing for women candidates on Tuesday was emblematic of the 2018 primary season thus far, which has seen a surge of new first-time female candidates.

In primaries in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia earlier this month, 27 of the 43 women running for congress in those states won their primary bids – a success rate of 63 per cent, the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers university noted.

Emily’s List, the political action committee that seeks to put more pro-choice women in public office, says it has been contacted by more than 36,000 women since the 2016 presidential election who said they were interested in running for public office.

In Georgia, Ms Abrams dedicated her primary victory in a Facebook post to everyone “who believed that a little black girl who sometimes had to go without lights or running water . . . could become the first woman gubernatorial nominee from either party in Georgia’s history”.

“Onward to November,” Ms Abrams said. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018