Stacy Abrams Not Running for Senate

The narrow loser of the Georgia governor's race has left open the possibility of running for President.

The woman catapulted to national fame after her loss in a Georgia governor’s race tainted by voter suppression has ruled out running for the state’s Senate seat but left open the possibility of seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for President.

The decision not to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue follows months of speculation about the Democrat’s next political step after her narrow loss in last year’s race for governor.

“I’ve been deeply honored by so many fellow Georgians asking me to serve,” she said in an interview. “But my responsibility is not simply to run because the job is available. I need to run because I want to do the job.”

It triggers a new phase of the Senate race, which has been slow to develop while Abrams has deliberated. She plans to stay neutral in that contest, which so far has attracted one candidate who said she would run only if Abrams does not. 

And it opens a new round of scrutiny over whether she will join the growing presidential field, or emerge as a White House hopeful’s running-mate, a possibility that heightened after she delivered her party’s rebuttal to the State of the Union.

If she doesn’t make a White House run, Abrams is likely to prepare a 2022 rematch against Gov. Brian Kemp, who bested her by about 55,000 votes in a contest marred by allegations of voter suppression. After 10 days of legal wrangling and vote-counting, Abrams ended her campaign but refused to call it a concession.

Her profile has only grown after that election as she’s traveled across the nation on a book tour. She’s hit the late-night talk show circuit, attracted sold-out crowds from Nashville to Seattle and drawn huge audiences to podcast tapings.

AJC, “Stacey Abrams won’t run for US Senate in Georgia”

Even though she’s made her career as a legislator, it may well be that she would simply prefer to be a chief executive—whether Georgia’s governor or the President of the United States. It’s also possible that she thinks she won’t win the Senate race:

While her national image has soared, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll showed Abrams’ favorability ratings in Georgia have dipped. The poll, released in April, showed about 45% of Georgia voters view her favorably, compared with 52% in January. Her unfavorable rating jumped 5 percentage points to 45%.

Those are hardly insurmountable numbers, though. And, surely, she’s got better odds of winning a Senate seat in a state where she barely lost a Governor’s race—under dubious circumstances—than climbing to the top of such a crowded field of more experienced Presidential aspirants.

WaPo adds:

Georgia has been a reliably Republican state, but shifting demographics there have convinced Democrats that they have a chance of winning a Senate seat. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) recruited Abrams for the seat, held by first-term Republican Sen. David Perdue, seeing it as a prime opportunity if Abrams were the Democratic candidate.

After her narrow defeat, Schumer selected Abrams to give the Democratic Party’s rebuttal to President Trump’s State of the Union address in February.

Schumer and Abrams met at least twice, most recently in New York City in March. That meeting came during the same week that rumors were rampant that former vice president Joe Biden had asked Abrams to be his running mate. Biden’s advisers eventually took to social media to say that Biden had not made such a proposal. Abrams dismissed the notion during an appearance on ABC’s daytime talk show “The View,” in which she declared, “You don’t run for second place.”

Although her decision leaves party leaders without a candidate who has run statewide in Georgia, Abrams said she would “do everything in my power to ensure Georgia elects a Democrat to the United States Senate in 2020.”

Abrams has said that she would decide by September whether to run for president. Despite the fact that 21 of her fellow Democrats are running or have formed a presidential exploratory committee, with Biden the most recent and most popular entrant, a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that most Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters are uncommitted to a candidate.

The first female leader in the Georgia General Assembly and the first African American leader in the state House, Abrams also could wait for a rematch with Kemp in 2020. Many of her supporters believe that is the job she really wants, and she has said in interviews that she believes it is important for progressive political figures to fight for change in red states with growing populations of people of color.

“While I still don’t know exactly what’s next for me, here’s what I do know: Democracy in America is under attack. Voter suppression is rampant, and it is real,” Abrams said in the video. “Over the coming weeks, you’ll be hearing more from me and my team about groundbreaking initiatives to protect the right to vote and to increase the participation of Americans in setting the course for Georgia and the future of our country.”

Abrams’s decision is a blow to Democrats’ hopes of retaking the Senate majority in 2020 — and a personal setback for Schumer, who spent months trying to gently cajole Abrams into joining the race.

–WaPo, “Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams will not run for Senate in 2020

Indeed, it’s exceedingly unlikely that Democrats will take the seat now, as they have no one with anything like Abrams’ stature on the bench.

We’ll see whether Abrams makes a bid for the White House. I’d put the odds of her getting the nomination—much less unseating President Trump—at next to zero. But a run could further boost her name recognition and she might wind up with that second-place offer after all.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. mattbernius says:

    I suspect she’s eying the VP nomination.

    Still I think from a party perspective, having her run for Senate makes far more sense. That said, from a personal perspective, I can see how she might be reluctant to run for statewide office again if she isn’t confident a win is a sure thing.

  2. Perdue was a popular Governor and is a popular Senator, taking him on would have been much more difficult than the race in 2018.

    As for the VP slot, I’m sure she’ll be on the short list, especially if the nominee ends up being a white guy like Biden, Bernie (unlikely IMO), or Buttigieg). However, if one of them wants a qualified minority woman as their running mate there are plenty of other potential candidates, including Kamala Harris.

  3. mattbernius says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    Agreed on both points — though if the Dems take the Whitehouse and fail to retake the Senate, if Abrams isn’t the VP she may burn some key bridges.

    I also wonder how effective Harris is in the VP slot. I honestly think her record as a prosecutor may hurt her, more than help, in that position.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    The linked article speculates she’ll run against Kemp for Governor again in ’22. I know nothing about Georgia politics, but I see the other senator from GA, Johnny Isakson, has to defend his senate seat in ’22, at which point he’ll be 77.

  5. @gVOR08:

    According to several people I know who know Georgia politics, the anticipation is that Isaakson will retire rather than run again in 2022. If that happens Abrams would be a likely Democratic candidate for an open seat. This assumes she isn’t Vice-President of course.

  6. Kylopod says:

    She has the perverse incentive that, barring her joining the 2020 presidential ticket, her future in politics is brighter if Trump wins a second term. If a Dem is president by ’22, she likely won’t stand a chance.