Democrat Stacey Abrams said she is comfortable saying "I won" the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election because "something happened" regarding voter suppression to push Republican Brian Kemp to victory.
In an interview with New York Times Magazine, Abrams said she continues to claim victory because of the "totality of information" about the election and also because she transformed the Georgia electorate. Abrams lost by nearly 55,000 votes to Kemp in the closest Georgia governor's race in decades, but she earned nearly 50,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton did in the state in 2016 and won more votes than any Democrat in state history.
However, she has continued to claim the race was stolen from her through voter suppression tactics by Kemp, who was secretary of state before being elected governor.
"Is there any fear on your part that using that kind of language fans the same flames that President Trump has fanned about delegitimizing our elections?" reporter David Marchese asked.
"I see those as very different," Abrams said. "Trump is alleging voter fraud, which suggests that people were trying to vote more than once. Trump offers no empirical evidence to meet his claims. I make my claims based on empirical evidence, on a demonstrated pattern of behavior that began with the fact that the person I was dealing with was running the election. If you look at my immediate reaction after the election, I refused to concede. It was largely because I could not prove what had happened, but I knew from the calls that we got that something happened. Now, I cannot say that everybody who tried to cast a ballot would’ve voted for me, but if you look at the totality of the information, it is sufficient to demonstrate that so many people were disenfranchised and disengaged by the very act of the person who won the election that I feel comfortable now saying, ‘I won.'"
"My larger point is, look, I won because we transformed the electorate, we turned out people who had never voted, we outmatched every Democrat in Georgia history. But voter suppression is endemic, and it's having a corrosive effect. If we do not resolve this problem, it will harm us all."
"It's one thing to say you lost that election unfairly, and it’s another to say you won because you increased voter turnout. But can you clarify for me exactly what you’re implying when you say you ‘won' that election?" Marchese asked.
"There are three things: No. 1, I legally acknowledge that Brian Kemp secured a sufficient number of votes under our existing system to become the governor of Georgia," Abrams said. "I do not concede that the process was proper, nor do I condone that process. No. 2, I believe we won in that we transformed the electorate and achieved a dramatic increase in turnout. It was a systemic and, I think, sustainable change in the composition of the electorate and in the transformation of the narrative about Georgia and Georgia politics. Three, I have no empirical evidence that I would have achieved a higher number of votes. However, I have sufficient and I think legally sufficient doubt about the process to say that it was not a fair election."
However, the Free Beacon and other news sites have done fact-checks that show Abrams's claims don't hold water. Voter participation rose from 43 percent in 2014 to 57 percent in 2018 in Georgia, and overall voter registration rose 20 percent during Kemp's tenure. Abrams blamed Kemp for the closing of rural precincts that were outside his purview, and her claim that she put 53,000 voters "on hold" to stop them from exercising their rights was deceptive. He also was accused of "purging" voter rolls when he was enforcing state law to remove inactive voters.
Abrams is considering a run for the U.S. Senate against Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.) or the White House in 2020. She also could pass up both and try again for the governorship in 2022, when Kemp will likely seek re-election.
Her popularity has declined since her loss, however. A recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll showed her at 45 percent unfavorability in Georgia, a high number for a politician out of office.