A STRONG SHOWING IN GE­OR­GIA

Daily Press (Sunday) - - Opinion - Will is a Washington Post colum­nist. Send email to georgewill@wash­post.com.

“Life hap­pens,” Stacey Abrams in­structs a small but bois­ter­ous crowd in a sun-drenched park south of At­lanta. She says: Your car breaks down. Your child gets sick. Could hap­pen on Elec­tion Day. So, vote early. To­day. In her cam­paign to be the first Demo­crat elected Ge­or­gia’s gover­nor since 1998, and Amer­ica’s first African-Amer­i­can fe­male gover­nor, she, even more than most Democrats, is de­pend­ing on “low propen­sity vot­ers,” prod­ding to the polls many who have rarely voted in midterm elec­tions.

Chat­ting on her cam­paign bus she ex­udes Yale Law School and the Uni­ver­sity of Texas’ Lyn­don B. John­son School of Pub­lic Affairs, flu­ent about is­sues and droll about her mother’s re­ac­tion to “my tra­jec­tory of down­ward eco­nomic mo­bil­ity” when she left the prac­tice of law to en­ter pol­i­tics, ris­ing to be mi­nor­ity leader of the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Raised in Mis­sis­sippi, Abrams and her fam­ily moved to At­lanta when her par­ents de­cided to train for the Methodist min­istry. When she was in­vited to a re­cep­tion at the gover­nor’s man­sion for high school vale­dic­to­ri­ans, the guard at the gate tried to turn away her and her par­ents be­cause hav­ing ar­rived by bus they seemed mis­placed. Her fa­ther, she tells her lis­ten­ers, told the guard “where he would spend eter­nity if he did not im­prove his de­ci­sion-mak­ing skills.”

She adds that her fam­ily resided in the least af­flu­ent neigh­bor­hood of an af­flu­ent school dis­trict in or­der to have ac­cess to a good school. Her crowd laughs when she says, “You should not have to have a de­gree in car­tog­ra­phy to get a good ed­u­ca­tion in Ge­or­gia.”

Ge­or­gia is one of 17 states that re­jected Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion un­der Oba­macare. This, she says, costs the state $8 mil­lion a day and threat­ens ru­ral hos­pi­tals, eight of which have closed and 21 oth­ers are threat­ened. So, she fishes for votes on Chris­tian ra­dio sta­tions that have mostly white ru­ral au­di­ences.

While Abrams, 44, is toil­ing to cre­ate her base, her Repub­li­can op­po­nent, Brian Kemp, is stroking the eroge­nous zones of his with what Abrams calls “tra­di­tional tropes.” Kemp, 54, boasts that he is “po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect,” which is the po­lit­i­cally cor­rect thing for Repub­li­cans to say. In one pri­mary ad he bran­dished a shot­gun that he says “no one’s tak­ing away” (who wants to con­fis­cate

shot­guns?). In an­other ad he pointed a shot­gun at a teenage boy “in­ter­ested in” one of Kemp’s daugh­ters. He wants you to know he is tough as nails, al­though most who ac­tu­ally are feel no need for such pub­lic dis­play.

As sec­re­tary of state, Kemp is the um­pire of elec­tions un­der Ge­or­gia’s “ex­act match” law, which can block a voter’s reg­is­tra­tion if even a miss­ing ini­tial dif­fers from the per­son’s other pub­lic records. Some Democrats are com­pa­ra­bly over­heated about “voter sup­pres­sion,” which they de­tect in ev­ery mea­sure aimed at elec­tion in­tegrity.

But be­cause sub­stan­tial voter fraud is a fic­tion, mea­sures like “ex­act match” do seem de­signed to sow con­fu­sion in or­der to dis­cour­age vot­ers. It has de­layed the reg­is­tra­tion of more than 50,000 — dis­pro­por­tion­ately AfricanAmer­i­cans — who, with proper iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, can still vote Nov. 6. Demo­cratic turnout in the pri­mary was up 40 per­cent over

2010, the last com­pet­i­tive gu­ber­na­to­rial con­test.

Ge­or­gia, the eighth-most pop­u­lous state, is 32 per­cent black , 10 per­cent His­panic and 4 per­cent Asian. It has the sec­ond-low­est per­cent­age of whites east of the Mis­sis­sippi. Don­ald Trump won Ge­or­gia by only 5 points (3 fewer than Mitt Rom­ney in 2012).

Abrams and Kemp are in a sta­tis­ti­cal dead heat. In Ge­or­gia. In late Oc­to­ber. So, she prob­a­bly al­ready has given na­tional Democrats’ a tan­ta­liz­ing sense of 2020 pos­si­bil­i­ties, par­tic­u­larly if she is gover­nor.

Ge­orge Will

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