Georgia Southern packs Carroll Building atrium for Stacey Abrams rally

McClain Baxley

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams spoke to an emphatic crowd tightly packed into the Carroll Building on Georgia Southern University’s Statesboro campus Tuesday night.

The rally was hosted by the Young Democrats of GS to encourage early voting. Along with Abrams, Congressional candidate Francys Johnson and insurance commissioner candidate Janice Laws also spoke about their campaigns and thoughts on Abrams.

When Abrams finally arrived from her rally in Hinesville just a few hours earlier, Beyoncé’s “Run the World” played over the speakers before GS Young Democrats President Eduardo Delgado voiced his concerns to the excited audience.

“As a student, I’m concerned about student debt, accessibility and affordability of college,” Delgado said. “As a taxpayer, I am concerned with how our money will affect all Georgians in this state. And as a son of immigrants, I am concerned about if my state government will treat every single human being with dignity and respect.”

After thanking all in attendance and reminding onlookers when and where early voters can vote, Delgado used one of GS’ most noticeable slogans, GATA, to rile up the crowd.

{{tncms-inline content=”<p>“I’ll go ahead and say this. Leader Abrams, get after their asses,” Delgado said, provoking a GATA chant amongst the crowd.</p>” id=”5ec48e88-9c7b-4e55-9eb6-ac9bbd8ffc17″ style-type=”quote” title=”GATA” type=”relcontent”}}

Janice Laws and Francys Johnson take the stage

Born in Jamaica, Laws talked about her embodiment of the American dream before encouraging listeners to vote her into the Georgia insurance commissioner’s office.

“I’m here to fight for you, for Georgia families, to ensure that we have affordable car insurance rates in Georgia,” Laws said.

With the crowd fully engaged, Johnson faced the crowd and chanted, “Love, not hate, will make America great.”

The civil rights attorney and pastor continued to hype up the crowd for the main event, but not without reminding them to vote for him by referencing his time at Georgia Southern. Johnson then introduced Abrams to an explosion of applause.

“I’ve preached here, I’ve pastored here, I’ve taught classes here, I took some classes here, and I’m glad I can give what’s left of my time to the next governor of this state,” Johnson said. “Make no mistake about it. The best man for the job is this woman, Stacey Abrams.”

Abrams takes the stage

Abrams met the Statesboro crowd with waves, a smile and a reminder of who she was, before attacking her opponent, Republican candidate Brian Kemp, alluding to his suppression of the voting numbers.

“He’s spent the last 10 years, the last decade, fighting against the right to vote,” Abrams said. “When he finally got the reins of power in 2010, he took it to a whole new level.”

The 44-year-old candidate went on to talk about her and Johnson’s fight against Kemp in court over voter scandals. A voice in the crowd suggested to lock him up. Abrams stopped mid-sentence and offered a different solution.

{{tncms-inline content=”<p>“We don’t do that,” Abrams said. “We vote him out.”</p>” id=”786572af-cc0c-4f14-9caf-3f7eca962bf0″ style-type=”quote” title=”Vote” type=”relcontent”}}

After wrapping up her anti-Kemp preamble, Abrams instilled Peach State pride into the audience, saying that Georgia is the “cradle of the civil rights movement.”

Abrams discusses her platform: Education, jobs, Medicaid and mental health

Abrams began discussing her platform, leading with education. Abrams said she will fight to raise teacher wages and work to get more affordable college education.

“My answer to college debt is that we make college debt-free in the state of Georgia,” Abrams said.

The crowd roared with appreciation and praise to Abrams’ idea of a new HOPE Scholarship, offered to those with “C” averages, as opposed to the current standard of a 3.0 GPA. A “Stacey” chant ensued, at which point Abrams had to take a step back.

“I’m not going to be yet another education governor, because we’ve had those. We’ve had them around this country and we’ve had too many around the state of Georgia,” Abrams said. “I’m going to be the public education governor of the great state of Georgia.”

Abrams then transitioned into her ideas on jobs and working. She complimented incumbent Governor Nathan Deal’s efforts on the workforce, but she ensured that she would work to do even better.

By subtly sprinkling in jabs at Kemp, Abrams was able to keep the crowd invested in her platform, focused on creating higher-paying jobs for all.

“People shouldn’t have to go into agriculture or hospitality to make a living in Georgia,” Abrams said. “Why not create renewable energy jobs? Because I’m going to tell y’all a secret: Climate change is real. We can create 25,000 to 45,000 good-paying jobs in Georgia if we acknowledge that renewable energy isn’t the future. It’s the now.”

Later Tuesday night, Abrams clarified her comment, saying she wants to diversify the economy and raise wages.

{{tncms-inline account=”Stacey Abrams” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">To be clear, my point is that we must continue to diversify our economy and raise wages across the board. Agriculture and hospitality are vital sectors of our economy in Georgia – but we can do more and lead in new sectors as well. <a href="https://t.co/3eiv8c3QHr">https://t.co/3eiv8c3QHr</a></p>— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) <a href="https://twitter.com/staceyabrams/status/1052342801445412865?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 16, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/staceyabrams/status/1052342801445412865″ type=”twitter”}}

Following her proposal of Medicaid expansion, Abrams discussed the issue of mental health by introducing the story of her brother, Walter Abrams. Walter Abrams became reliant on drugs and was incarcerated in 2014, during which he was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Since then, Walter Abrams has been released from jail three times, Stacey Abrams said.

Abrams used her brother’s story to highlight the high rate of incarceration in the state of Georgia and the lack of mental health institutions outside of prisons.

Encouraging students to vote

Abrams brought the rally back around to the reason the three candidates were there: to encourage the audience to vote.

“We can’t do this alone,” Abrams said. “Francys can’t get elected alone. Janice can’t get elected alone. We need your help, because I’m voting for me.”

Abrams once again commented on the 53,000 lost votes and said that Kemp’s campaign was “shook.” For the first time in her portion of the rally, Abrams mentioned turning Georgia blue in her closing statement.

“We win by showing up and showing out every single day,” Abrams said. “We win by showing that we believe in each other because the reality is: We are Georgia.”

After stressing the importance of voting early, Abrams gave a final thank you and headed for her tour bus, as she had another rally to attend at Savannah State later that night.

McClain Baxley, The George-Anne Sports Editor, [email protected]