For African-American women in Georgia, Election Day was more than political; it was personal. One of their own, Stacey Abrams, had a chance to become the governor of the Deep South state for the first time in history.
The race, against GOP Secretary of State Brian Kemp, was still too close to call by 1 a.m. Wednesday morning. But the effect of Abrams’ candidacy on women of color in Georgia was already clear.
“More than anything, it’s the history,” said Rhonda Moore, who voted for Abrams Tuesday. “Now young black girls, Latina girls, they can dream again.” Moore said she felt Abrams was as much a role model for young girls today as former first lady Michelle Obama. “There are a lot of women of color who believe that. This was her time.”
Bettye Arrington took her granddaughter from Smyrna, Ga. to Abrams’ Election Night watch party in downtown Atlanta.
“She’s 16 years old. We knew this was history in the making and I wanted her to be a part of it,” she said. Arrington grew up in Alabama and said she “never even imagined” a black woman could be a governor until now. “It’s going to open doors for all of us.”
Confidence among Democrats early in the evening turned to worry as the night dragged on. Although polls were scheduled to close by 7:00 pm, problems with Georgia’s aging voting machines kept several precincts open for hours longer. Reports of long wait times, machines without electrical cords, and voters turned away at polls rolled in throughout the day and only compounded anger about the voting process that Kemp had overseen as secretary of state.
Even Kemp struggled to cast his vote when his voter card read “invalid” the first time he tried to use it.
“There’s no way he should have been allowed to stay in his position and run. He can control who’s voting for him,” said Sylvia Hayes, an insurance broker from Stone Mountain who voted for Abrams. “It was a conflict of interest on all levels.”
Kristen Folsom also didn’t trust Kemp to run the election while he was running for governor. “I worried about him taking people off of the voter roles, saying you’re not eligible,” she said. “He should have resigned. That would have been the moral thing to do.”
Trailing Kemp 51 percent to 48 percent, but with tens of thousands of absentee ballots still uncounted and more provisional ballots under review, Abrams refused to concede in a speech just before 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, despite Republicans' private insistence that the race is all but over. If neither candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, they’ll head to a runoff December 4.
“We are still on the verge of history,” Abrams told her cheering crowd. “And the best is yet to come.”
Moments later, Kemp told his supporters that victory was near. “There are votes left to be counted, but we have a very strong lead,” he said. “Make no mistake, the math is on our side to win this election.”