Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams spoke bluntly, but also with a sense of humor about her 2018 campaign, voter disenfranchisement and her two nonprofit organizations during a luncheon Friday at the National Press Club in northwest D.C.
But what those in attendance wanted to know was whether Abrams, 45, would seek a vice presidential nomination on the Democratic ticket.
“Would I be honored to serve as the second to a person who’s trying to fix our nation? Absolutely,” she said. “Would I be open to doing so with any of the top nominees? Absolutely. I’m a Democrat and I believe that I can serve.
“This is the first time I remember in modern history where a young Black woman — and I consider myself young because I’m under 46 — has been talked about openly as a potential vice presidential nominee,” Abrams said. “I am never going to diminish that.”
When asked which Democratic candidate Abrams would support, she said, “I support the winner.”
Abrams spent Friday in downtown D.C. talking about ways to combat voter suppression. After last year’s gubernatorial loss to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, she launched “Fair Fight,” which seeks to protect voters’ rights in battleground states such as Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio. She also launched “Fair Count,” an initiative that pursues a proper count in the 2020 Census.
Abrams said up to 22 states practice felony disenfranchisement, which bars people with felony convictions from being allowed to vote.
The Sentencing Project, a D.C.-based advocacy organization, ranks the states with felony disenfranchisement rates per 100,000 residents. The top six states, all in the South, are, in order, Florida, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and Alabama.
Maryland ranks number 44. The organization didn’t have data available for the District of Columbia.
Abrams said the voter disenfranchisement began when the Black Codes became instituted after Reconstruction in the 1800s.
“It was designed to strip Black people, mainly Black men, of their right to vote,” she said. “I do not believe felony disenfranchisement should be a legitimate reason to strip people of their right to vote.”
A similar conversation took place about five blocks away at the National Union Building during an annual New American Leaders summit. It comprised of elected officials, activists and community leaders who represent immigrants and communities of color.
Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D-Montgomery County), who was born in Jamaica, spoke on a panel about fighting for democracy. She reminded attendees to ensure people are counted in next year’s census, especially those from immigrant communities, to inform them the citizenship question posed by President Donald Trump will not be printed on the census when its distributed in March.
Wilkins also emphasized the census count provides $800 billion in federal dollars that can be used for schools, roads and other community resources. Maryland receives about $16 billion annually, Wilkins said.
“It’s really about money and power,” she said. “When those things come together, we have a hell of a lot of work ahead of us to make sure we are at the table. When it comes to that money and resources, we need to make sure that every single person is counted.”