WASHINGTON — An influential Democratic donor is launching a $2.5 million effort to help elect veteran Georgia legislator Stacey Abrams as the state’s first African-American governor — and to lay the groundwork for what Democrats hope will be more victories in the Deep South.
Susan Sandler, a San Francisco-based philanthropist, is spending $1 million of her own money and has rounded up commitments for another $1 million. In a strategy memo shared with USA TODAY, she called on some other 100 Democratic donors to chip in to boost Abrams.
The spending is the first phase of a larger campaign by some of the country’s most prominent liberal donors to help Abrams, a Yale-educated lawyer and former romance novelist, become the nation’s first black female governor.
The early money is aimed at increasing black turnout for the May 22 primary and boosting the name recognition of Abrams, who shares the first name of her primary opponent, Stacey Evans.
Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, is term-limited. At least five Republicans, including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, are vying for the GOP nomination.
Although their party has not held the governor’s mansion in solidly Republican Georgia in more than 15 years, Democrats are emboldened by recent victories in Virginia’s governor’s race and in deep-red Alabama, where Doug Jones became the first Democrat elected to the Senate from the state in 25 years.
The political operation overseen by Sandler and husband Steve Phillips, helped drive black turnout in the Alabama Senate race, and they hope to deploy a similar strategy in Georgia, where African Americans make up about 30% of the electorate.
In recent statewide elections in Georgia, the winner has been determined by about 230,000 votes on average, Sandler wrote. But in Georgia’s last gubernatorial election in 2014, some 1.2 million eligible black voters stayed away from the polls.
“The upset election of Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race in December gave a glimpse of a new electoral equation,” Sandler wrote in the memo. “If we elect Stacey, we will show that we know how to win in the South without compromising our principles and beliefs,” Sandler wrote.
She said the model also “will set us up to win Georgia in the 2020 presidential race.”
Sandler and Phillips want turn out 80,000 black voters to back Abrams in the primary through a mix of advertising, phone calls and door-knocking. They also plan to hire 250 organizers.
-PRETTY PUGILIST AUSPICIOUS LIVING MAGAZINE