Stacey Abrams, the House Minority Leader who is running for Georgia governor, introduced her plans for strong education, economic diversity and good government during a campaign stop Tuesday at the Frank D. Chester Recreation Center in Columbus.
“I’m running for the whole state of Georgia,” Abrams told about 70 supporters in the gym at the Benning Drive center. The Democrat, who grew up in Mississippi, is expected to face a stiff challenge from both parties in the 2018 race. Columbus was one stop on a 10-city tour after she kicked off her campaign in Albany.
Abrams said reforming education is important but it is also about expanding what people think about going from cradle to career, educating bold and ambitious children and building a thriving and diverse economy.
“The issue is not just more jobs,” she said. “It is good paying jobs and that’s going to be the focus. To make those things happen, government has to work for everyone. Voter suppression is an important issue. You can’t get people to trust their government if you can’t get people to participate in it.”
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The state lawmaker supports expanding Medicaid, which would provide more jobs.
“Building an economy is important but it’s also important to start helping entrepreneurs,” she said. “If you think about the criminal justice reform, think how we make sure everyone who touched government that we fixed it so it works for them.”
When asked how she would put these measures in place if she wins the office, Abrams said the governor is the chief executive and the job is to make the right investment.
“Sometimes, the solution is more money,” she said. “Sometimes, the solution is doing more of what we know how to do better.”
Before introducing another piece of legislation, Abrams said she always made sure the state didn’t already have a place to implement what was on the table.
“As governor, I would work closely with the Legislature,” she said. “If we have to have legislation, if we have to have more money, often it is about the government that does what it is suppose to do.”
Abrams told the story about her parents growing up in Mississippi. They both were able to get degrees for the first time in their families but still couldn’t make ends meet at times. Her father was dyslexic and was called stupid during the 1950s but he managed to memorize his way to a college degree. Her mother earned a degree in library science but it wasn’t enough for a family of six.
“They found they had all the degrees they were supposed to have, yet they still struggled to make ends meet,” she said.
Her father worked in the shipyard 40 miles from home. Each day, he would catch a ride with a co-worker but had to hitchhike back home whenever he worked overtime during the days leading up to Christmas. Abrams’ mother loaded the children into the car to pick him up one night when they drove along Highway 90 looking for their father.
They found him shaking with his coat off in 40-degrees. After her sister asked what happened to her father’s coat, he said he gave it to a homeless man. “’I gave him my coat,’” her father said. “Mother heard that and said OK.”