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Why Don't You Just Meet Me in the Middle?

On November 6, Georgians will be faced with the task of electing their 83rd Governor. The race is hotly contested and has exposed the hyper-partisan fissures that have yet to heal from the 2016 presidential election. Older voters are fired up, and have already picked their candidate for the fall. Most young people have made their choice as well, but among millennials, those in the electorate aged 21-40, they are unsure of who to support or if they should vote at all. The media has portrayed the election as a race between two candidates who refuse to moderate their message to cater to those in the middle. This narrative is false and does a disservice to voters, especially millennials who are rejecting party labels at rates never seen before in American politics, and who also are unsure of their political affiliation as they begin to start careers and families.

From the moment Brian Kemp secured the Republican nomination for Governor of Georgia, the media has turned itself into a pretzel to portray the race between him and Former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams as a battle of the fringes. Kemp has touted his hard-line stances on immigration and guns and Abrams has certainly positioned herself to be the most progressive candidate for Governor in the state’s history. What the media has gotten wrong is that she is not a far-left candidate at all, she is running on issues embraced by the mainstream of Americans.

The media is confusing the relative black and whiteness of the candidates for a black and whiteness of politics: the contrast is dialed up for theatrics, and those theatrics are rooted in racism. African-American politicians are seen as wide eyed, corrupt, liberal extremists even when they run on issues that cut across race and socioeconomic status. These myths of African-American politicians can be traced back to the post Civil War period where unprecedented numbers of freedmen were swept into Governor’s mansions, state legislatures, and Congress during Reconstruction. Southern whites who had to adjust to African-Americans being recognized as equal were unwilling to accept them as being competent politicians. After voting restrictions and “Black Codes” forced these men out of office and kept them from the ballot box, film and literature were used to portray this time as one of civil unrest as “savages” had control over government allowing them to wreak havoc. Corruption scandals of prominent 21st century African-American politicians such as Ray Nagin and Kwame Kilpatrick are used to confirm the belief that black politicians are incapable of governing with integrity. Ideally, President Obama’s election and subsequent re-election would have dismantled centuries of racial animus in politics. But it didn’t. The race for control of the Peach State is ground zero for that stark truth.

Leader Abrams has been accused of being too liberal for Georgia and running a campaign centered on the city of Atlanta. However, Abrams’s biggest policy proposal-- the expansion of Medicaid, is viewed favorably by 75 percent of Georgians, including 57 percent of Georgia Republicans. These numbers do not validate the claims by the media and political adversaries that she is running on issues far to the left of the Georgia electorate. Abrams is a pragmatic progressive, who stands in her convictions, but also realizes the realities of working with a legislative body with 200 different representatives who each have their own beliefs and their own constituents to answer to. She has extensive experience with this, as House Minority Leader she had to work with Republicans, she used her influence to block hyper-partisan bills that did not benefit Georgians, and to pass good policy that lifts everyone up.

As we seek to find Governor Deal’s successor, it is important to note that in his time as Governor, Deal has governed with a reasonable mind and heart. He has worked hard to make Georgia a hub for economic success and prosperity, and the next Governor of our great state needs to expand on this agenda. Millennials by and large are abandoning the party labels, their parents and grandparents hold so dear, and refusing to conform to any party line. While the media works overtime to tell us that we have two radical, stubborn candidates, this piece serves as a notice that there is only one person in this race who can govern with heart and continue the measured leadership we have had for the past eight years under Nathan Deal. That candidate is Stacey Abrams.

She has pledged to expand Medicaid, put tax dollars back into public schools, increase transit across the state, and to expand upon Governor Deal’s greatest legacy of criminal justice reform. Leader Abrams’s opponent has committed to signing far-right legislation that legalizes discrimination and restricts women’s reproductive rights, balks at the idea of expanding Medicaid to open rural hospitals and insure thousands of Millennials who lack access to healthcare, and his platform is devoid of any commitment to guaranteeing equal justice under the law for all Georgians. The choice for Independent Millennials is clear. Stacey Abrams is the candidate who will continue to lead us into the 21st century with real ideas and solutions to lift Georgia up, not toil in rhetoric of yesteryear to keep us further divided and weakened.