Stacey Abrams is a special kind of political force

As the American midterm elections come to a close this week, the spotlight is on the race for governor in Georgia.

The southern state has been graced by the heaviest of political hitters over the past few days, to campaign alongside the talented Democratic nominee for governor, Stacey Abrams.

Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis danced at her campaign rally Thursday, Barack Obama stumped with her in Atlanta on Friday and Oprah joined her to knock on doors — delivering a rare and moving political endorsement in the process.

Shaken by Oprah’s presence on the campaign trail, Vice President Mike Pence used his campaign speech the same day to remind voters that he is also “kind of a big deal.”

Today should have been the final debate between Abrams and her opponent. But instead, it was cancelled by the Republican candidate in order to accommodate a visit from President Donald Trump, who deemed it necessary to make an appearance in Macon, Ga.

The county of Macon is where my great grandmother lived 112 years of her life — farming and raising a family of 14 through the Jim Crow era and beyond. To see the prospect of a brilliant Black woman serving at the helm of legislative power in a state where my own ancestors were once enslaved is stirring.

Abrams is a special kind of political force.

She is one part political organizer, recognizing that lasting political capacity is built from the ground up. She’s led and supported grassroots voter registration projects, including the New Georgia Project in 2014.

At the same time she is an experienced political communicator, with her political involvement beginning as early as high school where she volunteered as a campaign typist and later a speech writer.

Abrams graduated magna cum laude with a degree in political science, economics and sociology from Spelman College, holds a degree in public affairs from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, and later earned a law degree from Yale.

She’s worked as a tax attorney, served as the youngest deputy city attorney for the city of Atlanta, and served as minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, where she earned a reputation as a solution-focused political leader willing to reach across the aisle to collaborate for the best outcomes.

She famously personally edited a proposed tax bill and, after leaving a copy with her notes in front of every seat in the House for review, successfully blocked the poorly written bill that would have seen taxes rise for Georgia residents.

While opposition has tried to frame her as an “out-of-touch radical liberal,” there is nothing extreme about her agenda. It can only be accurately described as necessary. She’s campaigning with an intimate understanding of state legislative processes and issues.

“If you can engineer the problem at the state level, you can engineer the solution at the state level,” Abrams said of her advocacy this week.

My admiration for Abrams runs deep. Stemming from the daring vulnerability she displayed in sharing openly about her personal financial journey and the debt she continues to carry from her education and role in supporting her family — a story too many know all too well.

She is also (many times over) a published romance and suspense writer under the name Selena Montgomery and the author of a leadership book entitled Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change.

Over the next few days, I will be making calls to family and friends in Georgia to encourage them to head to the polls. And Tuesday, I’ll be glued to the television watching for results, in tears of reverence as we witness history in the making.

In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “I’m here today because of the men and because of the women who were lynched, who were humiliated, who were discriminated against, who were suppressed, who were repressed and oppressed … their blood has seeped into my DNA, and I refuse to let their sacrifices be in vain.”

Tiffany Gooch is a Toronto-based Liberal strategist at public affairs firms Enterprise and Ensight. She is a freelance contributor for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @goocht

(Published in the Toronto Star on Sunday, November 4, 2018)