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Stacey Abrams launches national expansion of voting rights group

Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

LAS VEGAS -- Before a convention hall packed with left-leaning union members, Stacey Abrams unveiled a plan Tuesday to expand her Georgia-based voting rights group across the nation by training staffers in 20 competitive states to protect against threats of voter suppression.

The program, Fair Fight 2020, is a multimillion-dollar effort to set up "voter protection" programs in a group of mostly battleground states. Abrams told the cheering audience that she will use her "very, very loud voice" through next year to promote the venture.

"My mission is to make sure that no one has to go through in 2020 what we had to go through in 2018," she told an audience of hundreds at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades convention at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.

The launch offers more evidence that the Georgia Democrat is preparing for a rematch in 2022 against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp rather than a run for president next year, though she hasn't formally ruled out a White House bid.

Abrams indicated that she won't join the two dozen other Democratic presidential candidates, telling the crowd that she's left it to others to "give you a reason to vote -- I'm here today to make sure everyone has the right to vote."

She plans to follow up with an event this weekend at an elementary school in Gwinnett County where technical issues triggered hours-long lines in November. Abrams has frequently cited the lengthy wait as an example of voter suppression.

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The new initiative will be run as an offshoot of the Fair Fight voting rights group that Abrams rebranded shortly after her narrow loss to Kemp. She ended that race without formally conceding defeat, and she blasted Kemp's decision not to resign as the state's top elections official during his run.

Her aides said the program will help Democrats in the 20 states hire staff and set up operations, such as voter hotlines and publicity campaigns, either through direct investments or by helping groups raise the funds themselves. It's expected to spend at least $4 million through next year.

The program will give Abrams a new platform in the nation's swing states, mostly in the Midwest and South, where she'll travel to focus on voting rights. It will also afford Abrams, once the top Democrat in Georgia's House, a new opportunity to elevate her national brand.

Her political profile has soared despite her failed bid to become the nation's first black female governor and her decision not to run for the U.S. Senate, which disappointed national Democrats who see Georgia as a must-win state to flip control of the chamber in 2020.

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