With the Democrats’ newfound control of the Senate, many have been praising former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams for her critical work on voter mobilization, including those in the Asian American community, a group that’s historically been neglected by political campaigns.
The state’s Asian American and Pacific Islander population experienced unprecedented levels of outreach during the most recent election cycle, leading to turnout that broke records and an electorate that had gained enough power to help swing a historically GOP district blue in the general election. But many organizers and politicians across Georgia say that Abrams has long been quietly engaging with the group, targeting them when many continued to treat them as virtually invisible.
Sam Park, a Georgia state representative who once interned for Abrams, told NBC Asian America that as the state’s House minority leader from 2011 to 2017, she regularly appeared on Radio Korea to inform the state’s Korean population of what was going on under the Gold Dome.
“Without a doubt in my mind, Stacey Abrams helped transform the electorate in Georgia by organizing and empowering the Asian American community,” Park said.
Georgia’s eligible voter population has surged in size, with Asian Americans being one of its fastest growing demographics, increasing by 47 percent from 2012 to 2018. Abrams, advocates say, has a lot to do with it. With the former state House minority leader at the helm, her two voting rights organizations Fair Fight and The New Georgia Project registered more than 800,000 new voters, with a focus on people of color, in the lead-up to the election.
She also partnered with community-based organizations to increase civic participation among Asian American, immigrant and other communities. And after it was revealed that Georgia had voted for president-elect Joe Biden, making it the first time the state swung blue since 1992, Abrams thanked a variety of organizations for their outreach efforts, including the legal advocacy nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta.
Abrams’ work around voter mobilization was thrust into national spotlight during her gubernatorial run in 2018, when she ran against then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who refused to recuse himself from overseeing the election. Abrams, who launched the New Georgia Project in 2013, founded Fair Fight after losing by a slim margin. But her engagement with the Asian American community stretches back several years prior, according to both Park and Lillie Madali, who served as the eastern region co-chair for Filipino Americans for Biden.