Stacey Abrams is the most terrifying politician Georgia has seen in ages. While in the General Assembly, she appeared to be fairly centrist, easily willing to cross the aisle to work with Republicans.
Now that she’s the Democratic nominee for governor, though, she’s pivoted far to the left, especially on guns.
Oddly enough, that’s not helping her with minority gun owners who might have otherwise supported her.
Near the outskirts of Atlanta, Robert Patillo slips a round into a rifle, points his barrel toward the sky, and stares off into the distance. His hands steadied and feet planted, he yells out to the skeet range operator. Pull! An orange clay pigeon flies overhead. He squeezes the trigger. Boom! The orange pieces spiral to the ground.
The Harris County native can’t remember a time in his life without guns. He got his first rifle at age six and often hunted deer with his father and friends. Guns were always around, normal as college football, normal as a Bible on a nightstand. The black criminal defense lawyer, who owns an AR-15, still cares about gun rights. But as someone planning to vote in Georgia’s gubernatorial election, he also cares about voting rights, criminal justice and economic development — a wide swath of issues affecting minorities statewide.
“I’m undecided at this point,” Patillo said.
In the homestretch of a historic campaign to become the nation’s first black female governor, Atlanta Democrat Stacey Abrams believes her pathway to victory against Athens Republican Brian Kemp is predicated on turning out thousands of minority Georgians to vote. Unlike past statewide Democratic campaigns, which have focused on courting centrist voters, the former House minority leader has banked on persuading infrequent voters — especially voters of color — to cast ballots on Nov. 6. And she’ll likely need heavy support from African-Americans who supported Democratic candidate Jason Carter in his unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign four years ago.
But for some black gun owners Abrams has complicated their choice at the ballot box. The Democrat, the daughter of a gun owner, has strongly supported gun control measures, including an assault weapons ban and universal background checks. While gun sales fell after Donald Trump was elected president, firearms dealers have anecdotally described an increase in minority customers. And Georgia minority gun owners — increasingly wooed by groups such as the National Rifle Association, known for its alignment with white conservative politicians — have launched black-centered groups such as the Atlanta-based National African American Gun Association, which now has more than 28,000 members in states from Florida to Washington.
Many minority voters believe Abrams can best address issues affecting minority communities such as education, criminal justice and housing. But some Democratic black Georgians who own guns are dismayed that she hasn’t followed the tradition of past Democrats running for statewide office who have either supported gun rights — or at least didn’t tout restrictions — on the campaign trail. And some black gun owners who are independent or lean Republican — and who might’ve considered Abrams based on her record of bipartisan collaboration — have felt more obligated to support a Republican candidate who brandishes firearms in ads.
“Those conversations are happening,” said Mark Major, the owner of 2 Swords Tactical and Defense, a firearms dealer in Lithonia. “You have the desire for stronger Second Amendment rights. But you also want to support a black candidate. They may not admit it, but they’re conflicted.”
Frankly, I don’t like the idea that any minority would be willing to vote for someone because of their skin color. I’d like to believe that this conflicted feeling has more to do with policies rather than the melanin content of her skin. I’m quite sure that for some, that’s precisely what’s at play and for others, it’s not. Some will support Abrams because she is black and others will because of her policies.
But this illustrates one of the bizarre moves by the Democratic Party this election cycle, and that is propping up rabidly anti-gun candidates in very pro-gun states. Abrams is far from the only example, either. Perhaps the best known is Beto O’Rourke in Texas who is running as an anti-gun Democrat against Ted Cruz in rabidly pro-gun Texas.
The move to the far left is supposed to counter President Trump’s influence on Republican voters, but I can’t help but wonder how they think states that sided with Trump will suddenly roll hard left just two years later.
The polls are showing that Abrams is slightly trailing opponent Brian Kemp, but that it’s a close enough race that one can’t be certain of anything at this point, which is bizarre. Especially in light of Abrams basically supporting the progressive grab bag of policy initiatives in a state known for opposing them.
Are minority voters siding with her for some reason, giving her more of a boost than she normally would enjoy with these positions?
At this point, it’s impossible to tell. My only hope is that the polling is much like it’s been over the last few years, horribly wrong. In this case, being wrong that Kemp has only a slight lead despite vastly greater support.
I suppose we’ll have to wait until November to see.