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Opinion Democrats get a boost, thanks to women and nonwhite candidates

Democratic candidate for Georgia Governor Stacey Abrams waves to supporters after speaking at an election-night watch party Tuesday, May 22, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

On a primary-election day in which Democratic turnout soared in red states such as Georgia and Kentucky, Democrats got a steady dose of good news. As Democrats are wont to do, they have been getting a wee bit panicky watching national generic congressional polling tighten and President Trump’s approval rating tick up. They continue to fret over the chances for extremely liberal candidates, including Kara Eastman in the Nebraska 2nd District (which was a possible pickup but now looks safer for Republicans).

Tuesday night’s biggest news was Stacey Abrams’s huge win over Stacey Evans in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in Georgia. The race was thought to be competitive, but Abrams smoked her opponent, taking more than 75 percent of the vote. If she wins in November, she will be the country’s first black female governor. Republicans, meanwhile, will need a runoff between Brian Kemp (infamous for a commercial in which he pointed a rifle at a teen) and Casey Cagle to determine their nominee. Democratic turnout increased about 50 percent from 2014.

If Abrams turns out women and black voters in strong numbers in November, as she did in the primary, she will give a big lift to down-ticket Democrats. The Georgia 6th District, which Karen Handel won last year in a special election, was already a competitive seat. While the Georgia 7th District is likely Democratic, according to respected analysts, much of the district is within Gwinnett County, “a suburban majority-minority county that voted Democratic in the 2016 presidential election for the first time since 1976.” (Abrams won about 77 percent of the vote in Gwinnett.) If Democrats boost minority turnout sufficiently, that race becomes much more interesting. (Likewise, Abrams may help state legislative candidates.)

Democrats are pumped up about another woman, Amy McGrath, who won the Kentucky 6th District with a giant turnout. More than 100,000 Democrats turned out in the primary; only 48,000 or so in the Republican primary, which the GOP incumbent congressman, Andy Barr, won easily. Democratic activists are calling McGrath a female version of Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), who won a Trump-friendly special election. Like Lamb, McGrath is a veteran and political outsider who nevertheless raised a lot of money. Her introductory ad was one of the best of the year:

The Kentucky 6th was already competitive (Charlie Cook and Larry Sabato both listed it as a “Lean Republican”); McGrath’s win makes a pickup more likely.

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In Texas, Democrats have hopes to flip the 7th, 21st, 23rd and 32nd districts. Women won two of those — Lizzie Fletcher in the 7th and Gina Ortiz Jones in the 23rd. Colin Allred, an African American former NFL linebacker and civil rights attorney, won in the 32nd.

With Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) running for Senate and Lupe Valdez running for governor, Democrats would be smart to go all-in to register and turn out Hispanic voters. (O’Rourke remains the underdog, although he is more competitive than incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz might have hoped.)

In sum, diversity was the order of the day for Democrats. The Post noted: “In Texas, Democrats nominated two lesbian [candidates] with military or law enforcement backgrounds, one Latina and the other Filipina, for key races. … For Democrats, the results marked a reassertion of the party’s fealty to the rising American electorate — unmarried, young and racially diverse voters.” Women won in the Georgia governor’s race and a spate of House contests (although not all are in competitive races, and women in the Georgia 6th and 7th districts face runoffs). Democrats hope these candidates will motivate their already invigorated base.

More important, Democratic nominees include some of the best red-state candidates they have fielded in years. The charismatic Abrams (whose booming voice and optimism echo the female civil-rights-era preachers) and retired pilot McGrath might be the year’s breakout stars. If they and other women win in November, lifting the Democrats to the majority in the House, the #MeToo movement will be entitled to a good deal of the credit.