President Trump said he hopes Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams does a “good job” Tuesday when she delivers her party’s rebuttal to his State of the Union address.
“I respect her. I don’t know her, I haven’t met her, but I hope she does a good job,” said Trump, answering a question from a reporter during a Thursday event in the Oval Office.
Abrams, 45, is the first black woman to win a major party’s gubernatorial nomination. She lost a close contest in November to Republican Brian Kemp, in an election marred by voting irregularities and allegations of voter suppression.
In announcing his choice, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) described Abrams as “a present and future leader in this country” who offers “a welcome, stark contrast” to Trump.
Abrams, a former Democratic leader of the Georgia State House, said she plans use her speech “to deliver a vision for prosperity and equality, where everyone in our nation has a voice and where each of those voices is heard.”
Abrams also is being courted by national party leaders to challenge Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), who is up for reelection next year. Although she came up short in the Nov. 6 general election, Abrams received more votes than any Democrat who has ever run statewide.
Trump boasted about his involvement in last year’s governor’s race. “I campaigned against Stacey Abrams,” he said.
The president endorsed Kemp, 56, during a runoff with former lieutenant governor Casey Cagle, who was the favorite of the state’s GOP establishment. During the campaign, Kemp adopted Trump-like themes and rhetoric. In one ad, he was shown brandishing a shotgun at a teenage boy who wanted to date one of his daughters; in another he sat in a pickup truck, which he said he would use to personally “round up criminal illegals” for deportation.
On the weekend before the Nov. 6 election, Trump held a rally in Macon, Ga., for Kemp. Vice President Pence also campaigned in Georgia with Kemp.
“I know that President Obama campaigned for her, I know Michelle Obama campaigned for her and Oprah campaigned for her,” Trump said. “All Brian Kemp had was me, and he won fairly easily, fairly easily.”
Kemp won with 50.2 percent of the vote to 48.8 percent for Abrams, fewer than 55,000 votes. Although Trump said Thursday that he “respected” Abrams, during the campaign he said she was “not qualified.”
Abrams has refused to concede to Kemp. She instead formed a group called Fair Fight Georgia, which is continuing to press for changes to the state’s elections system. The group also is pushing for Georgia to expand eligibility requirements for Medicaid, a top issue in Abrams’s campaign.
Abrams also will appear in an ad for Fair Fight that will run in smaller Georgia markets during the Super Bowl, which is being played Sunday in Atlanta. She will be joined in the 30-second spot by Natalie Crawford, a Republican member of the Habersham County Board of Commissioners.
“Commissioner Crawford and I both recognize that fixing our state’s election system is not partisan — rather it is our fundamental duty to advocate for every voter’s voice to be heard,” Abrams says in the ad, which will air online in the Atlanta metro area.
Crawford says she is “proud to make this bipartisan call to action alongside Democrat Stacey Abrams.”