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Democrats tap Georgia’s Stacey Abrams to deliver the response to Trump’s State of the Union address

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Jan. 29 said Stacey Abrams would deliver the response to President Trump's State of the Union address. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Salwan Georges/The Washington Post)

Democrats have tapped Georgia’s Stacey Abrams to deliver the response to President Trump’s State of the Union address, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced Tuesday.

Abrams narrowly lost the state’s race for governor in November after a lengthy dispute over blocked votes. She will address the nation in a prime-time speech shortly after Trump finishes his address to a joint session of Congress next Tuesday night.

In a statement announcing the decision, Schumer (D-N.Y.) praised the Georgia Democrat as “a present and future leader in this country.”

“Stacey Abrams offers a welcome, stark contrast to President Trump’s politics of division and lack of leadership as American families are still feeling the impacts of his self-imposed shutdown,” Schumer said.

The New York Democrat extended the invitation to Abrams in a phone call earlier this month.

Abrams, 45, said she was honored to deliver the response “at a moment when our nation needs to hear from leaders who can unite for a common purpose.”

“I plan to deliver a vision for prosperity and equality, where everyone in our nation has a voice and where each of those voices is heard,” she said in a statement.

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Stacey Abrams admitted defeat on Nov. 16 in the contentious Georgia governor's race, which she alleged was tainted by voting irregularities. (Video: Reuters)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that Abrams “embodies the American Dream.”

Schumer and Pelosi also announced that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a former member of House Democratic leadership, will deliver the Spanish-language response.

Abrams’s political future is the source of much speculation. During a meeting in Washington this month, Abrams and Schumer discussed the possibility of Abrams running against Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) in 2020.

Abrams is the first black woman to win a major party nomination for governor. While she fell short in her bid against Republican Brian Kemp, she received more votes than any Democrat who has run statewide in Georgia, prompting some to suggest she should be in the presidential or vice-presidential mix.

“I’m interested in everything,” Abrams told The Washington Post this month when asked about the possibility of another run for office. “What I am trying to do is decide what’s the right job, am I right person and is this the right time.”

She said she has given herself until the end of March to make a decision.

The Republican National Committee criticized the selection of Abrams for the Democratic response to the president’s address. “While Chuck Schumer may feel her agenda would be a good fit for national Democrats, it’s worth remembering that it wasn’t even a good fit for her fellow Georgians who rejected her bid for governor just last year,” RNC spokeswoman Ellie Hockenbury said in a statement Tuesday.

Abrams has refused to concede defeat in the governor’s race and has since announced a new voting rights organization, Fair Fight Georgia, that has filed a federal lawsuit against Georgia elections officials for allegedly mismanaging the 2018 election. State officials have until the end of the month to respond to the suit.

During her gubernatorial campaign, Abrams’s top issue was health care, particularly the expansion of Medicaid eligibility in Georgia. Since becoming governor, Kemp has proposed seeking a federal waiver to have more flexibility in spending funds, but Abrams has argued that Democrats should continue pushing expansion “full stop.”

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day last week, Abrams was in Albany, Ga., where she kicked off a “thank you” tour for supporters of her gubernatorial campaign.

Asked what issues she thinks Democratic presidential hopefuls should run on, Abrams said candidates “should be talking not about who’s occupying the White House now but about what they will do to make America stronger.”

“They have to be running for America,” she said. “That means talking about issues that reflect our values, and it means talking to communities that are left out of the conversation.”

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