Midterms 2018: Oprah and Barack Obama head to Georgia to campaign for Stacey Abrams historic governor run

'I see all of Georgia and I'm running for all of Georgia,' says Ms Abrams 

Georgia gubernatorial candidate: 'I only remember the man who tried to tell me I don't belong'

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for Georgia governor, is being backed by a number of celebrities as she attempts to make history as the first black female governor of a US state.

Barack Obama, who will hold a rally for her in the state, and Oprah Winfrey will be out on the campaign trail for Ms Abrams as she runs against Republican Brian Kemp, the current Georgia Secretary of State.

Winfrey, the billionaire media mogul, “has inspired so many of us through the years with her unparalleled ability to form real connections and strengthen the bonds of family and community," Ms Abrams said in a statement.

She added: "I am honoured to have Oprah join me for uplifting and honest conversations with voters about the clear choice before us in this election and the boundless potential of Georgians.”

Winfrey, who was born in Mississippi like Ms Abrams, will join the candidate at town halls in Marietta and Decatur, Georgia, as well as knocking on doors in the communities to ask for people’s votes.

The presence of celebrities is nothing new on campaign trails but not often seen on in gubernatorial races, particular from stars who are not from the state.

Earlier this week, Chicago-bred rapper, activist, and Grammy-winner Common joined the candidate at a “Souls to the Polls” rally The Independent attended in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.

Stacey Abrams campaigns in Atlanta to become first African American female governor

The event is meant to bring people from Sunday church services straight to the voting booth and several Georgia counties have allowed early voting to take place on Sundays leading up to the election.

During the rally at the Underground Atlanta plaza, Ms Abrams joked “we just call [Chicago] north Mississippi” because of the number of African-Americans who migrated there from the South years ago.

Common riled up the crowd with a verse: “If you don’t know what you’re willing to die for, what are you living for today? Hopefully, you’re living for freedom. Hopefully, you’re living for justice and equality. Hopefully, you’re living for more opportunities here in Georgia for every person, for people from all different types of backgrounds”.

He hit on Ms Abrams central campaign tenet, repeated at events all over the state: “inclusion”.

She has said she does not want votes simply “because [she is] a black woman” because her term in office would mean “uplifting” all Georgians looking for better educational, healthcare, and economic opportunities regardless of race.

Georgia’s demographics are changing dramatically and it is set to be the first state in the South that is majority minority by 2025.

Minority children are already the majority in the state with growing Asian and Hispanic populations, particularly in the suburbs of Atlanta.

“We’re all here together...and Stacey Abrams represents that love, that togetherness,” the Like Water for Chocolate artist said on stage.

“I don’t come out and just support people unless they’re children of the most high God doing God’s work,” Common said, encouraging the crowd to “ask yourself...what more important thing are you doing this week than voting for Stacey Abrams?”

“This is our time right now to change the trajectory,” he said, as Democrats see Ms Abrams race as a cardinal in the coal mine for the Republican stronghold in the state.

As much as Barack Obama’s election meant a great deal for African-Americans in the south, Ms Abrams’ win would be important for black women.

Several older black women The Independent encountered on the campaign trail, those who had lived through the pre-1965 Jim Crow era when segregation was enshrined in law, could be seen holding back tears as Ms Abrams spoke.

Glenda Hatchett, the star of the television show Judge Hatchett, told The Independent “as a black southern woman I want to be very clear that Stacey’s candidacy is about inclusion,” adding: “We will have a governor for all of Georgia.”

The Democratic candidate, who in her words grew up “working poor” in Mississippi and then “just plain poor” as her parents studied to become ministers at Atlanta’s Emory University, took to the stage to say: “I see of all of Georgia and I am running for all of Georgia”.

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She told a story she’s retold hundreds of times on the campaign trail, but it does not feel rehearsed.

The audience laps it up as if they have never heard it before, a testament to her earnest delivery.

Ms Abrams graduated as valedictorian of her high school in 1991 and said she was invited to the governor’s mansion along with valedictorians from all of Georgia’s 159 counties.

“I was only mildly interested in meeting the governor and much more interested in seeing the mansion. I watched a lot of General Hospital and Dynasty as a child,” she joked.

But, she does not remember meeting the governor that day.

She only remembers the security guard outside telling she and her parents they do not belong “in the most powerful place” in the state because they were African-American and had just gotten off the public bus they had taken to get there.

She was ready to leave the property after the interaction but said her parents “proved they weren’t ministers yet...and hand an engaging discussion with the security guard”.

“My parents raised me to understand you don’t let people tell you who you are or where you belong,” she noted as one of the main reasons to make back to that governor’s mansion.

The election is set to take place 6 November and the latest Fox News poll has Ms Abrams ahead of Mr Kemp.

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