This year, the state of Georgia will elect a new governor — and they might make history in the process. Stacey Abrams secured the Democratic nomination on May 22, bringing her one step closer to a potential win in November's general election. Georgia has not had a Democrat as governor in more than a decade, and Abrams would become not only the first black woman elected governor in the United States, but the first woman to ever hold the office in Georgia.
Win or lose, Abrams has become a major political name in 2018. Here are five things to know about the Georgia gubernatorial hopeful:
1. She Was an Accidental High School Politician
Abrams was born in Wisconsin and grew up with five siblings in Mississippi. When she was a teen, her parents relocated the family to Atlanta in the pursuit of higher education — they both aimed to become Methodist ministers. There, Abrams attended Avondale High School. "I was away on a trip, and while I was gone, I got elected to a [student board]," Abrams told Essence. "They put my name in and that was my first election. It was a great way to win an election, not to have to run, not to even have to put my name in." If that wasn't proof of her success streak, she went on to become the valedictorian of her graduating class.
2. She Isn't Afraid to Talk About Student Debt — Including Her Own
Abrams pursued various avenues of higher education, getting her undergraduate degree from Spelman College, a master's degree from the University of Texas's LBJ School of Public Affairs, and a law degree from Yale Law School. While she has dedicated much of her career to getting people out to vote (she founded the nonpartisan New Georgia Project in 2014, an effort to register voters of colour), she has a strikingly candid take on student debt.
"I am in debt, but I am not alone," she wrote for Fortune of her near $200,000 in debt from school loans and personal debts. "We all still make money mistakes — but they don't have to be fatal to our dreams."
3. She's a Successful Romance Novelist
Perhaps most surprising is that Abrams has a side gig as a writer of "romantic suspense" novels. Abrams writes under the pen name Selena Montgomery (a move intended to keep her fiction writing separated for tax reasons) and has sold over 100,000 copies of her books. Her writing is published through major publishing house Harper Collins and, naturally, she's also written a biography under her real name about her work as an outsider hoping to change politics.
4. She's Won All-Star Endorsements
While her Democratic rival has many glowing endorsements from local representatives, Abrams's list of endorsements is remarkably flashy and far-reaching. While her support in the state includes civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis, she's also secured support from politicians like Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Cory Booker, and more, along with national organisations like Planned Parenthood, MoveOn, and EMILY's List.
5. Governor Wouldn't Be Her Only Notable First
The aspiring governor has already made history in her work in politics: Abrams was the Georgia House Minority Leader and, in 2010, became both the first woman to lead either party in the Georgia General Assembly and the first African American leading the House of Representatives in the state. As a politician, Abrams has made a name for herself as a "pragmatist willing to do deals with the Republicans" and has been a rising star for years, particularly after giving a splashy speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention about economic inequality.
This story was updated on May 23 to reflect Abrams's primary win.