Early in-person voting began in Georgia on Oct. 15, and it has far exceeded the number of voters who participated in early voting back in 2014. According to The Atlanta Journal Constitution, more than 1.5 million people in the state have already cast their ballots, doubling the number of early votes in the last midterm four years ago. About 500,000 of those are voters who did not participate in the last midterm elections, including increased numbers from voters of color who also missed the last gubernatorial election.
It’s hard to say what this means for the very tight governor’s race in Georgia. While there is data suggesting that it is Republicans who are outpacing Democrats nationwide when it comes to early voting, turning out voters of color and those who did not participate in the 2014 midterms is a key part of Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams’ strategy. And while early vote turnout in Democratic counties is up (which is good for Abrams), it’s also up in key Republican strongholds. According to polling by the Daily Kos Elections Team, the race is a toss up—with both candidates deadlocked at 46 percent each. So while it’s too soon to make any kind of prediction about the race based on early voting totals in Georgia, it is clear that every single vote counts—especially given the massive voter suppression attempts by Abrams’ Republican opponent, Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
As the two candidates enter the final push before Election Day, two major developments have occurred. On Wednesday morning, it was announced that Oprah Winfrey would be headed to Atlanta on Thursday to campaign for Abrams. In the last few weeks, major stars have come to town to lend their support to the candidate, including Will Farrell, Rashida Jones, Common, and Kelly Rowland. And on Friday, President Obama will appear at a rally with Abrams and another Daily Kos-endorsed candidate, Lucy McBath.
Meanwhile, just a few short hours after it was revealed that Oprah is on #TeamAbrams, Brian Kemp unexpectedly dropped out of the final debate with Abrams, which was scheduled for Sunday night. In lieu of the debate, the Abrams campaign announced that she still plans to answer questions from Georgians and her team is deciding on a format.
— WSB-TV (@wsbtv) October 31, 2018
Both campaigns had already agreed to the dates for these debates back in September and Kemp is citing a last-minute “conflict” as the reason for dropping out. It’s unprofessional and cowardly and gives voters yet one more reason not to choose him as the state’s governor. Perhaps he’s already banking on having stolen enough votes to win the election. Or maybe it’s that he’s afraid of competing with Oprah. He certainly should be. Either way, Stacey Abrams continues to prove again and again why she’s the right choice to be the next governor of Georgia.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.