*In this week’s episode of Into America, NBC News’ Trymaine Lee speaks with Stacey Abrams about the VP seat, the November elections, and about COVID-19 in her home state of Georgia.
Abrams has been very visible in the national media lately, making the case for why she would be a strong running mate for the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Joe Biden. She’s not shy about her desire to serve, why she believes her experience is relevant, and whether Biden should choose a woman of color for the ticket.
As the founder of Fair Fight, a national organization to ensure voting rights, Abrams told us that regardless of whether she’s on the ticket, she wants Georgia and states across the country to take steps to ensure safe elections this fall.
Hosted by Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award-winning journalist Trymaine Lee, Into America elevates the voices of citizens and captures the impact of the pressing issues of our time. See below for select excerpts of the conversation and listen now wherever you get your podcasts.
SELECT EXCERPTS FROM THE EPISODE
On Serving as Joe Biden’s Running Mater
Lee: You’ve talked really openly about your interest in being tapped as Joe Biden’s running mate. Why are you the woman for this job? Beyond your desire and your ambition, why are you the right woman for the job?
Abrams: I have been very direct about my willingness to serve, but I want to make certain people understand that my mission is the work itself, that the issues I have focused on not only since the 2018 election but for the last 25 years have been the conversations that I’m pursuing today.
Lee: You’ve never been elected to any office beyond state legislature. How do you respond to that critique and questions about your experience as a politician?
Abrams: I think experience is a combination of issues. It’s competence, it’s skills, and it’s proven deliverables. And I would match my experience against anyone’s. It may not look like the normative experience that we are used to seeing, but that doesn’t diminish its capacity or what I’ve actually delivered: work that has led me to national stages more than once.
On Reopening Georgia during the Pandemic
Lee: Let’s take it back home to Georgia. After weeks of closures, Georgia governor Brian Kemp has made a decision to allow businesses to reopen this past weekend. How do you view Governor Kemp’s decision? Was it the right time to take this step?
Abrams: His decision was not only dangerously incompetent; it was callous. When you reopen small businesses that typically employ low-wage workers, you are compelling those workers to choose between their health and their safety and their job. We have not done the work of testing. Georgia is the seventh-lowest-testing state in the nation. And let’s keep in mind we’re a state of more than 10.5 million people. We have the 14th-highest infection rate. We are not ready to reopen because he has not done the work of testing, tracing, or treating.
On the Election During the Pandemic
Lee: So Georgia was originally supposed to hold its primaries back on March 24th. And it’s been postponed twice already and now is scheduled for June 9th. Do you think it will be safe for folks to go to the polls on June 9th?
Abrams: I think we can have safe and accessible elections if people take advantage of the fullness of the toolbox. Georgia actually has some of the best laws for access. And that is we have absentee balloting, we have in-person early voting, and we have in-person voting.
Lee: Are you concerned about what happens come November in terms of how we either prepare for it now or the fact that it may look very different than elections past?
Abrams: There is no question that the 2020 election is going to be unlike anything we’ve seen in modern history. We have seen the president threaten people about voting by mail because he knows that if vote by mail is available, if people take advantage of the tools that are available to them by law, he is afraid that he can’t win. And so, yes, we know this is going to be the most intense election in the 21st century and I would say probably in my lifetime.
On What Inspires During the Pandemic
Lee: We’ve all been going through it during this pandemic. What is keeping you inspired, and what words do you have for Georgians and Americans as we still push through this crisis?
Abrams: I grew up the daughter of two ministers. My parents taught us that we have three pillars: faith, family, and service. My faith reminds me daily that we will come out of this. My family reminds me daily that we are in this together. And the service that I can do, the work that I’ve done with Fair Fight, that service to me is always, always the driver.