Stacey Abrams doesn’t Google herself. No way. Especially not these days.
“I do not Google myself, I do not read comments and I barely look myself in the eye when I look in the mirror,” Abrams said the other day.
If she did, Abrams would see a country and political media that are hyperbolic about the possibilities she presents as a Democratic national political figure in the run-up to a historic presidential election.
“Kingmaker or Queenmaker in 2020,” declared MSNBC. “Stacey Abrams 2020?” wondered Forbes. “The Case for Stacey Abrams,” said The Hill. Maybe she’ll hit the trail alongside Hillary Clinton. Joe Biden. Bernie Sanders. Maybe she’ll run for Senate in her home state of Georgia. She was defeated in her bid for governor there last year, but made a huge mark in the process, boosting the number of black and Hispanic voters, and drawing strong support from the white, historically Republican Atlanta suburbs.
For now, Abrams is touring in support of her new book, “Lead From the Outside,” which is an updated version of her 2018 book, “Minority Leader.” Abrams will bring the book to Seattle at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25, at Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle. (The event is sold out, but 50 tickets will be available for $5 apiece the night of the event, and standby will be available.)
“Here’s the thing,” Abrams said, seeming to search for a new way to answer the candidacy question that just won’t quit. “I think indecision is fine. I am in contemplation and evaluation. To make a good decision, you actually need to think about it, the contours and the consequences.
“There are some moments when urgency demands an immediate decision,” she said. “This is not one of those moments.”
Abrams, 45, only started publicly exploring the idea of running for U.S. Senate because people were talking about it. That was before she was feeling really sincere about it; before her Democratic rebuttal to the State of the Union Address, which helped raise her profile and land her book onto The New York Times best-seller list, where it has spent the past few weeks.
The book is part memoir, part how-to, full of stories from the perspective of an African American woman, activist, lawyer, entrepreneur and politician. It contains solid advice for those who have long stood on the outside of the national conversation: Women, people of color, the working class, members of the LGBTQ community and millennials. Abrams takes on how ambition, fear, money and failure function in leadership, and helps readers recognize and activate their own skills.
“I like to solve problems,” Abrams said. “I know it is a skill set, but it’s also an obligation. I grew up with parents who believe that you don’t simply complain, you try to find solutions and fix what’s in front of you.”
So that is why, when she didn’t win the governor’s seat, Abrams established an organization called Fair Fight Action to advocate for free and fair elections. The organization has filed a federal lawsuit to challenge Georgia’s entire electoral system.
Abrams didn’t concede last November’s election to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp right away. On election night, she stood before cheering crowds and said “Concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper.”
After 10 days, she ended her bid, losing by 55,000 votes in an election that saw almost 4 million ballots. Abrams believes her election was thwarted by voter suppression: invalidated ballots, voting machines that were missing power cords. And there was the fact that Kemp remained Georgia’s chief elections regulator while running for the state’s highest office.
“I will say that I was devastated, and I grieved, and then I turned it into action,” Abrams said of her defeat. “My response is that it is insufficient for me to simply be angry or sad.
“It was important for me to feel it, but it is also fuel for me to do what comes next,” she continued. “I have a lot that I can do to ensure that the voices that were silenced are heard in 2020 and beyond.”
She is working on a book about that, in addition to the romance novels she writes under the name Selena Montgomery. She had a legal and business career — Abrams started a company that makes ready-to-use baby bottles filled with formula; and another that buys invoices so that small companies can get paid faster — before being elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2007. She served for 10 years before making a run for governor.
“I like solving problems that seem intractable,” she said. “That’s how I thrive. Determining how to fix things and bringing resources to that solution.”
In her downtime, she loves to read, and belongs to a book club made up of her five siblings. They’re reading a fantasy novel called “A Blade So Black,” after finishing Emily Bazelon’s “Charged: The New Movement To Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration.” This isn’t a wine-and-cheese-and-five-minutes-on-plot-and-characters club. This is serious reading and serious discussion.
She also likes to make personal spreadsheets, laying out her goals for the next several years. What’s on there now?
“Well, 2018 did not work out, so now there are some blanks,” she said. “Part of the process is that I need to think through what happens next and what is the cascade effect of the next decision I make.”
For now, she’s coming to Seattle to talk about her book, see one of her “dearest friends,” and listen to people.
“Part of what I am hearing from readers is that I think I know what I am talking about,” she said. “They can see that this is not pablum and it’s not routine. It’s ‘Here’s how to make a plan and make it work.’
“This is hard, but you can do it anyway.”