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Stacey Abrams discusses running again for Ga. governor and her new children's book

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Georgia's Stacey Abrams is again running for governor - no surprise if her new children's book is anything to go by. It's part autobiography.

STACEY ABRAMS: I wanted to tell the story of resilience and perseverance and how losing and not getting what you want does not mean that you are - you're done.

MARTINEZ: Her book is called "Stacey's Extraordinary Words," and it's about her spelling bee prowess. She told Rachel Martin that back then, her mom encouraged her during competitions, and she did so again when she narrowly lost a bid for governor in 2018.

ABRAMS: I didn't think about stopping for very long, but that - there was a 10-day period between Election Day and my speech ending the campaign when I really thought about whether politics was for me because it was a very tough, tough two weeks. And one of the conversations with my mom was about, how do you keep going? How do you face the kind of public loss that I faced and show your face again? And both she and my dad were very adamant that if I chose to do it again or not, that it should be a choice made because of what I wanted, not because of what happened.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

How did you separate the two? Because losing, in and of itself, can be a powerful motivator for good.

ABRAMS: Part of the story in the book, and certainly part of my story, was going back to why I ran in the first place. I ran because I thought this would be a platform that would allow me to serve a greater number of people. And the fact that I didn't get access to the platform didn't negate the rationale for running in the first place. There was work to be done. There are people to be served. And my responsibility was to figure out how to do it in a different way.

For me, the issue and the resolution of my tensions was that if I ran because I wanted a title, then, yes, I'd lost, and I should stop. But if I ran because I wanted to do work, my responsibility was to figure out how to do that work without those titles. And certainly, it's not the same work. But there is still work to be done.

MARTIN: Georgia was one of the states where Donald Trump didn't just contest the election results in 2020, but he tried to pressure the state's top election official, Brad Raffensperger, to change the results in his favor - a direct usurpation of American democracy. Is Georgia's electoral system stronger because it survived that pressure or weaker because it came so close?

ABRAMS: Our electoral system survived because we followed the intent of democracy, and it is weaker now because the very same people who defended it against the assault of January 6 capitulated in weeks passed by passing laws that weaken access, that subvert democracy. Unfortunately, Georgia has a weakened electoral system, and we need federal action to shore it up and return it to the posture that we should all expect, which is one where every eligible voter has the ease of access that they deserve.

MARTIN: Lots of activists on the left, especially Black Democrats, feel President Biden just hasn't done enough to deliver for a group of voters that delivered for him, and they are worried it's going to be tough to get people motivated next November. Do you share that concern?

ABRAMS: Every election is a call to action. Voting is medicine, and it is an act of obligation that we have to engage in every single time at every level. My intention is to run a campaign and to work with Senator Raphael Warnock to remind Georgia voters of what has happened - that we have a commander in chief who takes COVID seriously and has poured billions of dollars into our state to help us withstand its effects, even though our state government has failed to fully deploy those dollars, that we have a vaccine that is available and we have to do the work of overcoming hesitancy and suspicion to ensure that as many people in our state get the help they need, that we have resources that have lifted children out of poverty, especially in a state that is No. 37 in its poverty rate. And so we have real challenges ahead of us that cannot be undone with a single election. With the right conversations, with the right engagement, they will turn out again and they will understand that we are building towards a future. But the future doesn't happen all at once.

MARTIN: I mean, you believe your message is strong and you've connected with voters throughout the past three years. Is it just a matter of getting your voters to the polls?

ABRAMS: That's a bifurcation that tends to happen in politics, either persuasion or turnout. I actually think that it's both-and. We have to persuade people that it's worth turning out. We have to persuade people that it is worth the heartbreak of investing your time and asking someone to serve you and then not getting what you thought you would get. There is a constancy to public service, and in particular in politics, where we have to constantly persuade people that it's worth staying engaged. But that's work I am happy to do.

I'm the daughter of two pastors who, before that, were civil rights activist and were always, through my life, civil justice warriors and social justice warriors. And what they taught me is that you meet people where they are, not where you want them to be. And if you want people to turn out, you have to persuade them that it is worth the pain of hope, it is worth believing that this person asking you for this vote is actually going to do what they say or will do their best to make it so.

And going back to "Stacey's Extraordinary Words," part of the story is about the fact that we're never going to do everything we should, but that does not absolve us of the obligation to try. Stacey didn't speak up when she thought she should, but she committed herself to trying again and trying again. And I'm going to keep trying again because I believe that we have a state that could be extraordinary if we invested in our people. And I'm going to spend the next year talking to Georgians and telling them about that vision, but listening to how they think that vision can be made real.

MARTIN: Stacey Abrams, Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia and the author of the new children's book "Stacey's Extraordinary Words." Thank you so much for talking with us.

ABRAMS: Thank you, Rachel. I appreciate the time.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRILLION'S "GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN (FEAT. IDEALISM)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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