5 Things to Know About Stacey Abrams, Who Could Become America’s 1st Black Female Governor

This year, the state of Georgia will elect a new governor — and they might make history in the process. Stacey Abrams, one of two Democratic candidates vying for the title, is poised to become America’s first black female governor should she secure the nomination this month and the win in November’s election. On May 22, Abrams faces fellow Democrat Stacey Evans in a primary that is particularly of note; Georgia has not had a Democrat as governor in more than a decade.

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, GA, 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’ 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 color), 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’ 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 organizations 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.

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