By QUINN SCANLAN, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — As the public campaigning ramps up to be presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s vice presidential pick, Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Georgia in Wednesday criticized her former opponent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for his decision to start reopening parts of the state starting this week, saying it “makes no sense” because Georgia isn’t yet “flattening the curve.”
“The mayors of our largest cities have all expressed deep concern as have our scientists. Georgia is not flattening the curve. We have one of the highest rates of infection and one of the lowest rates of testing,” Abrams said on ABC’s The View Wednesday. “This makes no sense and it doesn’t improve our economy. It simply puts more Georgians at risk.”
On Monday, Kemp, who Abrams lost to in 2018, unveiled plans “to incrementally and safely reopen sectors” of the state’s economy, including gyms, barber shops and hail and nail salons and bowling alleys, starting Friday. Church services will also be allowed to start up again, but are expected to follow social distancing guidelines.
Of the more than 826,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, just over 20,000 are in Georgia, putting the state behind just 11 others on this metric, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Abrams said she feels that Kemp’s decision will specifically put the most vulnerable populations in the state at risk.
“What I know as a former small business owner is that the people who are going to be sent to the front lines are the people who are the least resilient,” she said. “They likely don’t have health insurance. They probably won’t have protective equipment. But most importantly, they can’t afford to say no if they’re told to go back to work.”
Abrams accused Kemp of “prioritizing the potential of the economy” rather than these workers’ lives.
Noting the agreement reached in Congress on replenishing the Paycheck Protection Program, which is designed to help small businesses suffering because of the pandemic, she said this is the right “solution to the economic challenges we face, not putting people’s lives on the line so you can say you did something.”
The former Georgia state House Democratic leader was also asked about the possibility presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden chooses her as his running mate, and how vocal she’s been about what qualifies her for the job.
“I try to be straightforward because while we hope the work speaks for itself, sometimes the work needs a hype man,” she told The View co-hosts. “I learned early on that, if I didn’t speak for myself, I couldn’t tell the story.”
The last time she appeared on The View in mid-February, the former Georgia state House minority leader said she “would be honored” to be chosen as vice president for whoever the nominee was, but during her interview Wednesday, she went further in outlining what she thinks qualifies her for the position.
She said that over the past 25 years, she’s dedicated herself to service in multiple capacities, doing her “best to be a person who understands the needs of our communities, but also looks for solutions and tries to build the platforms necessary to deliver.”
“I think I would be very effective at helping us restore the dignity, and the soul of not only America, but helping those that have been left behind for so long, finally see themselves as part of the solution,” Abrams said, seeming to play off of Biden’s oft repeated stance that “we’re in a battle for the soul of America.”
The Biden campaign has yet to formally announce his vice presidential vetting committee, but the presumptive nominee has said that the committee would be announced in early May, and he expects the vetting process to continue into July. He’s said repeatedly that he would pick a woman for the veep slot.
Abrams was asked if Biden’s also needs to commit to putting a woman of color on the ticket, and she said that while she thought Biden would make “a smart choice,” she did have concerns about this.
“Women of color, particularly black women, are the strongest part of the Democratic Party — the most loyal — but that loyalty isn’t simply how we vote, it’s how we work,” she said. “And if we want to signal that that work will continue, that we’re going to reach not just to certain segments of our community, but to the entire country, then we need a ticket that reflects the diversity of America.”
Abrams, through her initiative Fair Fight 2020, is fighting to guarantee everyone who has the right to vote is able to fill out a ballot in this year’s elections. Through the multi-million dollar effort, Abrams has built up voter protection teams in 18 battleground states this cycle that work with the state Democratic parties to be a resource to voters and ensure election fairness.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, how voters can safely participate in elections is of top concern in every state. More than a dozen states have postponed their presidential and/or statewide primary elections, and many have also made reforms like significantly expanding the ability to vote-by-mail.
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