Election denialism hurts a candidate, no matter which side of the aisle he or she is on. Former President Donald Trump lost a fair share of his credibility among conservatives following his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. In that same vein, twice-failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is protesting the results of her race. And like her Republican counterpart, she is paying for it … literally. Four years after filing a lawsuit against the state of Georgia for alleged voter suppression and “unconstitutional actions” in the 2018 governor’s race, a federal judge ruled against Abrams and her legal team. In addition to these defeats, Team Abrams is in a financial battle for survival as the costs accrued in their failed electoral and legal fights continue to pile on. With Abrams contemplating a run for higher office in 2024, questions regarding her ability to finance another likely unsuccessful campaign remain unanswered.
Following Abrams’ failed electoral lawsuit, her legal team received another major setback when ordered to pay out $231,303 in legal fees to the state of Georgia. The steep costs were the result of Fair Fight Action, a group founded by Abrams following the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial race, requesting hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of “printed or electronically recorded transcripts necessarily obtained for use in the case.” Commenting on this development, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger hailed it as a “win for taxpayers and voters who knew all along that Stacey Abrams’ voter suppression claims were false.” However, these legal fees pale in comparison to the mounting financial troubles the Abrams campaign accumulated following two failed runs at the governor’s mansion.
Team Abrams had raised and shelled out millions for its electoral and legal battles in Georgia. During the four-year election lawsuit alone, Politico reported that Fair Fight Action spent at least $87.5 million from 2019 to 2021, compared to just the $6 million spent by the state of Georgia on the case. Additionally, Abrams’ campaign finances reveal a fundraising juggernaut that still could not propel her to higher office. For her latest bid against incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, Team Abrams raised an estimated $113 million, exceeding her opponent’s fundraising by over $20 million and having only $100,000 in cash left when the race concluded. Despite the impressive spending campaign, Abrams lost the election by an almost-eight-point margin and piled up an equally massive bill she has yet to fully pay off.
According to Axios, the Democratic nominee’s campaign owes over $1.4 million in debt, with many of her staffers going unpaid immediately following the election. Adding insult to injury, one staffer even admitted that people who worked on the campaign “have no idea how they’re going to pay their rent in January” due to the overspending and financial cutoffs intended to keep the team above water. Furthermore, the Abrams campaign burned through cash like no tomorrow on a failed youth-outreach plan target toward millennial and Gen Z voters. One of these initiatives included a TikTok “hype house” for creators to use to speak directly to young people that ended up costing Abrams $12,500 a month and was barely used, according to senior staffers. Additionally, the campaign spent unnecessary funds on a merchandise “swag truck” and shelled out millions on consultants, digital outreach, polls, and the ground canvassing efforts that proved ineffective in corralling voters for the Abrams camp.
Yet Abrams has historically relied on overspending her opponent to achieve political victory, with her campaign burning through about 80 percent of its funds in the 2018 primary cycle alone in hiring staff, volunteers, and security and building field offices across Georgia. In that election, she lost by less than two points, demonstrating her advisers’ belief that by adhering to a “spend big or go home” approach, they could push Abrams’ financial backers to the brink to achieve victory. But judging by what happened in 2022, money alone couldn’t make her governor. Why?
Senior Democratic strategists admitted to NPR that while Kemp ran “a very disciplined campaign,” Abrams took minority voters for granted in a show of “complete hubris.” The New York Times attributed her loss to the fact that by making herself a national figure, Abrams’ messaging alienated everyday Georgians. Atlanta state Rep. Derrick Jackson remarked, “If you’re running a statewide race, if you venture off and you nationalize it, then that’s problematic.”
The Abrams saga is a cautionary tale of how not to run a political campaign. Her Democratic superstar status eroded over the course of two failed elections and a costly legal battle that went nowhere. Despite all this, she is contemplating another run — possibly for the White House — in 2024 and continues to be a national figure in Democratic politics.
Say what you will about Stacey Abrams. At least she’s persistent.
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