When Stacey Abrams was 18, she spent a long night in a college computer lab and recorded the next 40 years of her life.
Heartbroken after being dumped by her then boyfriend, she channeled her energy into a Lotus 1-2-3 table of ambitious goals, according to her political memoir. At 24, she would write a bestselling spy novel. By the time she was 30, she would be a millionaire entrepreneur. At 35, she would be the mayor of Atlanta, Georgia.
Ms. Abrams is now 47 years old. She was a state legislature, but never a mayor. She is a moderately successful author: eight romance novels, written under the pen name Selena Montgomery, have sold more than 100,000 copies. But she has become one of the most influential unelected politicians in America, despite narrowly losing the race for Georgia governor in 2018.
This week she was widely heralded as the architect of the unexpected Democratic victories in the two US Senate runoff elections in Georgia. They put the party in control of both houses of Congress and saw the state elect its first black senator in Raphael Warnock and its first Jewish senator in Jon Ossoff.
Her efforts at voter registration and turnout in the state also made Joe Biden the first Democratic presidential candidate in nearly three decades to win Georgia and defeat Donald Trump by less than 12,000 votes.
“Let’s hear it for Stacey Abrams. Nobody, nobody in America has done more for the suffrage than Stacey, ”said Biden during an election freeze in Atlanta on the eve of the vote on Tuesday. “Stacey, you are changing Georgia. You changed America. “
The second of six children, Ms. Abrams was born in Wisconsin and raised in Mississippi before her family moved to the Atlanta suburbs as teenagers. She graduated from high school before going to Spelman College, a historically black women’s college. She earned a Masters in Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Austin and a law degree from Yale.
Her interest in politics and social justice dates back to the spring of 1992 when four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of the beatings on Rodney King, which sparked outrage and unrest.
In 2006 she ran for the Georgian legislature and in five years became the first woman to lead either party in the Georgian General Assembly and the first black woman leader in her House of Representatives.
Over the past decade, it has also focused on expanding electoral access in Georgia and across the country. In 2014, a year after the US Supreme Court overturned the 1965 Suffrage Act that banned racial discrimination at the ballot box, she co-founded the New Georgia Project, a group aimed at registering younger voters and people of color.
In 2018, she ran for governor, but lost to Republican Brian Kemp with 55,000 votes in the state’s closest governor for more than half a century. The race was tarnished by allegations that Mr Kemp, who was Georgia’s state secretary at the time, suppressed the votes of black citizens by removing them from the electoral roll.
Ms. Abrams ended her offer almost two weeks after election day but refused to admit, saying, “The erosion of our democracy is not right.”
Critics have compared their failure to admit Mr. Trump’s unwillingness to accept the November election results. But Ms. Abrams said this month that the circumstances were “just different. . . Apples and bowling balls. “
“I have indicated that a number of measures have been taken to hinder the ability of voters to cast their ballots,” she said. “And under almost all of these circumstances the courts agreed, as did the state parliament.”
After losing the governor’s race, she formed Fair Fight Action to combat voter suppression.
In September 2019, she and Lauren Groh-Wargo, Executive Director of Fair Fight Action, released a 16-page document called “The Abrams Playbook,” which called for a huge investment in time and resources to get the Democrats over Georgia in 2020 bring the line.
She disappointed many Democrats by refusing to run for Senate in 2020, saying, “My responsibility is not just to run because the job is available. I have to run because I want to do the job. “
Ms. Abrams has shown no shortage of other political ambitions. While refusing to join the crowded field of Democrats vying for the party’s president nomination, last January predicted that she would be elected president by 2040.
She also told Elle magazine that she would make “an excellent runner-up” for Mr. Biden and extolled her credentials on talk shows and cable television. Instead, Mr. Biden chose Kamala Harris.
Now Ms. Abrams is heralded as the future of the Democratic Party. Doug Jones, an Alabama Democrat who lost his Senate seat in November, said her work in Georgia should set an example for the future party.
Meanwhile, Ms. Abrams released a new book – a political thriller called When Justice Sleeps – in May. She is widely expected to run for governor in 2022 and host a rematch with Mr Kemp where the Allies say she will win.
“We already claim her as our governor,” said LeWanna Heard-Tucker, leader of the Fulton County’s Democratic Party in Atlanta. “This is going to be an easy slam dunk for her.”