• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Georgia on her mind, Oprah heads to state to endorse Stacey Abrams

David Knowles
·Editor
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

“Georgia, you’ve been on my mind,” Oprah Winfrey told the audience at a Thursday campaign rally for Democrat Stacey Abrams in Marietta.

The actress and former talk show host, who built a media empire and has dabbled in politics, came to the state as polls show Abrams and Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp deadlocked in the race for governor.

Abrams has attracted national attention as a black female Democrat who could win in the heavily Republican state — and because Kemp has refused to step down from his position, which puts him in charge of overseeing an election in which he is also a candidate. His stringent policy on voter identification has been challenged by critics, including former President Jimmy Carter, who contend that it is intended to suppress voting by minorities.

Winfrey said that issue motivated her involvement.

“I was just sitting at home in California minding my own business, but I could not stop thinking about what’s going on down there,” Winfrey said.

The billionaire media mogul, who has been floated by some Democrats as a potential presidential candidate, bemoaned the negativity of contemporary politics, saying it was “designed to confuse and confound you with fear,” and cast Abrams as the hopeful alternative for voters.

“I am here today to support a change maker,” Winfrey said of Abrams, the former Democratic leader of Georgia’s House of Representatives. If elected, she would become the first African-American woman governor of a state. “She’s a woman who dared believe she could change the state of Georgia,” Winfrey said.

But Winfrey also framed Abrams’ candidacy in terms of its place in history.

“I’m here today because of the men and because of the women who were lynched, who were humiliated, who were discriminated against, who were suppressed, who were repressed and oppressed for the right, for the equality at the polls, and I want you to know that their blood seeped into my DNA and I refuse to let their sacrifices be in vain,” Winfrey said.

Kemp relied on a heavyweight of his own Thursday, campaigning with Vice President Mike Pence. “Brian Kemp is tough on crime,” Pence said. “He’ll always fight to keep violent criminals off the street, and Brian Kemp will always fight to make sure that law-abiding citizens will always have the right to keep and bear arms, as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.”

Pence, the former governor of Indiana, chided Abrams over the support she was receiving from Winfrey and actor Will Ferrell, who recently knocked on doors for the Democrat.

“I’d like to remind Stacey and Oprah and Will Ferrell, I’m kind of a big deal, too.” Pence said. “And I’ve got a message for all of Stacey Abrams’s liberal Hollywood friends: This ain’t Hollywood. This is Georgia.”

With just five days remaining before voters head to the polls, Winfrey’s appearance followed a morning of knocking on doors for Abrams, and served to attract media attention, although Abrams hasn’t lacked that. But Winfrey’s message was aimed not just at members of that party.

Oprah Winfrey takes part in a town hall meeting with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams ahead of the midterm election in Marietta, Ga., on Thursday. (Photo: Chris Aluka Berry/Reuters)
Oprah Winfrey takes part in a town hall meeting with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams ahead of the midterm election in Marietta, Ga., on Thursday. (Photo: Chris Aluka Berry/Reuters)

“I’ve earned the right to think for myself and to vote for myself. And that’s why I am a registered independent — because I don’t want any party and I don’t want any kind of partisan influence telling me what decisions I get to make for myself,” Winfrey said, adding, “I have voted Republican and I have voted Democrat, and each time I voted, I voted for the people who I felt represented my values.”

Having assured the audience that she was “not trying to test any waters” for a possible run of her own, Winfrey delivered a forceful speech then lapsed back into talk-show mode, bringing up Abrams as the crowd playfully updated a chant from the “Oprah” days: “And you get a vote, and you get a vote!”

“Everybody gets a vote!” Oprah responded, then asked Abrams why she was motivated to seek the state’s highest office.

Abrams responded that she believes “poverty is solvable,” then described an epiphany.

“I realized when I was in the legislature that the person who sits in the governor’s office decides access to education, to health care, to jobs — that ‘stand your ground’ was not created by the president; it was created by the governor of Florida,” Abrams said, referring to the legal principle that was invoked by the defendant in the fatal shooting of black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2012. “Mass incarceration didn’t start in D.C.; it started with the governor of California. That the erosion of the social safety net did not happen in ’94; it happened in the early ’90s with the governor of Wisconsin, and Jim Crow never had a federal law; it was all states that stopped Otis Moss from being able to cast a vote. So, for me, the calling is that this was the moment. 2018 is our time, because we can’t wait any longer.”

Asked later in the day whether he had listened to Winfrey’s remarks in support of Abrams, President Trump said he had not.

“Oprah liked me very much,” Trump told reporters, adding. “The woman she’s supporting is not qualified to be governor.”

Yes, Georgia has been on the minds of many people this year, and Oprah hopes to keep it there.

(Cover thumbnail photo: Chris Aluka Berry/Reuters)

_____

Read more Yahoo News midterms coverage: