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Georgia Democratic Candidates Held to Different Standards in Race for Governor

The Democratic Candidates for Governor of Georgia Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans

Georgia candidates for Governor are making the rounds as the primary is in full swing. As things heat up, the candidates will keep getting asked tough questions about exactly how they would fix problems facing Georgians. While the two Democratic candidates for governor have the same name, they do not have the same experience, and they are not being scrutinized to the same degree.

Not All “Tough” Questions Are Equal

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Greg Bluestein recently described the candidates facing “tough” questions at the 2018 Young Democrats Convention. Bluestein insinuates that the candidates are being treated equally in similar spaces. Stacey Abrams faces a higher bar and expectations than Stacey Evans. The two questions Bluestein referenced were not similar in tone or “toughness.”

Since the start of this election cycle, Abrams has been attacked over the Hope Scholarship, the centerpiece of her opponent’s campaign. Opponents have said that Abrams is working with Republicans and Gov. Nathan Deal to screw over Georgia families. During the candidate Q&As, Abrams was challenged by a voter regarding the Hope Scholarship. The situation was tense and became aggressive.

Considering this framing, it is not surprising that the person asking the question was so upset. Despite being talked over and having her involvement in Hope mischaracterized, Abrams responded with reason and balance. Recently released emails show Evans recognizing Abrams’ leadership on the issue even when they disagreed.

Evans’ “tough” question was regarding her failure to accept responsibility for the since-deleted Martin Luther King video, which her campaign produced. Bridgemon H. Bogler, newly elected chair of the Georgia Young Democrats Black Caucus, asked Evans why she blamed the Abrams campaign for the now-deleted video. Evans blamed an Abrams supporter for sharing the deleted video and again failed to accept responsibility.

Evans downplayed the video as simply celebrating her appreciation of MLK, but other candidates made MLK appreciation videos that didn’t simply show them being seen with Black people. These other videos celebrated MLK by tying his words and legacy into their own work. Evans’ disconnect on the difference between her video and other efforts to commemorate MLK is disappointing. She infringed upon a sacred space that is Ebenezer Baptist Church and doesn’t get how disrespectful having her social media team follow her and take videos and pictures without permission was a problem. She also didn’t address her surrogates who were not given accurate information when asked for comment.

But this is a standard way to attack Black women. It doesn’t matter that the allegations have no merit, the mere appearance of negative action undermines our work. We get silenced and attacked by people who call us angry or claim the concerns we’re raising are a threat to “unity.” In her response, Evans quickly tries to brush past this issue but her discomfort is apparent. If this is how she handles a “tough” question from a Democratic voter, how would she fare in the general against a Republican opponent?

Clickbait Titles and Misleading Tweets

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has relied on clickbait headlines to draw attention to nonissues to attack Abrams’ credibility. A 2016 study found that nearly 60% of all links shared on social media are not actually clicked on — that the headlines get read, but not the articles. In the past week, two stories regarding Abrams (read here and here) contain headlines distorting the issue giving a negative impression of Abrams.

Both pieces buried the most important facts for voters to consider: In the case of her debt, Abrams was caring for and financially supporting her parents after Hurricane Katrina hit. She is handling her debt responsibly. Regarding the state contracts that were awarded to a nonprofit, she helped start the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article makes a mountain out of a molehill. Despite the negative impression given off from the title, the author acknowledges there was no evidence of ethical issues or other impropriety.

Evans and her campaign chime in on these random accusations without any valid support for their statements and no pushback.

When asked for comment about the state contracts, which again, there is no allegation of impropriety or some error on Abrams’ part, Evans misstates the issue and alleged nature of business by claiming Abrams had business dealings with Governor Deal. Evans undercuts her opponent’s reputation and credibility for cheap political points. If Abrams’ campaign were to give such a response, she would most likely be depicted as a bully and a liar. There is no indication that the state contracts impacted the way Abrams conducted herself as House Minority Leader or that she improperly influenced action to benefit herself financially. Candidates can get competitive and rough, but this type of fabricated logic should not be tolerated by those who claim to want “unity.”

The most prominent example the past week of someone exploiting the clickbait headlines and extrapolating negative impressions of Abrams was a tweet from writer Lee Fang of The Intercept. Either Fang did not read the article in its entirety and simply shared it based on the title alone, or he intentionally sought to further the distortion perpetuated by the title. Fang’s reputation through his work at The Intercept gives his words more weight even in something as simple as a tweet. His sharing a story and claiming that Abrams not only acted improperly but also misrepresented her actual record.

Interestingly enough, Fang does not address Evans’ record on education. He tried to defend her over the MLK video by claiming that she was being attacked because she was white (see also: reverse racism, and the fact that it doesn’t exist). Sadly, he is colored by his own thoughtless disdain and doesn’t listen to other perspectives.

As we look forward to the General Election, we need to have the strongest candidate possible to reclaim the Governor’s Mansion from Republicans. Regardless of who people are supporting, both candidates should be challenged and held accountable for their votes and advocacy. But when one candidate is challenged and another isn’t, it’s a double standard. Whether they’re asked questions about the issues or accountability, Stacey Abrams is held to a higher standard than Stacey Evans.

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