Gubernatorial candidate Abrams speaks about issues facing students

Photo by Casey Miles

On Thursday, April 12, democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams invited student media organizations to a roundtable event during which she discussed her policy points that would affect high school and college students should she be elected.

Formerly, Abrams served as the Georgia House of Representatives Minority Leader. If Abrams is elected governor of Georgia, she will be the country’s first black female governor.

One of her key action points is to pilot what she calls “HOPE 2.0”, a need-based addition to the existing merit scholarship for in-state students. As another component of her overall plan to allow student to graduate without debt, she intends to introduce a student loan bill of rights and other strategies to ensure that students are aware of federal programs that can forgive debt from student loans.

The financial plans that she has in place will cost upwards of $100 million in the first year, but Abrams says she has plans to make the programs economically viable. Some of these plans include collecting a tax previously claimed as tax credit for private education or collecting sales tax on all online retailers instead of allowing them to collect but not remit.

In addition, Abrams is adamant about the immediate repeal of House Bill 280, which makes it legal to carry firearms on college campuses, should she be elected. She also wants to push for mandating background checks in all circumstances and banning assault weapons.

“I am the only candidate who has consistently been on the side of gun safety,” said Abrams. “I have never gotten a B from the NRA. I’ve gotten Ds and Fs, the only bad grades my parents are proud of.”

Abrams’ story of how she got to be a Georgia gubernatorial candidate is an extensive one, and it begins with her grandparents. She came from a family that has roots in Mississippi and was “between working class and working poor,” despite the fact that her mother was the first of her siblings to graduate high school.

“We were working poor, but my mom didn’t like that,” said Abrams. “She called us genteel poor, meaning we watched PBS and read books.”

After the family moved to Atlanta, Abrams attended Spelman College, one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the area. She got her masters’ from the University of Texas and a Ph.D. from Yale Law School.

Some of the points in her action plan stem from the pain and trouble that her family members have endured. She wants to expand mental health support and substance abuse treatment options, decriminalize marijuana and traffic violations, and decrease the high mortality rates for mothers.

Abrams has a detailed plan with many things she wants to accomplish should she be elected governor. However, she says that the most challenging goal to achieve will likely be the expansion of Medicaid.

Medicaid expansion is the crux of changing the trajectory of our state. We have the worst uninsurance rate in the nation. We have 15 rural hospitals on the verge of closing at any given minute. We have half a million people who do not have health insurance.

She says that through the process of expanding the Medicaid program in Georgia, other conversations will naturally take place. She believes that many of the other issues she is passionate about, like mental health and substance abuse treatment and the decriminalization of poverty, will be addressed either directly or indirectly from changes to that program.

Abrams was not fazed by the hurdle of winning an election in a state that has been red for the past few decades, saying that the demographics of Georgia have changed a great deal in the past fifteen years, the last time Georgia had a black governor.

“I am absolutely certain that democrats have not lost the last few elections because we didn’t have the right message,” said Abrams. “We’ve lost because we haven’t spoken that message aloud, and we’ve lost because we have not done the work of turning out our voters.”

The primary election will be held on May 22. Abrams is running against Stacey Evans in the democratic race. The general election will be held on Nov. 6, 2018.