WASHINGTON — Stacey Abrams plans to call the recent government shutdown a "stunt engineered by the President of the United States" in the official Democratic response to follow President Donald Trump's State of the Union address Tuesday night.
"The shutdown was a stunt engineered by the President of the United States, one that defied every tenet of fairness and abandoned not just our people — but our values," Abrams, the first black woman to deliver the State of the Union response, was to say according to remarks released in advance.
Abrams, 45, the former Democratic leader of the Georgia House, became the first black woman in the country to win a major party nomination for governor in the 2018 midterm elections. Although she ultimately lost, she won more votes than any other Georgia Democrat in a statewide election.
Still, she was an unusual choice to deliver the Democratic response to Trump's State of the Union address. The 53-year tradition is a coveted speaking spot historically reserved for up-and-coming elected governors, senators or representatives.
Abrams never officially conceded to then-Georgia secretary of state, now Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, amid controversy over allegations of voter suppression.
"This is the next battle for our democracy, one where all eligible citizens can have their say about the vision we want for our country. We must reject the cynicism that says allowing every eligible vote to be cast and counted is a 'power grab,'" she planned to say, an apparent reference to a recent remark by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., referring to a proposal that would make Election Day a national holiday.
"Americans understand that these are the values our brave men and women in uniform and our veterans risk their lives to defend. The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders — not where politicians pick their voters."
Abrams was to take aim at "Republican leadership that ignores real life or just doesn't understand it." But she also planned to deliver a bipartisan note, similar to the tone the White House had said to expect from the president Tuesday.
"We may come from different sides of the political aisle; but, our joint commitment to the ideals of this nation cannot be negotiable," she planned to say.