Oprah Winfrey delivered an impassioned call to voters Thursday in a fiery stump speech in support of Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
“For anybody here who has an ancestor who didn’t have the right to vote, and you are choosing not to vote – wherever you are in this state, in this country – you are dishonoring your family,” Winfrey said in Marietta, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb. “You are disrespecting and disregarding their legacy, their suffering and their dreams, when you don’t vote.”
The hotly contested Georgia governor’s race has garnered national attention and is currently neck and neck. Abrams is running against Republican nominee Brian Kemp.
Kemp – who, as Georgia secretary of state, is also in charge of elections and voter registration – faced backlash after it was reported his office had put more than 53,000 voter applications on hold, nearly 70% of which are from African-Americans, because they failed to clear the state’s controversial “exact match” standard. Kemp has since said the 53,000 Georgians would be able to vote in November.
In an apparent reference to the controversy, Winfrey said, “Every single one of us – every single one of us – has the same power at the polls, and every single one of us has something that, if done in numbers too big to tamper with” – she paused for resounding, prolonged applause by the audience – “cannot be suppressed and cannot be denied.”
She added, “we see injustices, big and small, all around us every single day of our lives. And I know it’s easy for a lot of people to feel that you have no power against those injustices, but this is what I’m here to tell you: This land was made for you and me.”
Winfrey – who sparked speculation about her own political future earlier this year – also said she wasn’t considering a run for political office.
“I don’t want to run, OK? I’m not trying to test any waters - don’t want to go in those waters. I’m here today because of Stacey Abrams,” Winfrey said.
“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,” Winfrey said. “And I want you to know that their blood has seeped into my DNA, and I refuse to let their sacrifices be in vain. I refuse.”
In a direct call to women, Winfrey said it hasn’t even been 100 years since women had the right to vote, and called for women to honor the legacy of those who fought for the right.
As Winfrey was speaking, Vice President Mike Pence was in Dalton, about 70 miles north of Marietta, to add his support to Kemp.
“Brian Kemp’s getting the support of all kinds of hard-working, good people all across Georgia, and Stacey Abrams is being bankrolled by Hollywood liberals,” Pence said.
Noting that he heard Winfrey was in the Peach State, Pence said, “I got a message for all of Stacey Abrams’ liberal Hollywood friends: this ain’t Hollywood. This is Georgia.”
A unique political brand
Perhaps even more than President Barack Obama, who will campaign for Abrams on Friday, Winfrey’s appeal closely aligns with Abrams’ political pitch. For decades, the media mogul has defied conventions and amassed a rare kind of fandom that defies racial, cultural and class boundaries.
If Abrams wins next week, the former Georgia state House minority leader would become the country’s first female African-American governor. Her path to victory, as the campaign sees it, comes through activating voters who might have sat out past elections or never before cast a ballot while – at the same time, with the same message – appealing to political moderates, especially those tied into Atlanta’s booming economy.
“I’m an African-American woman who is charting a very different path to doing this,” Abrams told CNN last month. “I think people want to know: Will it work? But I also think they’re excited by the possibility it could work.”
Shortly after her speech, Winfrey posted videos on Instagram of herself going door to door canvassing for Abrams.
“Down here in Georgia y’all going door to door. Canvassing for #StaceyAbramsforGovernor,” Winfrey posted.
“I’m canvassing for Stacey Abrams,” Winfrey says to a shocked Georgia resident who opened her front door to find the media mogul on her doorstep holding a clipboard. “Are you voting for her?” Winfrey continued, despite the woman’s surprise.
“I absolutely am,” the wide-eyed, smiling woman responds.
“You are voting for her. Do you have an early voting plan?” Winfrey continued.
“I do,” the woman responds.