01:38 - Source: CNN
How Stacey Abrams galvanized voters in Georgia

Editor’s Note: Frida Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. She is a frequent opinion contributor to CNN, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post and a columnist for World Politics Review. Follow her on Twitter @fridaghitis. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.

CNN  — 

One of the great cliffhangers of the historic 2020 election has been if Democrat Joe Biden will win against President Donald Trump in the state of Georgia. While the final tally is still unknown, one conclusion is inescapable: Republicans can no longer count on Georgia as a bastion they dominate.

Frida Ghitis

That may come as a surprise to many. After all, no Democratic presidential candidate has won the state since Bill Clinton in 1992. And both of its current US senators, as well as the governor, are devout Trump Republicans.

But many Georgia voters – including myself – are not surprised by this turn of events. In fact, some of us openly disagreed, when, on election night, data crunchers said Georgia was almost certain to go to Trump.

Not only does the state now appear poised to go to Biden, but both of its Senate seats are likely going to a January run-off. And if they do, the outcome could hold the key to which party controls the Senate in 2021.

Forget stereotypes about the South. Millions of Georgians are liberal, anti-racist and pro-decency. The population has exploded by nearly a third since 2000, including with arrivals from other countries and other states. Georgia is becoming less white, much more diverse and less conservative. The 6th Congressional District, once held by Republican stalwart Newt Gingrich, has been won twice by Democrat Lucy McBath, an African American who launched her political career after losing her son to gun violence.

But demographics are hardly everything.

The 5th Congressional District, represented until recently by the late civil rights icon John Lewis, was dotted with yard signs showing images of Lewis, and quoting his statements about the importance of voting. Trump and Lewis had a contentious relationship at best. A week before Trump took office in 2017, after Lewis said he didn’t see Trump as a “legitimate” president, Trump shot back on Twitter that Lewis should worry about his “horrible,” “crime infested” district.

Now that district, distinctly un-horrible, filled with universities and parks, voted overwhelmingly to send Trump packing and gave Biden his small edge over the President in the early hours of Friday morning.

Much credit for Biden’s showing, of course, goes to Stacey Abrams, who ran for governor two years ago against Brian Kemp, and went to work to repair Georgia’s voting system after a controversial election was called for Kemp, who was also Secretary of State at the time, giving him responsibility for overseeing Georgia’s elections, maintaining voter registration lists and certifying election results.

In the two years since, Abrams has registered some 800,000 new voters in the state of Georgia and sued the state over its entire voting system.

And this cycle, the entire Democratic Party, with countless volunteers, instructed voters of all parties on how to make sure their vote was counted. It paid off. The result was a mobilized, engaged electorate, that appears to have turned the Republican tide.

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    Georgia’s potential turn away from Republicans – and from Trump – came as such a shock to the President that when he spoke Thursday night, in that horrifying anti-democratic rant where he claimed the election was stolen from him, he made a barrage of false statements about the election in Georgia.

    As if stating a fact, he declared, “The election apparatus in Georgia is run by Democrats.” But Georgia has a Republican governor, Trump’s faithful ally, Kemp. And the man in charge of the election, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, is also Republican. They are remnants of a time when Republicans could count on consistently winning statewide races.

    That time will soon pass, and in large part thanks to the legacy of John Lewis and the efforts of Stacey Abrams.