African-American Abrams leads charge as women advance in U.S. midterms

By Letitia Stein

(Reuters) – Democratic voters in Georgia nominated a candidate on Tuesday who could make history as the first African-American female governor in the United States.

Stacey Abrams won her party’s nomination in a closely watched race showcasing divergent Democratic strategies on how to win in a Republican-dominated southern state.

She was among a slate of candidates being selected by voters in four states to advance to the November midterm elections. In Texas and Kentucky, contests were also pushing women to the forefront of the fight for the House of Representatives, where Democrats need to wrest 23 seats from Republicans to gain control.

Several races were also a referendum on long-simmering divisions within the Democratic party.

Kentucky Democrats picked a female former Marine fighter pilot, Amy McGrath, in a snub to the party establishment for a U.S. House seat district that Democrats hope to put into play.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) had promoted the candidacy of Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, who conceded the race and urged his supporters to support McGrath.

McGrath will face U.S. Representative Andy Barr, the Republican incumbent, in November.

Record numbers of women are running across the nation, especially on the Democratic ticket, in the first election since Republican President Donald Trump won the White House in 2016.

In Georgia, Abrams became the first black female in the United States to win a major party’s nomination for governor, according to the Gender Watch project, a nonpartisan group tracking elections.

In the contest for an open seat, Abrams aims to turn a Republican-controlled state by mobilizing black voters – a strongly Democratic demographic group that often skips off-year elections – to form a winning coalition with white progressives.

Abrams defeated Stacey Evans, who is white, in a Democratic primary and argued that Democrats cannot win without also persuading white moderate voters who can swing between parties.

It was not yet clear if Republicans would avoid a runoff in their crowded gubernatorial primary. Lieutenant Governor L.S. “Casey” Cagle, was leading a five-way race.

Arkansas also held elections, with Republican governor Asa Hutchinson winning his primary.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein in Detroit; Editing by G Crosse, Sandra Maler and Paul Tait)