Abrams and Winfrey host two town halls in the battleground state to discuss the ‘critical value of women in leadership’

Oprah Winfrey has lent her star power to Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat aiming to become America’s first black female governor in the midterm elections next week.

“I am here today because Stacey Abrams cares about the things that matter,” Winfrey told a cheering crowd at a Cobb County town hall, citing Abrams’ stance on environmental protection, healthcare and gun control.

Winfrey, who said she is a registered independent, has long championed Democratic Party causes and some fans earlier this year tried to encourage her to run against Republican President Donald Trump in 2020. She has said she does not want to run.

“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 … I refuse to let their sacrifices be in vain,” she told the audience, to cheers.

Winfrey and Abrams are hosting two town hall meetings on Thursday in Decatur and Marietta, cities in the battleground state, for a discussion on “the critical value of women in leadership and what is at stake for our communities in the election”.

Within hours, tickets to the free town halls were snapped up; messages on Abrams’s campaign website stated: “We’re sorry, but this event has reached maximum capacity.”

The race for the governor’s office in Georgia has become a flashpoint for accusations of voter suppression.

Abrams’ Republican rival, Brian Kemp, serves as Georgia secretary of state, a role in which he oversees state elections. Earlier this month, a coalition of state civil rights groups sued Kemp, accusing him of trying to depress minority voter turnout to improve his chances of winning.

Winfrey might also campaign door-to-door with Abrams on Friday, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

While Winfrey’s appearance will win headlines for Abrams, it is not clear whether her celebrity status will be enough to propel Abrams to victory, with recent polls indicating that Abrams and Kemp are neck and neck in the contest.

However, Libertarian Ted Metz, the third name on the ballot, could take just enough votes to mean there is no outright winner, triggering a December run-off.

With Winfrey’s visit, Abrams may be attempting to mobilize suburban voters and African American women, two groups she is counting on at the polls.

“Vote your values,” Winfrey said, addressing the women in the audience. “Vote your conscience … the vitriol and the ads, they are designed to confuse and confound you with fear … When you know the right thing, and you can feel it … you can’t be influenced by propaganda and fear.”

Winfrey’s involvement could also serve as counterweight to Vice-President Mike Pence’s three campaign stops for Kemp this week, the Journal-Constitution also points out.

More high-profile visits are planned, with former President Barack Obama coming to Atlanta on Friday for Abrams, and President Donald Trump campaigning on Sunday for Kemp.

Kemp, whose support stems from rural areas and “outer suburbs”, has used Abrams’s star appeal to drum up opposition in his base.

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