Stacey Abrams made history in her failed bid to become governor of Georgia when she offered a fiery post-election speech that did anything but concede to Republican Brian Kemp.
But the former Democratic leader of the Georgia House—who was almost the first female elected governor of Georgia, the first African-American elected governor of Georgia, and the first black woman to govern any state in the U.S.—says she’s hardly over politics.
“Yes, I will run again,” she said, to cheers, before a ballroom of executives at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Next Gen summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif. “Now, if you could all move to Georgia…”
Despite its result, Abrams called her 2018 campaign “extraordinarily successful” because it helped energize inactive voters in the state. “We turned out voters who had never been engaged in the body politic,” she said. “We tripled the number of Latinos who voted. We tripled the number of Asian-Americans. We increased African-Americans by 38%. Increased the youth vote.”
She waited a beat before adding: “And yet.”
It’s difficult to have something be the sole focus of almost two years of your life not only not to come to fruition but to not come to fruition under a cloud, Abrams said. “We don’t know what really happened because of the miasma of voter suppression,” she said. “There’s something worse about [that lack of clarity] than knowing you just…suck.”
So Abrams took a long nap and vowed not to make hasty decisions about her next move. It wasn’t easy. “As some of you know, I am goal-oriented,” she said with a smile. “That lasted about seven days.”
Abrams said she began thinking about running for Georgia governor in 2010. It was a moment of redistricting for the state. “I was on the wrong end of gerrymandering,” she said. Still, as the state’s Democratic leader, she said she spent a lot of time looking at numbers and traveling across the state.
Her findings? For many voters who don’t show up at the polls, “it’s not apathy. It’s despondency. It’s lack of hope.”
So Abrams’ campaign chose to spend most of its money on efforts to talk to voters—a controversial choice in political circles. But it worked. “We got 76% of the vote” in the Georgia Democratic primary for governor, she said. And, running for governor, she received “more votes than any other Democrat in Georgia history.”
That’s why Abrams is backing a federal lawsuit to help fix some of the intractable problems in Georgia’s voting system, including issues around voting suppression. “This isn’t a partisan issue,” she said. “This is a people issue. This is a democracy issue.”
It’s also why she will never concede the 2018 race. “Because words matter,” Abrams said. “What happened was not just. That anyone had their vote tarnished or restricted or narrowed is wrong.”