With US president-elect Joe Biden narrowly leading in Georgia, one woman is being credited with taking a reliably Republican state and potentially turning it blue for the first time in 30 years.
Stacey Abrams ran to be the governor of Georgia in 2018, but was narrowly defeated.
Despite calls for her to run for the presidency in 2020, she instead decided to focus her efforts closer to home, registering hundreds of thousands of new voters to cast ballots for Joe Biden.
The state is yet to be officially called for either candidate, but Mr Biden has enough electoral college votes to declare victory without Georgia.
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Ms Abrams says she will now pour her resources into two run-off races in Georgia which could see the Democrats seize control of the Senate.
She has still been praised by celebrities, sports stars, activists and politicians, including former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as a powerful new force in the Democratic Party.
A politician who writes romance novels on the side
Stacey Abrams’ political career began when, as a student activist, she confronted Atlanta’s then-mayor Maynard Jackson during a panel discussion about race.
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She questioned if he really understood the frustrations of young black people who took to the streets in 1992 after white police officers were acquitted of beating Rodney King over a minor traffic violation.
Mr Jackson was so impressed, he immediately offered her a job in his office.
Ms Abrams was appointed Atlanta’s deputy city attorney at just 29 years old. She also was the first black person elected to lead the Democratic Party in the Georgia House of Representatives, in 2010.
But she is not just a politician. She is also a successful novelist, using the pen name Selena Montgomery to publish eight romance novels.
“The act of writing is integral to who I am. I’m a writer, a politician, a tax attorney, a civic leader and an entrepreneur. I am proud of what I’ve accomplished,” she told the Washington Post.
Oprah Winfrey with Stacey Abrams in 2018.(Reuters: Chris Aluka Berry)
In 2018, she set her sights on Georgia’s top job, announcing her intention to become the state’s first black female governor.
She raised tens of millions of dollars for a campaign which swiftly turned her into a national celebrity.
Oprah Winfrey and civil rights leader John Lewis endorsed her. Her activists signed up 200,000 new voters. Polls showed her with a steady lead over her Republican rival Brian Kemp.
But in an election marred by allegations of systemic voter suppression by state officials, Ms Abrams fell short by just 55,000 votes.
“I acknowledge Brian Kemp will be certified as the victor in the 2018 gubernatorial election,” she said, instead of officially conceding defeat.
“But to watch an elected official who claims to represent the people in this state baldly pin his hopes for election on the suppression of the people’s democratic right to vote has been truly appalling.”
Mr Kemp and his allies deny any wrongdoing and say they won fairly.
Abrams refused to fade into the background
After her loss, Abrams was encouraged to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
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“I sat shiva for 10 days. Then I started plotting,” she told Vogue in 2019.
She formed the organisation Fair Fight to register and empower voters, convinced that changing demographics in Georgia would put the state in play for the Democrats in the 2020 election.
“Georgia has had the potential for years,” she said shortly before the election.
“This has been work that’s been ongoing for nearly a decade, and I’m just proud to see it come to fruition and for it to finally receive the level of investment it deserves.”
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As part of a network of progressive organisations working in the state, Fair Fight registered 800,000 people to vote for the first time in their lives.
As election day approached, no-one was sure whether those voters would send in their mail-in ballots or show up to wait for hours in line at polling stations.
No Democrat since southerner Bill Clinton had managed to win Georgia. Donald Trump took the state by 211,141 votes in 2016.
Today, Joe Biden is leading the count by 10,353 votes.
As Joe Biden pulled ahead over several days, Democrats heralded Stacey Abrams on social media as key to his presidential victory.
“Either way this goes in Georgia, we owe Stacey Abrams our greatest gratitude and respect,” former UN ambassador and national security adviser Susan Rice tweeted.
“Rarely does one person deserve such disproportionate credit for major progress and change.”
Now she’s setting her sights on the balance of power in the Senate
While she may be enjoying her new status as the ‘most valuable player’ of the Democratic Party, Stacey Abrams has no plans to slow down.
Both of Georgia’s seats in the US Senate are still up for grabs, after no candidate in either race received a majority of the vote. Run-offs will be held on January 5, 2021.
Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock face uphill battles against Republicans Kelly Loeffler and Doug Collins. But Stacey Abrams says they will have her support and fundraising skills.
“I want to push back against this anachronistic notion that we can’t win in Georgia,” she said on CNN.
“We will have the investment and resources that have never followed a run-off in Georgia for Democrats.”
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The election will likely decide whether Democrats can win enough seats to gain control of the Senate.
Republicans are currently on course to win 50 seats in the 100-seat chamber, while Democrats have 48.
If both parties walk away from this election with 50 seats each, vice-president-elect Kamala Harris would have the deciding vote.
Stacey Abrams says she will support the two Democrats facing run-offs for Georgia’s two US Senate seats in January.(Reuters: Leah Millis)
The Democrats will face fierce opposition to win the Georgia run-offs. Republicans hope they can control the Senate, giving them power to block Joe Biden’s legislative agenda.
“I cannot overstate how important to the country both those seats are,” Republican senator Ted Cruz said on Fox News.
“If you want a check on Joe Biden, if you don’t want to go over the edge to the socialist abyss, Georgia is the big enchilada.”
Vice-president-elect Kamala Harris is breaking new ground on multiple fronts.