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Tuesday June 2nd, 2020 7:32PM

Stacey Abrams endorses candidates in 7 US Senate contests

By The Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Alongside discussions of her own national political ambitions, former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams is wading into elections outside her home state, endorsing the campaigns of seven Democrats vying for U.S. Senate seats.

On Thursday, Abrams announced that she was backing Democratic candidates in Arizona, Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina.

In statements provided ahead of her official endorsement, Abrams called Jaime Harrison, the associate chair of the Democratic National Committee who is seeking to block Sen. Lindsey Graham from a fourth term, “a strong leader for the people of South Carolina” who “will work hard to address inequalities" such as in rural health care and infrastructure.

For Arizona, Abrams said former astronaut Mark Kelly “has a proven record of service to our country.” John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor and 2020 presidential candidate, “is the one to help us cross the finish line” for a Democratic Senate majority, Abrams said. Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon “will fight for expanded access to quality affordable health care” if elected to the Senate in place of Republican Sen. Susan Collins.

Mike Espy, a former Mississippi congressman and U.S. agriculture secretary, “is ready to lead on Day One,” Abrams said, while former state Sen. Cal Cunningham is Democrats' best choice to succeed in North Carolina, “a must-win state for the U.S. Senate in 2020.”

Barbara Bollier, a Kansas physician and state senator who switched from the GOP in 2018, is “uniquely qualified to help address the disparities dividing America,” including on affordable health care, said Abrams, who is planning to hold virtual campaign events for each of the candidates getting her backing.

Abrams, a 46-year-old lawyer and former state lawmaker who narrowly missed becoming the first black female governor in U.S. history, has emerged as a leading voting rights advocate and a frequently mentioned prospect for Joe Biden’s running mate.

Since her 2018 loss to now-Gov. Brian Kemp, Abrams has become an advocate for fair elections. Last year, she launched Fair Fight 2020, a multistate initiative geared toward the advocacy of voter rights.

Abrams previously endorsed another Senate candidate — the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who is challenging Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in Georgia — but the seven candidates announced Thursday are the first hopefuls she's backing in a state other than her own.

Biden has said he would select a woman as his running mate and would choose a black woman for his first nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court. Abrams told The Associated Press this month that she “would put my resume against anyone else’s” for the vice president slot but that she has “no interest” in a judicial position.

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Meg Kinnard can be reached at https://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.

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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”

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