The White House tried to downplay reports that progressive voting rights advocate and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams would not be in attendance at President Joe Biden’s speech addressing voting rights in Georgia.
“I spoke to Stacey this morning. We have a great relationship. We got our scheduling mixed up,” Biden told reporters on the White House lawn Tuesday, shortly before departing for Georgia. “We’re all on the same page.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden “had a warm conversation” with Abrams shortly before he left.
“He saw it as a continuation of the conversation they’ve had for the last several years about their shared commitment to protecting the right to vote, to protecting democracy in this country,” Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One, reports The Hill. “And they agreed that it’s important to continue to fight for this and continue moving forward.”
Abrams said Tuesday that a scheduling conflict prevented her from attending Biden’s speeches on voting rights, which has been Abrams’s signature issue since she rose to national prominence in the 2018 Georgia governor’s race. The Daily Wire reported:
“Abrams welcomed today’s visit from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on social media, but she won’t be with them when they speak in Atlanta today. The Democratic candidate for governor cited a scheduling conflict for not being there,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. “Several voting rights groups also won’t attend, after saying separately they’ll boycott the Biden-Harris trip promoting voting rights in Atlanta on Tuesday.”
Despite not attending the event, Abrams put out a tweet welcoming Biden, writing: “The fight for voting rights takes persistence. As MLK exhorted, ‘The clock of destiny is ticking out. We must act now before it is too late.’”
“Thank you, @POTUS, for refusing to relent until the work is finished,” she added. “Welcome back to Georgia where we get good done…”
“However, some major voting rights groups have expressed opposition to Biden’s visit and are making a point of not attending the event. They are even calling for the president to remain in Washington, D.C., unless he has a plan to reform the Senate filibuster in order to pass voting rights legislation,” Newsweek reported. “Among the groups planning to skip the event are the Asian American Advocacy Fund, Black Voters Matter, GALEO Impact Fund Inc. and New Georgia Project Action Fund.”
“We don’t need even more photo ops,” Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, told CNN this week. “We need action, and that action is in the form of the John Lewis Voting Rights [Advancement] Act as well as the Freedom to Vote Act, and we need that immediately.”
Despite the boycotts of the speech by local voting rights groups, Biden is expected to be joined by civil rights advocates Martin Luther King III, son of the late civil rights champion Martin Luther King, Jr., and his wife Arndrea Waters King.
However, Politico reported Tuesday that the King family described it as a “difficult decision” to attend because of the frustration they shared with the groups boycotting. “We certainly understand the frustration of our local partners here in Georgia,” Arndrea Waters King told MSNBC, according to Politico. “It’s been a long year of a lot of things not being done, and we stand and we share that frustration.”