In an unusual move and a nod to the changing face of the Democratic party, former Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams will deliver the party’s response to the State of the Union address, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday.
“Three weeks ago I called Stacey Abrams and asked her to deliver a response to the state of the union,” he said.
Abrams confirmed the news on Tuesday afternoon.
“At a moment when our nation needs to hear from leaders who can unite for a common purpose, I am honored to be delivering the Democratic State of the Union response,” she tweeted.
The decision to ask Abrams, who doesn’t currently hold office but made history as the first black woman to be a major party nominee for a gubernatorial race last year, is a break from the standard practice of asking a longstanding member of U.S. Congress to deliver the party’s response.
“She is just a great spokesperson,” Schumer said Tuesday. “She’s an incredible leader. She has led the charge for voting rights, which is at the root of just about everything else.”
The news was first reported earlier in the day by MSNBC’s Chris Hayes.
In an election plagued by reports of voter suppression in November, Abrams narrowly lost the Georgia gubernatorial race to Republican opponent Brian Kemp. She said last month that she plans to run for political office again. Despite her loss, she emerged as one of the many female minority trailblazers shaking up the party.
Fair Fight Georgia, a voting rights organization Abrams founded after the election, has filed a federal lawsuit against Georgia election officials, alleging that they mismanaged the 2018 election. She is awaiting a response from them due by the end of this month.
Trump is scheduled to deliver the State of the Union address next Tuesday at the request of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who battled with the president over an appropriate date in light of the partial government shutdown.
This story has been updated with more details about and statements from the speakers.