VALDOSTA, Ga. — In her bid to become the nation’s first black female governor, Democrat Stacey Abrams told a heavily Republican south Georgia  she plans to impact all Georgians — not just more progressive Atlanta — if she becomes the next governor.

Abrams is the Democratic candidate running against the GOP’s Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp for governor. She visited Valdosta State University Powell Hall Thursday to discuss improvements for small business and industry in south Georgia.

“I intend to spend a lot of time down here,” Abrams said. “It’s important for us to recognize not only how large the state is physically but how diverse it is. That means paying attention to south Georgia.”

Speaking to a crowd of more than 100 students, faculty and Valdosta residents, Abrams said bringing businesses to South Georgia — particularly in the health-care sector — means Medicaid must be expanded.

She said Medicaid expansion would prevent rural hospitals from closing and bring doctors to those same communities.

“It’s important to strengthen our health-care system if we really want industry to return to South Georgia,” Abrams said. “That means expansion of Medicaid as an economic driver and drawing those big companies back here.”

Investment in small businesses is just as important as bringing big business to Georgia, Abrams said.

The candidate, who served as minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives from 2011-17, proposed a $10 million small business financing fund to do just that.

“We also have to build a thriving and diverse economy not just in Atlanta but for all 159 counties in the state of Georgia,” Abrams said. “That means investing in our small businesses.”

Particularly important to Valdosta, Abrams said, is taking care of military veterans.

She said she is the only candidate with a comprehensive plan to help and improve the lives of military veterans, especially when it comes to the transition period.

“We have to continue to make certain that our military veterans who are retiring from the military — especially in areas like Valdosta — that they have the ability to transition from service to school or career,” Abrams said.

Abrams said this will not be her last time coming through south Georgia. If she becomes governor, she said she plans to meet with regional chambers of commerce, community organizations and schools.

Election Day is Nov. 6. 

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Georgia Dem focuses on Medicaid expansion, job creation