If Joseph R. Biden Jr. manages to hold his slim lead in Georgia, he has one person to thank above all others, according to many Democrats and local officials: Stacey Abrams.
Ms. Abrams, a former minority leader of the Georgia House, has spent nearly a decade reconstituting the multiracial coalition for voting rights that sparked the 1960s civil rights movement and pushing a state once dominated by white conservatives into a more diverse era.
More than that, Ms. Abrams, who was briefly considered as a possible running mate by Mr. Biden, is increasingly seen as the new torchbearer of the movement embodied by two iconic Georgians: Martin Luther King Jr. and Representative John Lewis. Mr. Biden’s surge cemented that.
“This American citizen would love to thank you from the bottom of her heart!!” the actress Viola Davis wrote to Ms. Abrams on Twitter Friday.
After Ms. Abrams sent out a tweet thanking voting rights activists in Georgia, Hillary Clinton replied, “And THANK YOU, Stacey. Thank you.”
“What time is the Stacey Abrams parade?” wrote Lisa Lucas, a publishing executive, reflecting the views of Black political and business leaders who believe Ms. Abrams deserves much of the credit for record-breaking turnout in communities of color around the country.
Seven years ago, when she was still in the state legislature, Ms. Abrams founded the New Georgia Project, a nonprofit that registered about 100,000 new voters, then went on to create Fair Fight, an organization geared at fighting voter suppression.
In 2018, Ms. Abrams became the first Black woman to win the Democratic nomination for governor and lost in a tight race to the Republican Brian Kemp, amid allegations that Republicans had taken steps to suppress the Black vote by purging voter rolls.
After falling 55,000 votes short, Ms. Abrams told Vogue, “I sat shiva for 10 days. Then I started plotting” — a joking reference to Jewish period of mourning.
Since her loss, Ms. Abrams, who is a lawyer, has helped register an estimated 800,000 new voters and fought “exact match” rules used to disqualify ballots for typos and minor errors. Ms. Abrams was hardly alone in this effort, joining a coalition that included voting rights groups like ProGeorgia, the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda and the New Georgia Project.
But Ms. Abrams, a powerful public speaker, became the face of that effort.
Some of President Trump’s supporters, led by the Fox News contributor Byron York, have criticized Ms. Abrams for her refusal to formally concede the 2018 election, arguing that her behavior created a precedent for Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept the 2020 results.
“In light of Biden pull-ahead in Georgia, much Democratic praise for Stacey Abrams. Indeed, her conduct in 2018 governor’s race could become model for Trump postelection stance,” he wrote.
But there are critical differences. Ms. Abrams never conceded, but gave a speech announcing the end of her campaign, then moved on — concluding, ‘‘Democracy failed Georgians.’’