After Perdue tells Abrams to ‘go back where she came from,’ she says Republicans just ‘deflect’

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(ATLANTA) — Stacy Abrams, a Black Democrat running for Georgia governor, declined on Tuesday to directly comment on Republican David Perdue saying she should “go back to where she came from.”

“No, not at all,” Abrams, said at a news conference in Atlanta, when asked by ABC News whether she wanted to respond to what was widely labeled as racist remarks from Perdue on Monday night while giving a campaign speech in which he also charged she was “demeaning her own race.”

“I will say this,” Abrams told ABC News at Tuesday’s press conference. “I have listened to Republicans for the last six months attack me. But they’ve done nothing to attack the challenges facing Georgia. They’ve done nothing to articulate their plans for the future of Georgia. Their response to a comment on their record is to deflect and to pretend that they’ve done good for the people of Georgia.”

Perdue, running to get the GOP nomination for Georgia governor, seized on Abram’s comments last week that Georgia was “worst state in the country to live,” citing residents’ disparities in mental health and maternal mortality, among other issues.

“She ain’t from here. Let her go back to where she came from,” Perdue, a former senator challenging Gov. Brian Kemp for their party’s nomination, said at a campaign event in the Atlanta suburbs on Monday night. “She doesn’t like it here.”

Abrams grew up in Mississippi but has deep ties to Georgia, a state she moved to during high school and where she previously served as the House minority leader. She said last week that “when you’re No. 48 for mental health, when you’re No. 1 for maternal mortality, when you have an incarceration rate that’s on the rise and wages that are on the decline, then you are not the No. 1 place to live.”

Perdue’s dismissal that she “go back” somewhere else echoes comments by his party’s standard-bearer, former President Donald Trump, who notoriously told four progressive, non-white lawmakers in 2019 to “go back” to the “broken and crime infested places from which they came.” The lawmakers Trump targeted are all U.S. citizens and his tweet sparked a firestorm of criticism. (Perdue’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment from ABC News on Tuesday about the fallout of his attack on Abrams.)

While Abrams did not address Perdue directly at Tuesday morning’s press conference, she conceded that what she said last week about Georgia’s problems was “inelegant.” Still, she reiterated her larger point about what she called the many health and social challenges Georgians, especially voters, face.

“I had an inelegant delivery of the statement that I was making, and that is that Brian Kemp is a failed governor and doesn’t care about the people of Georgia,” she said. “Look at his record. Look at the results under his four years of leadership.” Kemp, for his part, has continued to assail Abrams as an out-of-step leftist while touting how he addressed COVID-19 and more.

Perdue on Monday also criticized comments Abrams made during her 2018 campaign for governor when she said she wanted to diversify the state’s economy beyond agriculture and hospitality.

But Perdue responded to her comments by claiming Abrams had “told Black farmers, ‘You don’t need to be on the farm,’ and she told Black workers in hospitality and all this, ‘You don’t need to be.'”

“She is demeaning her own race when it comes to that. I am really over this,” Perdue said. “She should never be considered material for governor of any state, much less our state where she hates to live.”

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Abrams actually said in 2018: “I want to create a lot of different jobs. Because people shouldn’t have to go into agriculture or hospitality in Georgia to make a living in Georgia. Why not create renewable energy jobs? Because, I’m going to tell y’all a secret: Climate change is real.” (Even then, she was dinged by the GOP as “brash and condescending,” with her aides at the time calling the criticism “absurdly misleading.”)

Perdue, who has been endorsed by Trump, is hoping to overtake what polls show is a significant deficit behind Kemp in order to win the Republican nomination and face Abrams in November.

Abrams, the only major Democrat running for her party’s nomination, is preparing for a rematch with Kemp, whom she ran against in 2018 — losing by a very narrow margin that she claimed was influenced by tactics that suppressed the vote. The GOP has repeatedly highlighted Abrams’ criticism of the election she lost, saying it is hypocritical given how Democrats have renounced Trump’s election lies.

“In 2018, voters across the state were denied access to the right to vote,” Abrams said Tuesday. “They were denied the ability to register and stay on the rolls. They were denied the ability to cast the ballot and the ability to have that ballot counted In 2018.”

Even in the face of high voter turnout, she said, “We know that … has nothing to do with suppression. Suppression is about whether or not you make it difficult for voters to access the ballot.”

ABC News’ Miles Cohen, MaryAlice Parks, Brittany Shepherd and Briana Stewart contributed to this report.

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