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Former Georgia House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams speaks Nov. 15 at the National Press Club in Washington. Associated Press/Michael A. McCoy

Stacey Abrams, the Georgia state legislator who became the first black woman to win a major party gubernatorial nomination in U.S. history, will speak at the University of New England’s Portland campus Jan. 22 at noon.

Abrams, a Democrat, lost the 2018 Georgia governor’s race to Republican Brian Kemp in a contest she has described as illegitimate. Kemp, who was secretary of state while campaigning for governor, had overseen the implementation of some of the country’s strictest voting laws and a purge of 670,000 voter registrations in 2017. His margin of victory was fewer than 55,000 votes, leading Abrams to declare the result tainted.

“I legally acknowledge that Brian Kemp secured a sufficient number of votes under our existing system to become the governor of Georgia,” Abrams told the New York Times Magazine last year. “I do not concede that the process was proper, nor do I condone that process.”

Abrams, a lawyer and successful romance novelist, is considered a rising star in the Democratic Party for running competitively in a Deep Southern state, and she considered running for U.S. Senate this cycle. In February 2019, she became first African-American woman to deliver an official response to a presidential State of the Union address.

Abrams will speak at Innovation Hall, 716 Stevens Ave., on UNE’s Portland campus. The speech is free and open to the public, with seating available on a first-come, first-serve basis. She will be joined by Theodore R. Johnson of the Brennan Center for Justice, who studies race and elections.

Her appearance is part of UNE’s annual MLK Jr. Celebration, held in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King’s May 1964 visit to St. Francis College, UNE’s precursor.

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