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Athens residents watch the State of the Union Address at Hendershot's Coffee Bar on Feb. 5, 2019 in Athens, Georgia. The event was organized by Fair Fight, an organization championed by Stacey Abrams for its work in advocating for voter rights. (photo/Julian Alexander)

After a tight election last year, Stacey Abrams’ ideas expressed during her 2018 gubernatorial campaign were effective enough to convince one couple that Georgia might be the place for them. 

Steve and Karie Houle of Fountain Hills, Arizona, visited Athens and are considering moving to Georgia after hearing of Abrams’ vision for the state.

The Houles attended the #AbramsAddress watch party hosted by Fair Fight Action — an organization backed by Abrams herself that supports fair voting legislation — during their stay in Athens.

While Stacey Abrams made history as the first black female to give the official Democratic response to the State of the Union address, Athenians, UGA students and employees gathered around a screen at Hendershot’s Coffee Tuesday to view both Trump’s and Abrams’ speeches.

After a delay on the speech due to the federal government shutdown — and what many have called a scathing back and forth between the president and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — Trump delivered the SOTU address at 9 p.m., followed by Abrams’ response immediately afterward.

Boos erupted from the attendees several times throughout Trump’s address, especially when he broached the topics of illegal immigration and border wall funding, while claps and cheers were heard throughout Hendershot’s when Abrams said, “The shutdown was a stunt.”

Lizzie Saltz, an employee at the Sustainable Forestry Initiative at the University of Georgia, saw Abrams during her visits to both Hendershot’s and 40 Watt Club during her campaign in 2018.

“She was on fire tonight,” Saltz said. “I liked her brief synopsis of her background and the hope that it represents in terms of American mobility.”

Several attendees did not trust the claims made by Trump during his address.

Karie Houle lives approximately three hours from the U.S.-Mexican border and rejected Trump’s message about the impact of drug cartels, saying it is not reality.

Rebecca Ommedal, a dance instructor in Athens, disagreed with Trump’s remarks on the morals of the Mueller investigation, viewing his comments as a way to escape accountability.

Syd Cohen, a political science and psychology double major from Dunwoody, agreed with Abrams’ sentiments of the need to unite as a nation.

“We need to come together and actually work on our problems and solve them,” Cohen said. “Not just shut down the government whenever we come to a crossroads because that’s not going to solve anything for anyone, Democrat or Republican.”

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