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Red to Blue

Georgia Secretary of State candidate John Barrow

Senate Contests Finished, 2020 Election Underway in Georgia

Happy New Year, political activists. Yes, as I explain below, it’s 2020 now, functionally, so HNYx2 cuz 2019 is folded by politicos into the next even year.

For practical purposes, 2018 ended after Stacey Abrams and Sen. Nelson conceded, realizing recounts weren’t going to save them. However, important 2018 loose ends need to be dealt with in the next couple weeks that are all about 2020, despite their calendar date.

For practical purposes, 2018 ended after Stacey Abrams and Sen. Nelson conceded. However, important 2018 loose ends need to be dealt with in the next couple weeks that are all about 2020, despite their calendar date.

As attention turns to Thanksgiving turkey (or Indigenous People’s Day tofurkey) leftovers, there are 2018 election leftovers too, thanks largely to the peculiarities of the South’s political processes. It’s all about the run-off, a system where no one wins without a 50 percent majority, something instituted largely after Reconstruction to protect against minority rule should the (white) majority not have formed any consensus, explains Cal Jillson, a professor at Southern Methodist University. Mississippi and Georgia are among seven former slave states—in a belt from South Carolina to Texas—using runoffs this way.

The run-off you may have heard about—in Mississippi for a short US Senate term—is getting some media attention even though the outcome isn’t much in doubt. The other run-off, in Georgia for Secretary of State, is a dead heat, and it is really the first battle of 2020, a fight of yuuuge importance for America’s future, despite the low profile and lesser status of the office sought.

Why does it matter who’ll be Georgia’s Secretary of State? You may have heard about the close governorship race there, in which the last Secretary, Brian Kemp, promoted himself into the Governor’s chair by trimming the electorate of undesirable voters (largely minorities) through devious and underhanded Republican voter suppression tactics, purging voter rolls on spurious grounds, cutting voting hours, eliminating voting sites in minority neighborhoods. Through this “ethnic cleansing” in his role as Secretary of State, he developed the margin of his very tainted 50.3 percent "victory."

So will it be a Republican continuing Brian Kemp's sneaky disenfranchisement schemes? Or will it be a Democrat dedicated to making every vote count and opening the ballot boxes to everyone eligible? We don't know, because the contenders, the GOP's Brad Raffensperger and Democratic ex-Congressman John Barrow, each got about 49 percent November 6, so under Georgia law they meet again in a December 4th showdown.

But even if it’s a mockery of democracy in Georgia, a state that has been red since 1992, what difference does it make to us in the other 49 states? If we look more deeply into the mixed bag of this year’s results, Georgia looks more and more like a key 2020 swing state. The Blue Wave that gave Democrats back the House should probably have been called Blue Tide—it was strong on the coastal areas, sweeping away numerous New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia House members, and on the opposite coast six Californians. Truth be told—gains in these blue states (Pennsylvania a paler blue) are no threat at all to a Trump win in two years.

When we look at perennial battlegrounds inland like Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa, the Wave has dwindled to a ripple. No House seats were flipped in the first two states, and while Iowa yielded two flips, it re-elected a Republican governor (as did Ohio) and its state legislature remained firmly in GOP hands. The defeat of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was a welcome and overdue bright spot, but a very narrow victory giving no confidence that the cheese-eaters will be in the blue camp come 2020. In the other perennial swing state of Florida, we had great candidates, but came up sadly short–a scary portent for 2020.

Mike Espy

Mike Espy

Make no mistake—with Ohio trending red and Florida and Wisconsin very divided and ambivalent—Georgia could determine the outcome in 2020and decide whether the country (and the planet) will endure four more years of Trump trauma.

As the close outcome of the Governor's race clearly shows, Georgia is purpling quickly. Further evidence is obvious in the flipping of a suburban Atlanta district that was once the domain of notorious demagogue and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, which will now be represented by an African-American woman and gun control advocate, and a second suburban district in recount territory with the Republican leading by under 500 votes.

Trump can be beaten in Georgia in 2020 if we can stop voter suppression. AND WE CAN STOP THAT DECEMBER 4.

A Georgia Secretary of State continuing Kemp's voter suppression schemes can keep the Peach State red, or at least pink enough for a slim Trump win. That's why it's vital that this obscure office be filled by a Democrat devoted to a broad and open voting process.

To help end ethnic cleansing of Georgia’s voter rolls and let the Peach State ripen into greater purple-ness, sign on here:

Why can we expect gains in Georgia while being skeptical about progress in Mississippi? The two former cotton states are in the same latitude, why a different attitude? Sarah Palin would understand–the McCain campaign said it was strong in the “real Virginia,” a comment mocked but still meaningful, implying the land of born-and-bred Virginians (as opposed to DC suburbs occupied by Latino/Asian/Yankee immigrants). Virginia is now blue in large part because its people aren’t so culturally Virginian any more. The state’s population is split 50-50 between those born in-state and out-of-state.

And demographics are de-Dixiefying Georgia too. Georgia natives have slipped to 55 percent of the state population, lower in the Atlanta area, especially in the upper-income suburbs, where they may be outnumbered two-to-one by Yankees and other “furriners.”

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Mississippi, on the other hand, is no magnet for immigrants, foreign or domestic, and its proportion of the home-grown is among the country’s highest–72 percent born in-state. This strengthens traditions of all kinds, reinforcing The Way We Do Things ‘Round Here. Preserving the Delta Blues is all good, traditional thinking on politics not so much. (See “Thank God for Mississippi”)

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Contrary to urgent email missives and fund-raising appeals from the DSCC (Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee) and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, the Senate elections are a wrap.

The DSCC is trying to tell us there’s still a round to go—in Mississippi, of all places. In terms of process, technically correct–there is indeed a run-off for a two-year term on Novembeer 27 between the Democrat, ex-Congressman and Clinton Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy (the state’s first black congressman since Reconstruction ended) and the recently appointed Republican incumbent, Cindy Hyde-Smith.

But in terms of outcome, the matter is settled; Democrats have not elected a senator in the Magnolia State since the octogenarian segregationist John Stennis took his last lap in 1982, and this year’s numbers are not encouraging. In the other Mississippi senatorial battle, on November 6, Roger Wicker was re-elected to a full term, besting his Dem opponent 59-39 (remnants to a Libertarian).

In the yet-unsettled race, both the survivors of round one got about 41 percent (Espy less than 1 percent behind). So this must be a close contest? Not really—the remaining vote was 16-plus percent for a neo-Confederate Republican, one-and-a-half percent for an obscure Democrat.

Third-place finisher Chris McDaniel, a state legislator and talk show host, boosts the Confederate flag as a “symbol of Southern pride,” and worked it into his campaign material design. He believes sexual assault allegations are bogus “99 percent of the time” and introduced “Second Amendment Preservation” legislation. Asked what his message to African-American voters was, he began: “After 100 years of begging for federal government scraps…” before being booed down. The one-sixth of Mississippi that backed McDaniel November 6 seem unlikely to discover an affinity for an African-American contender three weeks later.

Despite the dismal prospects that November 6 statistics suggest, the past two weeks have created some simulation of a real contest, as would-be 2020 presidential contenders Joe Biden, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris have dropped in for cameo roles in this kabuki-in-the-kudzu production. And as mentioned, Elizabeth Warren is pressing for donations online, though not as yet swinging through.

While we shouldn’t expect to win this year, it’s always useful to get the vote out, make Republicans spend their campaign cash and build for the future, reaching out to younger voters open to post-Dixie ideas. Those wanting to help Progressive Democrats of America’s phone banking can sign up here.

The DSCC itself, which, out of the millions in its coffers, had given Espy a grand total of $10,000 before November 6, is now passing the collection plate with the pitch that we won in (next-door) Alabama, we can do it here! Why not??

The reference to Roy Moore’s defeat in Alabama, in what became a virtual referendum on pedophile tendencies, raises some good questions. Maybe the DSCC has similar cards they are waiting to play. For a thought experiment about Cindy Hyde-Smith and teen boy-toys – and other aspects of the Mississippi-Alabama equation, see “Thank God for Mississippi”.

You can show some love for Mississippi this weekend on the phone --- or at least the opposite for the white elitists in the Mississippi Republican gang. But don’t lose the chance to boast that you were here for the first battle of 2020.

A secure path to the Presidency in two years demands a broader battleground. Yes, the 2020 race may depend on a newly purple Peach State.

Electing a Democrat devoted to an honest open election process as Secretary of State in Atlanta is vital—especially because we can’t rely on the courts to protect the process as Trump packs them with right-wing apparatchiks

That's why we need to support John Barrow in the December 4 runoff,

It's an insurance payment toward 2020, enlarging the battlefield to make sure the Blue Wave doesn't fall short.

Georgia needs democracy that works, for voters of all colors! And Democrats need Georgia!

John Seeley