November 7, 2020 – As this year’s General Election wraps up, one issue for Georgia’s Democratic Party remains:  there were no opposing candidates certified and supported by the party in 41 of Georgia’s 164 House District races, nor in 14 of 56 of Georgia's Senate Districts,  predominately in the same counties.

That means there is little “down ballot” Democratic party structure in those often rural counties that a Democratic running at the state or federal level can tap into to get their signs up, hold events, and get Democrats to the polls on election day to help everyone on the ticket. 

And that lack of party structure makes it oh so difficult for the party to elect a Stacy Abrams as Governor, or a Jon Ossoff as a U.S. Senator to defeat Sen. David Perdue. They come close, but that only matters in horseshoes and hand grenades, as they say. 

Stacy Abrams' organization has worked tirelessly to raise money, register voters and get them to the polls, but she can't do it alone.

So, how do Georgia Democrats change this? Because the work starts now to impact the 2022 races, a political cycle where candidates will also be dealing with redistricting, post Census.

It starts with candidate recruitment by the state party in those rural Georgia counties, followed by a clear commitment for seed money, training and continued support. Georgia needs a Michael Bloomberg right now, someone with a very large checkbook, to fight for votes outside of the state's metro areas. At the local level $50,000 in seed money would have an enormous impact.  We're not talking billions that is needed. 

In most of our metro counties, the turnout ran over 70%. But, Georgia Democrats have to look outside the Beltway to win statewide races, and take back the General Assembly. 

The challenge for Democrats is augmented by the lack of political consulting professionals – outside of Atlanta - who know how to operate small county campaigns, people who understand how to coach candidates and have a rolodex of contributors that become the base of a local fundraiser.  There is almost no one, even in Chatham County, that a Democrat can turn to who knows how to handle media buys, direct mail programs, voter registration, social media marketing, absentee ballot strategies, and get-out-the-vote efforts ... the fundamentals that every candidate needs.

Recruitment is a serious problem because the current Georgia Democratic Party is weak beyond Atlanta, Savannah, Athens, Augusta, Macon, Columbus, Albany and Brunswick … weak, as in almost non-existent in many of Georgia’s rural counties. 

The Chatham County Democratic Party (CCDC) is weak, as well, “and doesn’t get along with Atlanta,” as one senior Chatham Democratic will tell you, though they have improved candidate development. Turnout was only about 66% (final numbers not yet available.) 

There are Black voters in all of those rural Georgia counties who would vote predominantly Democratic, and there are plenty of transplanted white Democrats moving into more rural counties who are running manufacturing plants, local businesses and companies that have moved operations into Georgia as our state attracts industry from around the U.S. and the world. 

And there are ‘Yellow Dog Democrats" out there that the party needs to bring home, Georgia’s more moderate Democratic Party traditionalist.

For you Yankees, a ‘Yellow Dog Democrat" is a political term applied to voters in the South who voted solely for candidates who represented the Democratic Party. Those voters and candidates would allegedly “vote for a yellow dog before they’d vote for a Republican,” it is said.  Remember that Gov. Sonny Perdue (2003 to 2011), a good ole Georgia boy from rural, Middle Georgia was a Democratic State Senator before he switched over to the Republican Party in 1998 to prepare for a statewide run.   Same with Gov. Nathan Deal … a Democrat before he switched to the GOP in 1995.  Both were in the Georgia General Assembly, and it wasn’t much fun being in the minority party there after the Republicans won the Georgia House in 1995. 

But, it isn’t about just choosing a party by name. It's also about beliefs.

The demographics of Georgia have changed, as has the needs of many of Georgia's potential Democratic voters. 

The failure to expand Medicare in Georgia has hurt hundreds of thousands, as well as seriously impacted the financial stability of our rural community hospitals.

Then, there’s the lack of sufficient investment and a more progressive approach to public education in our state that continues to hold back Georgia’s workforce, and therefore, the opportunity to rise out of poverty.  Adult illiteracy continues to plague generations in our state – don’t get me started on the lack of community-based programs to address that need – due to the failure of the public schools, particularly when it comes to people of color.  A HUGE percentage of those in prisons in our state are functionally illiterate.  Just ask State Sen. Lester Jackson who provides dental services in many prisons from Chatham to Clayton counties. 

At least 41 Democrats on the ballot in 41 Georgia House races would help to get people involved in politics in their local county, help to register and pull out 2,000 to 3,000 more voters in each of those counties, and start to create party structure.  That’s the number that Abrams will need to insure she wins the race for Governor in a few years, or that Jon Ossoff needed this week.  He’s currently running 93,000 votes behind Sen. Perdue out of 4,931,683 votes counted so far.  They’re still counting, and he’s still closing, but he will be forced into an unnecessary runoff.

Someone needs to invite Michael Bloomberg down to Georgia for a meeting, and share the vision.

Because the nation is looking at Georgia now to flip two U.S Senate seats. 

Editor's Note: Lou Phelps is publisher and owner of Coastal Empire News, publisher of The Savannah Business Journal.

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