Georgia Senate runoff: Campaigning hits fever pitch in final days


ATLANTA – Republican Herschel Walker – known largely for his star football career with the University of Georgia Bulldogs – took a picture with fans near Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Down a street full of signs reminding people of Election Day, the “Dawgs for Warnock” booth gave out pins for Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and urged people to commit to voting.

Both campaigns are taking advantage of Saturday’s Southeastern Conference championship game between Georgia and the Louisiana State University Tigers to appeal to voters before the Senate recess on Tuesday.

And in an ad broadcast to millions of people watching Saturday night’s Southeast Championship game, Walker’s former football coach praised his “drive” and work ethic — while Democrats showed disbelieving voters footage of Walker’s musings on the campaign trail, including comparisons to vampires. and werewolves.

The viral comments were a tipping point for Scott Hay, 55, who said he had cast a ballot for Walker in November but had come to regret it, after learning more about the GOP candidate, including allegations from his past. He will vote for Warnock on Tuesday.

“I’m a Republican and I’ve never voted for anything but a Republican, and I can’t vote for Herschel Walker,” Hay said while waiting outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Supporting Walker earlier this fall, Hay said, “I thought… I’m a Georgia fan. How bad can he be? Because I don’t like Warnock at all. But he’s a bit bad.”

The SEC Championship Game – just the latest intersection of sports and politics in Georgia – exemplified the sprint to turn out voters and change some minds in a close race that can cushion the razor-thin majority of Democrats in the Senate. Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, is seeking his full six-year term after winning a runoff to replace a senator who resigned amid health concerns. He finished about 1 percentage point ahead of Walker in the Nov. 8 general election, but fell just short of the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

More than 1.8 million Georgians – just over a quarter of active voters – cast ballots during the early voting period that ended on Friday, the election. said the official. Voters on Friday also devastated the country single day record for early ballots, topping 350,000. With polls still closing, both parties say the race will hinge on turnout and pour resources into door knocking, phone banking and last-minute campaign stops.

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Even with so much advertising and outreach, some Georgians at Saturday’s game were unaware of the runoff, illustrating the challenge of getting people to vote a second time.

“I don’t have time to follow all the news,” said Rico Hutchinson, 39, who said he doesn’t identify with a party and is voting for Donald Trump in 2020 and Warnock in November. He did not realize there was a second election.

Warnock rallied in the Atlanta area and Augusta, Ga., Saturday, highlighting his support from labor groups and holding an evening event aimed at Asian American voters, a fast-growing group that both parties have courted this election cycle. Walker took his bus tour to a parking lot near the championship game, where some of the attendees were thrilled to stumble upon the football legend and shake his hand.

Lisa Renfroe, a 46-year-old dental hygienist, rejected the “smear ads” against Walker and said voters “need to focus on the future.” She had stopped by Walker’s event near the stadium with her husband and sons, one of whom had a “Run Herschel Run” sticker on his arm.

Asked to gauge Republican enthusiasm for the runoffs, Renfroe said only, “We’re praying.”

Republicans continue to vote for Walker as a vote against the Biden administration and hope that the ongoing problems with inflation and crime remain strong motivators. Stumping around the country, Walker has cast Warnock as a reliable voice for the Biden agenda and echoed the general conservative criticism of “wokeness” in schools, sports and government institutions.

Democrats have attacked Walker, a first-time candidate, as unfit to serve in the Senate, extolling gaffes from the campaign trail and highlighting incidents from his past. Several women have accused Walker of domestic violence. Two former girlfriends have alleged that Walker paid for their abortions, although the candidate has advocated expansive restrictions on the procedure. Walker denies their claims. The candidate talked about his mental health struggles and called himself a changed man.

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With the race no longer determining control of the Senate — Democrats secured the 50th seat in November — operatives in both parties say the runoff has focused more on its own candidate.

Democrats believe it’s good news for Warnock, who has tried to frame the contest around personal character and appeal directly to Republicans squeamish about Walker.

“The ingredients that got Democrats going in November are all still there for Democratic-leaning voters in Georgia — at least in a bigger way than for Republicans,” said Molly Murphy, a Democratic pollster who has worked on the race. for outside groups. She pointed to abortion as one of the issues that is still motivating for Democrats; Georgia’s ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy was reinstated last month after a court battle.

Republicans hope that new vocal support from Gov. Brian Kemp (R) will boost Walker, who has no other GOP candidates on the ballot to help turn out voters. Warnock ran ahead of other Democrats on the party ticket in November — Republicans swept another statewide race. And about 200,000 people voted for Kemp but not Walker in the general election, where Kemp defeated Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams by nearly 8 points.

Saturday’s incident highlights Democrats’ focus on Asian American voters, who tend to vote Democratic and whose turnout has declined in recent years. Members of Congress such as progressive caucus chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) joined Asian American community leaders and celebrities such as actor Daniel Dae Kim at the Chinatown Mall in Chamblee, an Atlanta suburb.

One group, the Asian American Advocacy Fund, is trying to knock on more than 70,000 doors and call more than 250,000 Asian American voters, said Nadia Belkin, who leads a national network of Asian American groups that are heavily invested in the midterms. “We know it’s going to take a lot of phone calls and in person to really get out the vote again,” said Belkin, executive director of the left-leaning Asian American Power Network.

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A scramble to ensure a smooth election and a wide fight over access to ballots has determined many runoff elections. A judge on Friday ruled that Cobb County, one of Georgia’s most populous counties, must extend the deadline for receiving some ballots after election workers did not submit the forms within the time frame required by law.

According to the lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of several Cobb residents, Cobb has failed to deliver more than 3,400 absentee ballots to voters who requested them. The county also failed to deliver more than 1,000 absentee ballots in the general election due to administrative errors.

The district blamed both incidents on an inexperienced and overworked staff, although it has been argued that when the lawsuit was brought all the ballots had been mailed but not received due to delays in the postal service due to the Thanksgiving holiday. A county spokeswoman told The Washington Post that mailing ballots in accordance with the law “was not possible due to the Thanksgiving holiday combined with high demand.”

In a statement, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger denounced the judge’s decision, arguing that “changing state law at the request of political activists on election night is a terrible idea.”

On Saturday, the state election board called an emergency session to debate whether to bring its own lawsuit in the case to stop the deadline extension. It was one of the most significant moves debated by the board since its overhaul because of Georgia’s 2021 election law that removed the secretary of state as chair.

After an hour of debate, the state board of elections voted to open an investigation into Cobb County over repeated problems with its elections and oversee the lawsuit as it works its way through the courts.

The video meeting ended abruptly when it was flooded with pornography.


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