Though the Atlanta mayor’s race has sucked much of the electoral oxygen out of the room for the last few months, there were many other races on the ballot yesterday. All told, there were 400 seats up for grabs – most municipal, though a few for the Georgia Legislature. Going into yesterday, five of those eight legislative seats were held by Republicans. As of the beginning of the 2018 legislative sessions, only two of those seats will be.
Thanks to an unexpected surge of African American and progressive voters in the Athens area House districts 117 and 119 were won yesterday by Deborah Gonzalez and Jonathan Wallace, respectively. Senate district 6 will go to a runoff, but in perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, both candidates will be Democrats – Jen Jordan and Jaha Howard.
HD 117 had not seen a Democratic challenger since the districts were redrawn following the 2010 census. Neither had HD 119. Yet those two seats broke for Democrats, showing the Democratic Party that if they compete, they can win. SD 6 has long been considered one of the bluest, GOP-controlled districts in the state, with Jaha Howard coming perilously close to unseating Hunter Hill in the 2016 election. With this election, however, it is clear that there is a fresh appetite for Democratic representation in the district.
Democrats have a strong message on economic equality, civil rights, transportation, and common-sense legislation that is based on good policy rather than petty politics. President Donald Trump may have played a role here as well – he has redefined what it means to be a Republican, largely due to Republican silence on his most controversial opinions and erratic behavior. Between the health care debacle and the debt-exploding, corporate handout that is the GOP tax plan, the Republican brand has become all but incompatible with ideas of good governance. Unlike with economics, that sort of impression will trickle down.
The lesson here is simple – if Democrats run good candidates with good messages, they can win. This is about more than opposition to Trump, it is about offering a smart alternative to those who would happily hand the keys to this country over to the wealthiest among us. Georgia may be the best state to do business, but more families than not are still waiting to feel the effects of that.
As more Democrats are elected to the legislature, this state may finally start to see progress on minimum wage, voting reforms, and LGBTQIA equality, to name a few. Yesterday was a great start, but that is not nearly enough. Democrats must be active in every county, every district, and every race if they hope to ever take back the legislature.
We can win. We will win. We just have to fight.