What We Don't Know About the Georgia Runoff Elections: LaTosha Brown, Ai-jen Poo, and Rashad Robinson
Many of us plan to keep our eyes on Georgia as the days tick down to two Senate runoff elections in January. As we continue to dive into elections and how various Black communities have and continue to contribute to political change, we're joined by three powerhouses in social justice movements on What We Don't Know: Georgia Panel for Win Both Seats.
Xander Schultz hosts a digital panel with leaders who mobilize Black and brown voters in various ways, from digital outreach and knocking on doors, to engaging and empowering voters, which lead to Biden and Harris's presidential win. The fight continues, but our panel of vigilant leaders, Rashad Robinson, LaTosha Brown, and Ai-jen Poo, remain positive and join us to describe the strategies they are taking and sharing on the road to win the seats.
Whose Seats?, Our Seats!
As we wait for the Trump/Biden battle dust to slowly settle, our focus turns to Georgia and the two senate seats on the line. On Nov 3, Republicans won 50 senate seats, with Democrats at 48. Flipping states has been a theme this election year, and just as we discussed in our look at swing states with Reginald Bolding, 1996 was the last time states like AZ turned red to blue until President-elect Biden's win. The same could go for Georgia, which hasn't elected Democrats to the Senate since '96, but this could change this year.
A brief history of GA runoff elections
I can't tell you how important it is that we flip the United States Senate. There's no state more consequential than Georgia in that fight.” -President-Elect JoesBiden in Atlanta on Oct 27
Winning both seats in Georgia would be like a second win for the Biden administration stepping into the White House, but this hasn't been the case in over 20 years. A Democratic Senate majority would grant Biden the freedom to select cabinet members and make it easier to push through new legislation. The alternative is another four years, with staunch conservative, Mitch McConnel leading the way and making it difficult for Democrats.
Two Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, are challenged by Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
About The Challengers
Ossoff was raised in Georgia and graduated from Georgetown University with a bachelors in
Science and a Masters of Science from the London School of Economics. He became an investigative journalist and CEO of a media company investigating and exposing corruption, organized crimes, and war crimes.
He lost by only 3% in 2017 at 29 years old for GA's 6th district, but his run increased voter turnout. He was endorsed by John Lewis and the Georgia State Legislative Black Caucus, EveryTown For Gun Safety, and Georgia Sierra Club.
Faith leader Reverend Warnock grew up in a large family in Savannah, and he is a graduate from Morehouse College with a P.h.D. His primary goals are to expand healthcare and working wages. Some of his endorsements come from organizations like Planned Parenthood, Democracy For America, and the Congressional Black Caucus as well as high-profiled politicians from Barack Obama to Stacey Abrams.
Perdue and Loeffler are joining forces in campaigning to seem more unified although Loeffler's previously strong loyalties to Trump may affect them both post-loss and Trump's refusal to concede. These two seats are imperative for Democrats to control the Senate and for Georgians progress in general. The two incumbents have a variety of anti-progressive stances.
According to her opponent, Warnock, in response to Loeffler's negative campaign against him, "(Loeffler) Sits down for interviews with known white supremacists, and she gleefully accepts the endorsement of a candidate who traffics in the QAnon conspiracy that is rife with hatred and bigotry." Both Perdue and Loeffler are the wealthiest senators, which may work to their disadvantage during a time of lost jobs due to COVID-19 and rumors of their stock trades taking advantage of the pandemic information with their travel and tourism investments while siding with Trump in downplaying the virus.
What Is a Runoff?
Georgia is only one of 2 states, with Louisiana being the other, with election rules that call for a runoff race when no candidate exceeds 50% of the voter share in either race during the Nov 3rd general election. So, it was essential to revote if a win wasn't overwhelming for one side.
Runoffs are typically a more definitive factor. It's like a do-over with more voters typically participating than the primary. On paper, it sounds like a reasonable rule, but it's rooted in suppression. Runoffs in the south started primarily to combat white democrats that seemed to have a consistent hold on many offices. Originally, the runoff election requirements included literacy tests and taxes that have historically adversely affected African Americans.
Watch This Video for a Quick Q & A About the RunOff
Grassroots To The Seat
This election showed that the Black and brown votes matter with the flipping of many states that consist of highly minority populated cities. We've been talking to many of the leaders of these galvanizing groups, such as Pastor Mike in California and Mondale Robinson, founder of the Black Male Voter project. These forces have joined with other phenomenal groups to keep the momentum going by forming Win Both Seats. This group consists of hardworking activists and organizers, including Stacey Abrams, Rashad Robinson, Pastor Mike, Mondale Robinson, and participants on our 'Win Both Seats' panel, LaTosha Brown and Ai-jen Poo. They have currently raised $100,000.
Meet The Win Both Seats Team
Ai-jen Poo is a labor activist and recipient of the McArthur Genius Award in 2014, has been organizing domestic workers since 1996. She recently reached 2.7 million voters throughout NC, SC, Virginia, AZ, Michigan, Georgia, and Nevada through her National Domestic Workers Alliance. "They (NDWA voters), in many cases, drove us across the margin of victory in those states, and we're really proud.", says Poo. NDWA has worked for workers' labor protections since 2007, providing benefits, community support, and better working conditions.
LaTosha Brown, a 2018 Bridge Jubilee Award and Liberty Bell Award, believes that "The South's got something to say." Her work with her southern-based, co-founded organization, Black Voters Matters, focuses on southern parts of the nation with high Black populations and prioritizes getting people involved in local races. "You can't build a progressive America without dealing with the South." Brown explains, "There's structured racism, structural white male patriarchal racism roots itself in its leadership base in the south." Her goal is to give women voices and encourage leadership through the Southern Black Girls & Women's Consortium.
Rashad Robinson is the president of the racial justice group, Color Of Change. He has been outspoken about the voter obstacles and online crashes that significantly affected Georgia's Black communities, explaining it as "unnecessary confusion and uncertainty in a process that should be anything but." Robinson's work as the COC president has brought people practical engagement to fight back, getting folks involved in the election and focusing on District Attorney elections. "One of the ways we leverage DA races is trying to translate the protest, activism energy into real-world change.", says Robinson, "District Attorneys are one of the most powerful actors in the criminal justice space." COC has been able to help pull wins from ten out of the 15 races they endorsed.
The Other Rock Stars Changing Democracy for good!
LaTosha and Ai-jen give credit to Nikema Williams for paving the way. As an African American female senator in the Georgia State Senate representing the 39th District, she's supported by top Democrats such as Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, and Bernie Sanders. She fights for voting rights, women's rights, and advancement in health and family care. “This is a turnout election”, She told PBS, “It just depends on which side can get their people back out.”
Noone has gained more notoriety for rallying the votes this year than Stacy Abrams. Abrams is a 'Win Both Seats' member and a significant contributor in flipping Georgia. Not only has she inspired millions with her documentary, All In, which exposes voter suppression and her controversial loss to Kemp but she founded The Georgia Project, which registered over 200,000 minority voters between 2014-'16
Runoff is not ideal in most elections as it is hard to imagine getting voters pumped for round two of a party they thought was over. Still, many grassroots organizations and progressive leaders feel that this year may be different as the uphill battle to defeat Trump proved positive so are hopes for the runoff despite the resistance, they are still fighting. "I do think we are far more energized," Brown explains the momentum progressives can ride into election day. "There's some friction within the (Republican) party, so while they're over there fighting, we have to take the opportunity to build the momentum."
'Win Both Seats' collaborates with great minds, passionate leaders and is affiliated with Black- and brown-led organizations that branch out into local divisions reaching people locally and nationally, such as Black Lives Matter, Care In Action, Asian American Advocacy Fund, and many more. Robinson refers to these organizations as 'third-party validators,' organizations that help connect people locally, explain and validate the proper candidates that reflect the people's needs. Poo reflects, it's not about the Senate, but people are suffering yet still fighting in this time of a pandemic. "They know exactly what losing means and also what winning could mean; I believe we have everything it takes to win." Poo says, "I believe in us, I believe in our people, and I believe in what's been built in Georgia...I just think we're going to do it; we're gonna win both seats."
Georgia Runoff Voting Process
Here's the timeline Georgia residents are looking at while the rest of us stay tuned to the outcomes as they unfold on the news.
Nov 18: Mail-in ballots start, voting online and requests for absentee ballots
Dec 7: Voter registration deadline
Dec 14: Early voting In person
Jan 5: Election Day
GA residents; Go to this site to make sure you are registered
Additional Resources & Topics