The state legislature may be in its post-session off season, but the political landscape in Georgia is far from quiet.
While the 2020 elections are over a year away, political parties are hard at work on strategies to reach Georgians who did not vote last year and maintain the energy of those who did.
Democratic Party of Georgia chair Sen. Nikema Williams and Georgia Republican Party chair David Shafer sat down with GPB News to discuss their plans to emerge victorious next November.
GPB political reporter Stephen Fowler sat down with On Second Thought host Virginia Prescott to share what that means for Georgia voters in the coming months.
On the biggest takeaways for the upcoming year
Well, what we see is a continuation of the 2018 legislative cycle and the gubernatorial election.
The Democrats have really built out their infrastructure across parts of the state: in Democratic strongholds and in places where you'd really be hard pressed to find Democrats. And that's only going to continue, based on what Sen. Williams said about the initiatives that they have.
They have the magic number in mind to take back the house. They're going to target those seats, as well as other races across the state. And they're going to be invigorated after that 2018, close election loss with Stacey Abrams.
What I'm hearing from David Shafer is that the Republican Party is kind of getting off its laurels to try and counter this energy from the Democrats. He was a Republican executive when Republican officeholders didn't really exist in the state. So he knows firsthand what type of energy what type of tenacity is going to be put out by the Democrats. And he says, we're going to try to match that.
On Democratic and Republican responses to Gov. Brian Kemp’s first session
Democratic Party of Georgia Chair Sen. Nikema Williams gave Governor Kemp an “F” and Georgia Republican Party Chair David Shafer gave him an “A.”
Well, Governor Kemp’s signature accomplishments that he's touted from this session are health care and education.
So the question is, will he continue to make inroads with health care?
The Democrats want Medicaid expansion, he's seeking a Medicaid waiver, but there are other medical and health care related things like maternal mortality, that he could end up appeasing both Democrats and Republicans… continuing to work with education could also be something that maybe lifts it up to a “D” for the Democrats.
Now, the governor’s staff has said that he got about 95 percent of his wish list in this first year.
So then that begs the question, what's he going to do next year? There's going to be a little bit more pushback, it's going to be a little bit harder, there's going to be a little more campaign jockeying. So he may lose out on some of the shiny newness from the Republican side.
That “A-plus” or an “A” may go down to a “B” for bargaining to get things done across the political aisle.
On reactions to the new abortion law, which was challenged in federal court last week
Well, David Shafer called it “virtue signaling” and he says that the Hollywood studios and companies aren't going to go anywhere. The tax breaks are nice, the infrastructure’s here, the people are here, and that ultimately they're going to hope that the courts gum it up or halt it from happening, so that then they can say, “Hey, we're against this bill,” but they get to keep the tax breaks.
And on the Democratic side, Sen. Nikema Williams, Stacey Abrams, other leading Democrats have said no, these companies need to stay and fight. They need to invest in the people politically like they have financially. And if they don't like the bill, they need to stay here and vote in the elections to try to change things.
On the effort by Democrats and Republicans to make the 2020 campaign bigger than last year
First off, just under 60% of the registered voters in Georgia cast a ballot last November. So there's a huge audience of people that didn't vote that could vote this time.
Republican David Shafer said that the big database that they have reinvigorated and revitalized shows there are about half a million people who voted for President Trump in 2016, but sat out and last November's election.
And he said that there are about 50,000 Republican voters that moved into Georgia since the last election that they know they can target.
So mobilization is the name of the game. The ideology and what they stand for is obviously going to matter, but the main thing is going to be getting out the vote for those people that they know support them, but maybe for whatever reason have not voted.
On what the average Georgia voter can expect in the coming months
Get a bigger mailbox!
Expect more ads: more TV ads, more digital ads, more social media ads. Expect more in person contact, somebody is going to come knock on your door, maybe they'll knock on your door twice. Expect more of the local level officials (city, county, even state House and Senate) to seek more attention as they benefit from the top-down layers of the organization from state and national parties.
Those local level officials that will be vying for your attention – harness that, because those are the ones that are going to be directly affecting your life. So there's going to be a lot of things to pay attention to in order to better understand what you're voting for next November.