Californians put together to descend on Georgia to combat for Democrats in Senate races

Joseph Killian and friends donated $ 50,000 to a dozen Democratic Senate candidates that fall, and most of them lost. Now that the Senate and Joe Biden’s agenda are at stake, the San Francisco resident plans to move to Georgia to volunteer for the two Democrats who plan to sack two Republicans in January.

“I can’t just sit at home and raise money,” said Killian, 38, a project manager at a technology company. “If you’re looking at some of those races that we (we donated and) didn’t win, this is our chance to hopefully go there and fix that. We want to be there and help. “

Killian is not alone. The California Democrats are asking political organizers how they can travel to Georgia to volunteer for Democrat Jon Ossoff in his race against Republican Senator David Perdue and for Rev. Raphael Warnock in his contest against GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler . Both seats went to the runoff on January 5, when no candidate won a majority in that month’s elections.

“My phone blew up every 20 minutes,” said Manny Yekutiel, owner of Manny’s, a civic engagement area in the San Francisco Mission District. He volunteered in Georgia this fall and is ready to return. “People ask me, ‘When am I moving to Georgia? Where can i stay Should I get a block of hotel room? ‘”

Many, like Killian, want to be part of the grassroots network of organizations founded by former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. More than 800,000 Georgians were registered that year.

“I’m in awe of Stacey Abrams,” said Killian. “I paid attention to what she was doing in Georgia and what became of it.”

Several media organizations called the presidential race in Georgia for Biden on Friday. He is the first Democrat to win the state since Bill Clinton in 1992.

Winning a Senate seat in the state would also be a great achievement for Democrats – they haven’t done that since 2000. Turnout usually drops sharply in runoff elections, and Democrats tend to cast more voters than Republicans.

Analysts say it could be harder for Democrats to rally their voters if President Trump doesn’t vote.

“This will be a turnout,” said Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University in Atlanta. “There is a small part of the electorate who could be convinced. But it’s mostly about who wins, who gets the most people to vote. “

Insiders expect $ 150 million to $ 200 million to be spent on the outflows. And if the race follows the parliamentary election route, much of that money will come from outside Georgia.

Almost 80% of the money raised in the fall campaign for Warnock, the Democrats against Loeffler, came from outside Georgia. More than 83% of Ossoff’s money for his race against GOP Sen. Perdue came from outside the state. San Francisco was the number 3 subway area in the county for donations for both Democrats.

Last week, Yekutiel hosted a fundraiser for Ossoff and Warnock that 3,000 people attended to hear him speak to the candidates. On Tuesday, Yekutiel will host another fundraiser with the Candidates and Abrams where the top ticket costs $ 15,600.

Republicans use outside support against the two challengers. In an online fundraising pitch, Perdue called Ossoff “a puppet of the left” and Loeffler posted an ad calling Warnock “a radical radical”.

In 2017, Ossoff lost a special congressional race in Georgia when his GOP opponent tied him to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In an advertising campaign by the GOP Congressional Leadership Fund, the documentary filmmaker was referred to as a “San Francisco Congressman”.

“I’m going to point to the last time Jon Ossoff ran for office and got a lot of organizational help from California – it didn’t end well for him,” said Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “These progressive activists who want to come to Georgia are very different from those in Georgia who are going to vote.”

Loeffler, the former CEO of a financial services company, made up 83% of the $ 28 million she raised for her race that fall. Perdue raised 42% of his money outside of his home state. Both will be well funded in the runoff elections – last week the two candidates and other GOP-controlled funds raised $ 32 million.

Gillespie said Democrats could benefit from the explosion in external energy and funding. However, there are obstacles on the path of political travelers to Georgia.

A new warning from the California Department of Health of unnecessary travel outside of the state as coronavirus cases rise will make traveling to and from Georgia more problematic. Governor Gavin Newsom urged people traveling out of state or returning home from interstate trips to voluntarily quarantine themselves for 14 days.

An Abrams spokesman, Seth Bringman, also quoted the pandemic as he told the Huffington Post last week, “We are overwhelmed with the support, but please don’t book plane tickets or refuel your car – I’m not repeating and making plans to travel to Georgia. “

But these warnings don’t prevent Californians from focusing their energies remotely, at least not on the Democratic side. Democrats traditionally make more political trips and campaigns via text messaging, telephone banking, and letter writing than Republicans. California Republican Party spokesman Hector Barajas said the state’s GOP is focused on highly competitive races for the California legislature and House of Representatives that have not yet been called.

Democrats, meanwhile, are concerned about how the races could affect the future Biden administration. Democrats must win both Georgia seats to get a 50:50 split in the Senate and give elected Vice President Kamala Harris a groundbreaking vote. If they fall short, they have to hope they can peel off a Republican or two to pass Biden’s proposals on climate change, immigration, and taxes.

California volunteers rave about opportunities to vote in Georgia for Ossoff and Warnock, pastors of the former Rev. Martin Luther King Church in Atlanta.

Flip the West, which dumps Republicans, has manned more than 7,500 telephone banking shifts for calls to Georgia. More than 16,000 volunteers have signed up to send postcards to Georgia voters reminding them to request and submit a postal ballot.

“This is unprecedented to us,” said Ronnie Cohen, executive director of Flip the West in Berkeley. “Often you have to take people to the telephone bank. It just shows the passion people have for it. “

Swing Left, another organization focused on moving Republican seats, is also being flooded with requests to work on the Georgia races, said Colleen McCarthy, who coordinates actions for the group in three dozen states. She said some of the 25,000 volunteers in Northern California want their work to support grassroots organizations and not pay for television commercials.

“They are very thoughtful and understand how to get involved,” said McCarthy.

Swing Left makes donations to groups like Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Rise, a student-run advocacy group; the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights / Mijente; and the New Georgia Project Action Fund and Fair Fight Action, two organizations founded by Abrams.

Fima Zaltsman, a 31-year-old postdoctoral fellow in neuroscience at UCSF, simply wants to help in any way possible. He speaks at least two hours a week on the phone during the general election and is ready to do so again or travel to Georgia.

“I don’t want to look back if it’s not going our way and think, ‘Oh, if only we’d done more,” said Zaltsman.

Joe Garofoli is the senior political writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @joegarofoli

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