Less than two years after the presidential election, Georgia is once again the hotspot of American news. By November 2020, voters in Martin Luther King’s home state had created a surprise. Although they hadn’t picked a Democrat in over twenty years, they had voted for Joe Biden this time. He had beaten Donald Trump by 11,779 votes. The outgoing president had tried to overturn the result by putting pressure on local officials: “Go your way, get me 12,000 votes!” he had warned Republican Governor Brian Kemp’s squads. This earned him legal action.
Two new battles are taking place in Georgia today as the mid-term elections approach (midterm) of 8 November. One concerns one of the two senatorial positions [chacun des 50 Etats américains est représenté par deux sénateurs à Washington, NDLR] ; the other, the seat of the governor of the state of Georgia (3.7 million souls), whose powers are extensive in budget matters. The outcome of the senatorial elections depends on the continuation of Biden’s mandate. With just 50 out of 100 senators in Congress, Democrats can’t afford to lose a single seat. “However, the state remains extremely polarized. The tension has never completely subsided since Trump’s defeat two years ago,” said Jennifer McCoy, a political science professor at Georgia State University.
Nothing is at stake, therefore, even if the Democratic candidate is in a favorable position. In any case, the colorful cast delights the media. Trumpeter Herschel Walker, a slightly bipolar former American football star, confronts Democrat Raphael Warnock, reverend head of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, a prestigious position once held by Martin Luther King. Thanks to a by-election, the respected clergyman became Georgia’s first black senator in January 2021. A historic event in this state, where a third of the population is African American.
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“I’ve never met such an extravagant candidate”
His opponent presents himself as an “out of system” candidate. Like Donald Trump, Herschel Walker is used to outlandish statements. Listening to him, this former Dallas Cowboys striker would have been an FBI agent, peacemaker in Texas, founder of a fried chicken empire, top of his class at college … The problem is that in this flawless resume, everything is invented. “In my life as a journalist, I have never met such an extravagant candidate,” says journalist Susanna Capeluto. Most of her speeches are ridiculous. “You can’t control the air China sends to the United States,” she said, explaining that, in her opinion, Joe Biden’s environmental policy was doomed to failure. He once promoted a “dry fog” spray to help fight Covid-19. Understanding who can. The Trump candidate is so discredited by that part of the establishment The anti-Trump Republican has funded a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to thwart him!
Interest in the elections is heightened by the fact that Georgia has become, in recent years, a oscillating state, a “purple state”, which could pass to one side or the other (Republican red or Democratic blue) in the same way as Florida or Pennsylvania. “For two years, Georgia became the center of the universe,” enthuses Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia in Athens, a specialist in the southern states. “There is full employment here. It attracts people from all over the country, which changes the sociology of Georgia. The newcomers are mostly young, rather urban, with various ethnic profiles.” In short, often democratic voters.
These “new Georgians” settled near cities, most notably Atlanta, home of Coca-Cola and CNN. In thirty years the population of the city has doubled and the metropolis has expanded. It now represents more than half of the inhabitants of the southern state (56%), once known for its giant peach and peanut plantations, including that of former president Jimmy Carter. With its suburbs, Atlanta is now the eighth most populous urban center in the United States. Meanwhile, the more rural north and south, historically conservative, counties are depopulating.
Double interest in the “State of Fisheries”
After twenty-five years of dealing with local politics, Rahul Bali is surprised to see journalists from the main national media taking an interest in the “fishing state”. “Before, I always met the same two or three journalists, but things change. The other day there were dozens of journalists, who came from all over the country to attend Stacey Abrams’ meeting”, he remarks. .
In fact, the cast of the election for governor is just as tempting. Daughter of shepherds and author of rosewater novels, Stacey Abrams challenges incumbent Governor Brian Kemp for the second time, a local entrepreneur who goes too far with the tough guys, gun in hand, in each of her campaign spots. “Kemp is solid, but Abrams is brilliant,” notes Christophe Ippolito, a French-American expat in Atlanta who is closely following the election. “From her first steps in the local parliament we perceived in her a very fine political sense”, remembers Susanna Capeluto, director of the local public radio Wabe, about this icon of the democratic field who played a key role in mobilizing the black electorate to favor of Biden two years ago. “She quickly understands the minimal repercussions of the new legislation, she adds, with admiration. She is both a strategist, an outstanding speaker and a leader who knows the figures in her files in detail.”
For arms, against abortion, against gambling … Outgoing governor Brian Kemp shares the interests of the local conservative electorate and takes advantage of his seat to distribute gifts, such as suspension of gasoline taxes or bonuses of teachers. He is hailed for the excellent health of the local economy (2.9% unemployment) and for being one of the first governors to reopen his state during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Trump and he are not, however, the best friends in the world”, specifies, in a euphemism, Susanna Capeluto. At a time when Donald Trump is down in the polls, no one knows if this is a strength or a weakness. Let’s not forget, in fact, that this state sent pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene to the House of Representatives in November 2020 …
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The only certainty: the two candidates have collected astronomical sums in a few months. This reflects the American interest in the elections in Georgia. “Georgia campaign spending in all polls could exceed $ 1 billion this year!” journalist Rahul Bali is surprised. I’m not sure, however, that this is enough to shake outgoing Governor Brian Kemp, firmly seated at the top of the polls. Stacey Abrams’s time for the pasionaria may not have come yet.
The Chronicle of Vincent Pons