By William Stowers –
Last Saturday afternoon the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign kicked off its grassroots organization effort in two states. The first event took place in the former Secretary of State’s home state of New York. The second event didn’t take place in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, or even Nevada. It took place in… Georgia?
The Clinton grassroots effort in the Peach State began in a back room of a North Avenue bar in downtown Atlanta on May 2, 2015. Surrounded by almost 100 early supporters of Clinton, Ramon Rushing began to set the tone for what a campaign would look like down south. Rushing, the Georgia grassroots coordinator, told a crowd of business owners, lawyers, activists, students, and local government employees about the plan for the next few months. Among those in the crowd included state Sen. Curt Thompson, D- Tucker, and former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin.
Rushing began the event with a showing of the oft-criticized campaign announcement video that drew cheers from the packed room of diverse supporters. The crowd then divided into small groups to discuss what they wanted to see from a Clinton campaign in 2015 and 2016.
Ashton Packer, a freshman at Kennesaw State University and an avid Clinton supporter, wanted to see “education talked about as a bigger issue.” Including education, group members discussed topics from social justice and social equality to foreign policy. Clinton, says one supporter, “leads the competition in the area of foreign policy.”
After the group discussion, the crowd reassembled in the small back room where Thompson said unequivocally that he is “ready for Hillary.” Members of the crowd frequently brought up the importance of voter registration and voter turn-out efforts, which some called the “Achilles heel” of the Democratic Party in Georgia. Thompson told InsiderAdvantage that the most important thing for 2016 was to get out the vote as well as avoiding a coronation ceremony for Mrs. Clinton. “We thought it was a race for Vice President back in 2008, too. We were wrong.”
Thompson and Rushing did not state any specific goals articulated between Georgia Democrats and the Clinton campaign. But Rushing and other grassroots organizers want Clinton to “continue and expand upon the policies of President Obama and the Democrats in Congress.”
To say the energy in the room was electric would be an understatement. The enthusiasm for the long-awaited campaign that is barely a month old showed how energetic these supporters are. Granted, it is still 18 months until the general election.
Between now and then, however, those in attendance at the event want the campaign to go across races and genders and don’t want Georgia “to go backwards.” Their overall goal? Turn Georgia blue. This goal seems lofty. Democrats in Georgia suffered a sobering loss last November when their best candidates were crushed on election day and their share of the U.S. Congressional delegation was reduced by one. Many blame this loss on the failed efforts of state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, D-Atlanta, to increase voter turnout. This is an issue the grassroots staff said they would fix.
When asked who would run in 2016 against U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., State Senator Thompson told InsiderAdvantage that “a lot of names were floating around, but I’m not going to say anyone specific.” So can Georgia turn blue? These supporters sure think it can. But nobody is counting their chickens just yet. The first primaries aren’t for another 8 months, and there are no guarantees. As one retired journalist told a California supporter of Clinton’s who recently moved to Georgia, “Welcome to Georgia—where anything can happen.”