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January 05, 2021
Gaining Ground: The New Georgia
We Ready

In This Episode

With record numbers of Georgia voters showing up for the election and an anxious country waiting on the outcome, we meet the candidates who are running for much more than a Senate seat.

 

Featured in this episode:

  • Moutstafa El-Mattrawy – 1st time voter
  • Jon Ossoff – Candidate for Senate
  • Jon Favreau- Co-Host, Pod Save America
  • Robin Kemp- Journalist & Founder, Clayton Crescent
  • Hilary Holley – Director of Organizing, Fair Fight
  • Jason Carter – Founder of Soul Fusion Media Group and co-founder of One MusicFest
  • Charles Bethea – Staff Writer, The New Yorker

 

Transcript:

Rembert Browne: I have like a little route that I go on. I go see my tennis coach over at Washington Park. I go to LT Wings off a Cascade and Fairburn. I go to Eats on Ponce.

 

And one of those places I like to see is my old house.

 

Jewel Wicker: Rembert and I both were raised in Southwest Atlanta, from Ben Hill to Cascade, Adams Park to the West End. Our histories in Georgia, however, are much deeper. His maternal side can trace their Georgia lineage back to 1836, and my maternal side has been here since at least the mid 1800s. As for that old house he brought up — it’s 100 years old — built in 1920. 

 

Rembert Browne: I got off 20 to go see my old house and saw that not only was, were there two people outside, which typically I hadn’t seen anyone there, but the house was like completely renovated on the outside. And it was a completely different color. I couldn’t believe it. I got out the car, like waved at these two people outside. And I think one of the main reasons I wanted to say hi outside of the house was that there was an Ossoff and Warnock sign in the front hill that leads up to this once screened-in porch. I had not been into the house since we left that house when I was a kid. 

 

I started talking to the guy who owned the house. He was like, extremely nice. Let me walk through the house, was asking questions about how things were when I lived there. I was like, “Oh my goodness. My mom has to see this place. I have to bring her back here.” 

 

As I was walking out, I was like, you know, by the way I saw your signs outside, I actually grew up with Ossoff. And he goes, “wait, that’s really interesting. I work for his campaign.”

 

Jewel Wicker: And this wasn’t just a dedicated volunteer for the campaign, the house now belonged to Steven Parker, Ossoff’s Political Director.

 

Rembert Browne: I was like looking around and I saw this whole stack of signs. I was like, wait — wait what? You work for him? This is, this is such a small town, big city moment. That I just, can’t believe, and I can completely believe happened. 

 

Rembert Browne: From Tenderfoot TV and Crooked Media, this is Gaining Ground: The New Georgia. For three episodes, we have been building up to Georgia’s January 5th Senate runoffs. In this, episode four, we’re here. We discuss the candidates — including a conversation with one of the Senate hopefuls — the moment, and the stakes that will forever change Georgia, and the entire country. I’m your host, Rembert Browne with Jewel Wicker.

 

News Clips:

“Special Election is January 5th.”

“ January 5th.”

“January 5th.”

“This country is in an amazing place right now.”

“Welcome to the battleground South. Georgia is the tip of the spear.” 

“This week early voting began Georgia’s high takes Senate run offs. Nearly 1 million votes have already been cast.”

“Georgia has not elected a Democratic Senator in twenty years.” 

“Send me these two men and we will control the Senate and we’ll change the lives of the people of Georgia”

“Stacey, I know how busy you are, rallying the troops. Have you had a minute just to sit back, take it in, put your feet up and relax?’ “I think I had a minute on Sunday, but we have some work to do.”

 

Rembert Browne: It’s hard to believe that, as we go into this momentous point in Georgia’s history, we’re doing so without Reverend C.T. Vivian. Without Reverend Joseph Lowery. And without Congressman John Lewis. 

 

The two democratic candidates in the Senate runoffs both had special relationships with Lewis. Jon Ossoff, wrote a letter to Lewis as a teenager and eventually interned for the late congressman. Lewis and Ossoff continued to have a mentor/mentee relationship until his death.

 

Raphael Warnock, is the pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the iconic spiritual home of both Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis. In July, just before he eulogized Lewis at Ebenezer, Warnock was interviewed by Jewel for NBC News. He told her he saw his Senate run as a part of his “spiritual stewardship.” Warnock said at the time, “When I consider the history of Ebenezer, and the legacy of someone like John Lewis, when presented with this opportunity, who am I to say, ‘No?’” I’ve got to do the best I can to continue the work that John Lewis and so many others left for us to do.” 

 

It’s one thing to talk about John Lewis. It’s another, to hear him speak — to hear the passion in his voice. This was one of those moments, from the House floor on March 8th, 2019 — the Congressman speaking in support of voting rights and election reform.

 

John Lewis archival clip: “Madam Speaker you have heard me say on occasion that the right to vote is precious, almost sacred. In a democratic society it is the most powerful non-violent instrument or tool that we have. In my heart of hearts, I believe that we have a moral responsibility to restore access for all of our citizens who desire to participate in a democratic process. Many people, my wife, protested for the right to vote. Some gave in their blood, other gave their very lives.

 

You have heard me tell the story before and you know our work is not finished. It make me sad, it make me feel like crying when people denied the right to vote. We all know that this is not a Democratic or Repulican issue, it is American one. 

 

The vote is the opportunity to be on the right side of history. It is a chance to cast a vote by the people, of the people and for the people. So I ask you – if not us, then who? If not now, then when? The time has come to tear down the barrier to the ballot box. We are able to do our part in this long vote for the very soul of our nation.”

 

Moutstafa El-Mattrawy: I’m Moutstafaha, I’m currently living in Atlanta. I’m 17 years old. When Donald Trump won, our teachers, just, they made us like be active and we all wrote letters to Donald Trump about what policies he could improve and how he could improve them. And ever since then, I’ve kind of been keeping more of a watchful eye on each Representative and what they’re running for until I could actually vote, which is now, 

 

Rembert Browne: Moustafa, whose birthday was December 9th, belongs to a group of Gen Z voters who turned 18 between the general election and the runoffs. This is a group that organizations such as Fair Fight and New Georgia Project have been working hard to reach, hosting live events on Twitch, virtual school birthday parties with musical artists and more. Brian Nunez of Georgia Shift told NPR that they knew of 23,000 potential voters that would be turning 18 before Jan. 5.

 

Moustafa El-Mattrawy: My mom also is very liberal and she’s also very, very politically active. I helped her out with the Stacey Abrams fundraiser. I got to meet, uh, Lucy McBath and John Lewis. She definitely made me a lot more passionate about politics and how to speak out politically and to use my voice, to help others,

 

When I met John Lewis, that was pretty amazing because he was such a big historical figure and all the things he’d done, just being able to see him in person. And it was kind of, I don’t know, like I got kind of star struck. I didn’t really know what to say. Like what do you say to someone like that? They’re such an amazing person. They’ve done so much with their lives. 

 

Rembert Browne: I remember being so excited, but so nervous when I met John Lewis when I was 19. I tied, and re-tied, and re-re-tied my red power tie I’d selected probably 20 times — and I never got it right, as I’m reminded of every time I see our photo together framed, in my mom’s living room. But it was such a moment, such a rite of passage, to actually meet him. And I know it made my mom proud. This is Moutstafa’s mom, Jennifer Winingder, reminiscing on the time her son met Stacey Abrams.

 

Jennifer Winingder: I think when he met Stacey, he was kind of like feeling a little bashful when she said, stand up straight, look me in the eye and introduce yourself again and be proud of who you are. And he did it over again. It was good.

 

Rembert Browne: As Moutstafa made a voting plan for the runoffs, we asked how it felt to just miss the cut off to vote in the general election.

 

Moutstafa El-Mattrawy: I was kind of upset about that because I knew this election was going to be pivotal. It would just make me feel a lot more secure. If I knew that I had done something to contribute to it. I was happy to hear about the runoffs and the fact that I would be able to vote those in both of the Senate runoffs in Georgia. Um, because I know that winning the House and winning the Senate is just as crucial to winning the Presidency. So I’m glad I can make a difference this way. Personally, I like the way that Georgia looked blue on the map and I want to keep it that way. So they’ll get out and vote and make a difference.

 

Rembert Browne: For the past two months, candidates, politicians and celebrities have campaigned throughout the state to stress the importance of this election to Georgia voters. Jewel and the Gaining Ground crew have been on the campaign trail, traveling from Atlanta to Athens, to Cumming, to Augusta, to Warner Robbins, and documenting this monumental race. First up, we go to the events for the Democratic Candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. 

 

Rally Clips:

“Can you’all hear me all the way out here? Y’all give it up for the Reverend Raphael Warnock”

“Hello Augusta Georgia. Y’all sound like you are ready to win an election.”

“All eyes on Georgia, DeKalb County. DeKalb County say it with me, vote.”

“Y’all sound like the New Georgia, the blue Georgia.” 

 

Rembert Browne: From rallies to panels, concerts and toy giveaways, here are some of the things we heard from Democratic voters on the campaign trail.

 

Rally Attendees:

“I was one of those oddities. I was a Trump supporter, but I’m Black before I’m anything else. And when some of these things went down from a racial standpoint and I didn’t see the guy that I voted for stand up and believe in equality for all and he drew that line in the sand, either Black or White. I had no choice but to go back to my roots and be faithful to that.”

What makes me so passionate about Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Is their dedication to being able to be the people to represent us.”

We want everyone to have an opportunity to have good healthcare, you know, to be able to have good paying jobs.”

“I like them because they represent what our politics should be, on the ground, speaking with people, hearing their experiences. Doing the work that is necessary in order to run a successful campaign, but also be a successful Senator. It is going to be a hard fight. Historically, we Democrats don’t do well in run offs, but if I’m being cautiously optimistic, I think the young people will again surprise the nation.”

We’re going to be okay, but we gotta come together.”

“We’re gonna win.”

We are part of the blue wave.”

“All right. Let’s rock Rem.”

 

Rembert Browne: I’m starting to hear. Do you have any questions for me? Like how I’m doing?

 

Jon Ossoff: Well, I don’t know if, see, this is a podcast, so not everybody can see, but I am curious how long you’ve been growing out that beard?

 

Rembert Browne: It’s crazy. Like to get to a point to be like, Oh, I’ve known someone for like 20 years. I had your AIM screen name.

 

Jon Ossoff: That’s right. And you were RemShady05. So…

 

Rembert Browne: 33 year old Senate candidate Jon Ossoff was born and raised in Atlanta. Before running for office, he’s been a documentary filmmaker, and investigative journalist, and worked for five years for Congressman Hank Johnson, a job he was recommended for from John Lewis. And before all of that, his most important achievement — my classmate from 7th to 12th grade. 

 

Jon Ossoff: We always felt, and we used to talk about this all the time when we were growing up that unlike New York or LA, that Atlanta was a city coming of age now. Much of the city’s development when we were growing up here remained in the future. And, and right now, you know, it’s going through among the, the, the fastest periods of change in the city’s history. So there’s that sense of, um, the capacity to shape its trajectory and shape the state’s trajectory that, that isn’t there in other places.

 

Rembert Browne: What was it that made you want to jump into this again? Was it just like looking at Perdue and being like, this is unacceptable. What made you jump back into this very, you know, life altering, not just for you, but for your, for your wife and for your family and for your loved ones. It’s a big thing. And it’s not just about you.

 

Jon Ossoff: I’m impatient for progress. And I don’t think that our generation should wait. I think that our generation needs to engage fully and enter the arena and push things forward aggressively. When I, when I think about the conversations that you and I used to have about our city’s future, our state’s future, you know, it was this sense of limitless potential. That was so exciting. That, and again, something that Atlanta has and, and, and had, ‘cause it’s a younger city, a city just hitting its stride, the potential to, to define its future. We should feel that excitement about our country.

 

Hilary Holley: Our message is we want to November and now let’s win again. And we can only do that if you vote and you tell your friends and your neighbors and those that you’re celebrating with the holidays to vote with you

 

Jewel Wicker: This is Hilary Holley, the director of organizing for Stacey Abram’s Fair Fight. You might remember her from episode two where she explained to us how Brunswick residents voted their district attorney out of office following the death of Ahmaud Arbery.

 

Hilary Holley: Georgia Is in a crisis. And when you asked Georgians, what’s on your, the top of your mind, it’s not Senator Mitch McConnell it’s that they have a $600 utility bill because in Southwest Georgia, we have a massive utility bill crisis and yes is Mitch McConnell in the way of trying to protect, um, and trying to save lives. Absolutely, but that’s, again, Georgians, aren’t waking up saying, Oh, I hate Mitch McConnell. They’re waking up to being like, what can I do to survive? And honestly, that’s what our government is here for is to help people survive and help them navigate their lives during moments of crisis like we’re in right now,

 

Jewel Wicker: The public service commission race hasn’t gotten as much attention as the two senate runoffs, but Holley and local organizers in cities such as Albany say it’s extremely important. As the Augusta Chronicle notes, the PSC “approves the rates and fees Georgia Power charges and how the regulated monopoly produces electricity.”  Republican incumbent Lauren “Bubba” McDonald is on the ballot opposite Democratic candidate Daniel Blackman.

Holley contextualized this election for us in December, just one day after early voting began.

 

Hilary Holley: Democrats are so excited. We saw a 23% increase in voter turnout yesterday than we did on the first day of early vote for the November election. And out of that 23% increase, 41% of all voters who voted yesterday were Black voters. The turnout is extraordinary. The one thing I’m concerned about is, um, voters are fatigued. We have asked them to vote so many times this year, but as you know, Georgia, we had our Presidential PreferencePprimary that was canceled. We had State Legislative runoffs, um, municipal runoffs, and then we had the November General of course, and now they have to go and vote again in the most busiest, but also some of the most troubling times, you know, like the COVID numbers are spiking.

 

Jewel Wicker: When most people were taking a break and reflecting on the new year, organizers were forced to get creative with their mobilization tactics.

 

Hilary Holley: So what we’re just trying to get really creative on where to meet voters, what are they paying attention to? And how do we insert ourselves into that? So we’re doing food giveaways. We’re partnering with restaurants who are close to shuttering because of COVID, but we’re paying them to provide free food that has voter education materials. So we’re just doing a lot of creative things and hopefully we’ll be good.

 

One thing that I think is so unique about Georgia is the robust infrastructure that we have in counties throughout the state of Georgia. So we don’t just focus on the Metro. We make sure that we talk to friends and allies in some of the most rural areas in the state, any type of communication that we want to do with voters and volunteers is communicated based on where they are at. So for example, our rural communities have a lack of broadband. So sometimes they won’t see our digital ads. They won’t receive some of the text messages. So we need to call their house phones, or we need to take out an ad in their local newspaper or take out a radio ad on their gospel radio station. If we have an election administration concern, I’ll call, um, a pastor in Brooks County and say, can you put this, could you put the voter protection hotline number in your church bulletin? I mean, it’s that granular of the organizing we do.

 

Jewel Wicker: It’s true that the work of organizing has been occurring in Georgia in both traditional and non traditional ways. In Atlanta, it’s not uncommon for musicians and politicians to frequently be in conversation together, even outside of election years. Whether it’s a T.I. or Killer Mike hosting a discussion with Stacey Abrams or Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms at the Black-owned coworking space The Gathering Spot, these two worlds are constantly converging.
Jason Carter, co-founder of One MusicFest, a longstanding festival here in Atlanta, says the music event has worked to mobilize voters for years. 

 

Jason Carter: I am the founder of Soul Fusion Media Group, and One MusicFest here in Atlanta. And we’ve been a part I would say of the political fabric and Atlanta and Georgia, probably at least 15 years. Well, Atlanta is a very different city, but as far as how it moves and how people of color move through the city, ain’t nothing really quite like Atlanta. And I think a lot of people in, in music and entertainment and creatives, they identify, you know, they, they understand that. And they also understand that we can’t just sit here on our hands and not activate our base and our audience. Atlanta has a strong hold on music, on hip hop, on culture at this time. So we got to activate our stage. 

 

Jewel Wicker: The company hosted an event with When We All Vote, days before the general election and hosted another concert with the organization, the Sunday before the runoffs.

 

Jason Carter: We just wanted to be in front of people. You know, I mean the messaging throughout the entire program is to try to push people over to, uh, over to the polls and, and, and, and engaging them, getting them active for the upcoming elections, using culture and use it as a platform to get in front of folks, those low propensity voters and get them to the poles. How people canvas and how people campaign is really old school. If I get one more text message about getting to the polls to vote. Don’t hit up the super bowlers. You have to reach the folks that aren’t voting. With, the ability and the technology that we have to gather and grab data, we can find them and we know where they’re at, right? You have to speak to them. What are they watching? What platforms are their lives? And that’s what we did with our campaign. And it’s, it seems to be working.

 

Jewel Wicker: It should come as a surprise to no one that campaigning is expensive. Ad spending has exceeded more than $450 million. According to Atlanta’s ABC affiliate, WSBTV, Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have raised more than $100 million in comparison to Republican candidates and incumbent senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who have raised more than $60 million. This doesn’t count fundraising from outside groups which totals nearly $200 million, with Democratic groups trailing Republicans by $70 million. For more on the money, here is Pod Save America’s Jon Favreau.
 

Jon Favreau: The role of money in an election is to fund a campaign and to assist a campaign from the outside. So you need money to hire staff, to hire organizers, to run television advertisements, to send mail advertisements. And then you also have parties that spend money to assist the campaigns. You have super PACS, which are outside organizations that can spend unlimited funds of money on television. There’s a lot of money floating around in politics and, and being spent on campaigns. There was a time when there were millions of dollars and then tens of millions of dollars. And then that just exploded in 2020 to take the North Carolina Senate race. Just as an example, there was $241 million spent on that one race in North Carolina. And I would imagine that the Georgia special election could be one of the most, if not the most expensive, special election in history.

 

Jewel Wicker: When we talked to Jon Favreau ahead of the runoffs, he predicted this influx of spending, but he also reminded us that the biggest budget doesn’t always mean a guaranteed win.

 

Jon Favreau: It used to be the case that if you outspent your opponent, there’s a good chance you could win. Hillary Clinton outspent Donald Trump in 2016 and did not win. The Democrats far outspent the Republicans on Senate races in 2020. And we picked up two, but we did not pick up enough to flip the Senate, which is why we are here in Georgia. I think for the Georgia runoffs, there will be quite a bit of, out of state money, because the eyes of the nation are on Georgia since control of the United States Senate hinges on the outcome of the races. And because it is the only race on January 5th and because it will be, it comes at such a pivotal time for the nation, as we’re about to inaugurate a new president. And as we still don’t know what the balance of the Senate will be. Every Democrat and Republican, every political organization, everyone will be paying attention to Georgia. And so the money will be pouring in from all over the country. I imagine that Georgians will not be able to turn on their televisions without seeing some sort of political ad about the runoff. The airwaves will be blanketed. The spending that’s going to happen in Georgia will be visible to almost everyone in the state who has a screen, whether on their phone or their television.

 

Jewel Wicker: If you’re living in Georgia, you’ve certainly been inundated with campaign commercials over the past few months. In a way that aligns with American media’s overall treatment of elections, many of them take on tones that aim to frighten residents into voting or reference elections as if they’re sporting events. 

 

Here’s just a sample of what we’ve heard on a daily basis.

 

Commercial Montage: 

“Raphael Warnock will give the radicals total control.”

“We told them the smear ads were coming, and that’s exactly what happened.”

“Don’t believe the liberal lies.”

“Jon Ossoff’s believes if you repeat a lie enough, people might believe it.”

“We know Ossoff was paid by the communist Chinese government.”

“Looting Loeffler and chicken Perdue. They bought stocks that would rise and sold stocks that would fall.”

“Where is Senator Perdue for the African-American community here in Georgia? He’s been on his private island, trading stocks.”

“My opponent radical liberal Raphael Warncok.”

“What’s radical about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour?” “Radical liberal Raphael Warncok.” “Its no wonder Replublican Kelly Loeffler she keeps repeating herself, she has nothing new to say and even less to offer.” “Radical liberal Raphael Warncok.”

“I’m David Perdue,”

“I’m Raphael Warnock” 

“I’m Kelly Loeffler,”

“I’m Jon Ossoff, 

“and I approve this message.”

 

Robin Kemp: It was pretty much like sitting at home and watching it, except that I was there watching it. It really is like a lecture hall at Georgia public broadcasting in downtown Atlanta. 

 

Jewel Wicker: Clayton County reporter Robin Kemp attended the Atlanta Press Club’s senate runoff debates in December. When David Perdue declined to participate in the debates, the press club instead showcased an empty podium in his place. Perdue’s absence wasn’t received well by some media pundits and, of course, drew criticism from his opponent, Jon Ossoff.  

 

Jon Ossoff {at the debate}: It shows an astonishing arrogance and sense of entitlement, for Georgia’s senior US Senator to believe he shouldn’t have to debate at a moment like this in our history. But whatever the reason that Senator Perdue is not with us today, I think what I would ask him is, why he continues to oppose twelve hundred dollars stimulus checks for the American people at this moment of crisis. If I had the opportunity to ask the Senator a question, if the Senator was not too much of a coward to debate in public, then that’s what I’d ask him.

 

Robin Kemp: When the first debate was over, one of the media guys came in and said, okay, well, he’s not going to be taking any questions after the debate. And everybody kind of grumps, said, oh come on. You gotta be kidding. That’s what we’re all here. I thought, well, let me just slide on out there and see if I can at least get a photo for the website. So I’m hanging out in the driveway and then here comes John Ossoff in his home and entourage a driveway. And he’s walking in to go and stand at the podium and answer questions. So that was all nice. He answered everybody’s questions. And then we went back for the Loeffler / Warnock debate and neither of them answered anything directly. They all, they were both just doing talking points. And you know, if you’re just going to sit there and repeat your commercial, that’s not really even a debate.

 

They did get some good zingers off on each other. It got to the point where Steven Fowler GPB was, was holding up his, his hands, like seven every time, uh, Kelly Loeffler said “radical liberal Ralphael Warnock.” And Reverend Warnock said “she lied on me, and she lied on Jesus.”

 

Warnock and Loeffer Debate Clips

“This is the runoff debate for the US Senate to fill the seat currently held by Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler.”

“It is vitally important that Georgians trust our election process. And the President has every right to every legal recourse, and that’s what’s taking place. “

“Kelly Loeffler is out of touch. She is thinking about people who are like her. I just think you shouldn’t use the people’s seat to enrich yourself, you outta use the people’s seat to represent the people.”

“Look, these are more lies from radical liberal Raphael Warnock”

“There’s a lot at stake right now, in the middle of this pandemic. And its too bad that she’s engaged in the politics of distraction and division. She lied not only on me, but on Jesus.

 

Robin Kemp: Somebody pointed out earlier today that they’re both fairly inexperienced campaigners. So that probably is why at the end of that, they did not directly take questions. Each of them sent out someone else to speak on their behalf. The person who, uh, Kelly Leffler sent out wasn’t the Governor of South Dakota. I was like, wow. You know, I’m not going to get the South Dakota angle on Clayton County. That’s really helpful. Okay. And then Warnock sends out Sarah Riggs Amico. And she handled everything very well but it wasn’t like having the actual candidates to speak to. And I kind of didn’t like that, to be honest, I would’ve rather have asked a question directly of the candidate.

 

Well, anyway, when the time of COVID is over, y’all have to come down to my modest little office come down and we’ll go to Slutty Vegan.

 

Jewel Wicker: We are absolutely taking Robin Kemp up on her invitation to Slutty Vegan. But right now, we’re back at Manuel’s Tavern with Rembert and Charles Bethea discussing the political divide in this country. The division seems to be deeper than any point in my life, but there are also divides within the parties. Centrists vs Progressives on the left, and Conservatives vs Trumpsters on the right. 

 

As Democrats reflected on what many viewed as an underperformance in the general election regarding congressional candidates, there’s been a public divide amongst politicians regarding whether or not progressive movements such as calls to defund police hurt the party.  

 

Rembert asked Bethea about what this has looked like on the Republican side.

 

Charles Bethea: There’s a civil war going on in the party nationally, but also here in Georgia. And the two figures that kind of represent those two factions are Lin Wood and Gabe Sterling people that most people would not have heard of a few months ago. 

 

Rembert Browne: Lin Wood is a lawyer most known for representing Richard Jewell, the man wrongfully accused of the Centennial Olympic Park bombing in 1996 and, more recently, Kyle Rittenhouse, the man who shot three protestors, fatally wounding two of them, in Kenosha earlier this year.

 

Charles Bethea: So he’s one guy who’s pushing again, the idea that Trump won in Georgia and nationally, and that he can somehow prove it. He’s been saying along with that, and this is critical that Republicans in the state should not vote in the runoffs if they believe as he does that, the election was rigged in November. And the senators on the right, Leoffler and Purdue, are not doing enough in his view to help Trump overturn a democratic election.

 

Lin Wood {at rally}: Governor Kemp, you hear me while you hide in your closet. And you hear us, you hear the people, Brad  Raffensperger. I want you to go to the Governor’s mansion, I want you to circle it, I want you to blow your horns, until Brian Kemp comes out and orders a special session of the Georgia legislature, and then he can resign. And then as far as I’m concerned, lock him up!

 

Crowd Chants: Lock him up.

 

And if they do not do it, if Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue do not do it. They have not earned your vote. Don’t you give it to them.

 

Charles Bethea: So his basic argument is it’s more important that we keep Trump. Who’s like the real deal. He’s, he’s the Jesus figure. We don’t really need these sort of like, and especially in Loeffler’s case, kind of a Johnny-come- lately, wanna be, be pretend conservative is how they look at it. We rather have the real, the real guy. He really believes in the fraud and his arguments, they touched on Chinese Communism and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, all these kind of like classic red herrings from the right, um, none of it adds up. None of it’s factual. He thinks a hundred thousand might believe what he’s saying. Gabe Sterling, we’ll talk about in the second, thinks that number might just be 10,000. It might be 15,000 either way, even with 10 or 15,000, that’s the margin that Biden won by in the state.

 

Rembert Browne: Gabriel Sterling is Georgia’s voting-system implementation manager

 

Charles Bethea: Sterling, he’s been actually giving a lot of the briefings, the press briefings, pushing back against people like Wood. Some of them have been really impassioned and have actually called out in a way that we haven’t seen from almost any other prominent Republicans, how Trump’s narrative and how Leffler and Purdue and other Republicans implicit supportive of it, is leading to conditions ripe for violence. And we’ve seen violent threats brought against low-level folks. You know, people who are literally just counting votes. Again, this is a Republican Trump supporter, voted for Trump twice, says he’s gonna vote for Loeffler and Perdue, just trying to do a job fairly. And to his credit, he’s, he’s actually doing his job. He’s calling a spade, a spade, he’s admitting that Trump lost. He’s saying to me and others who are willing to listen. Let’s move on. If we want to win these Senate races, we need to actually say clearly that Trump lost the election, because that is what proves the importance of these Senate races.

 

Loeffler and Perdue are having to, they have to hold Trump close, but in, because there’s no way they win the election without Trump’s supporters coming out in full force, you can’t win an election in Georgia, especially unless you have all of his people come out. But they’re also trying to like, keep that fraud narrative at enough of a distance without him off that people don’t think that the process is a sham.

 

Jewel Wicker: Republican senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have, of course, been on the campaign trail much like Warnock and Ossoff. Perdue, a former CEO of Dollar General, is an incumbent and the cousin of a former Georgia Governor. Kelly Loeffler, co-owner of the Atlanta Dream WNBA team and one of the richest politicians on Capitol Hill, according to Forbes, was appointed by Governor Brian Kemp last December. We reached out to both Perdue and Loeffler, as well as her opponent Raphael Warnock, but were not able to secure interviews for this podcast. 

 

As with the Democratic events, our producers were on site for the Republican campaign events as well.

 

Loeffler/Perdue Rally Highlights:

“Vote for Kelly Loeffler. You guys are going to elect David Perdue! We are going to stop socialism.”

“Oh my gosh, Forsyth Country, I have one question for you – are you ready to show America that Georgia’s a red state? That’s what we are going to do because we are hear together. Look at the patriots we are here with David Perdue, Ambassador Haley, and all of you. This is an important night in America.”

“We have to stop the radical left from changing America.”

“If they get what they want, they get total control.”

“We will not watch that erosion of our inalienable rights”

“And if we don’t win this election, we are gonna lose our second amendment.”

“So, we are the firewall to socialism.”

“Because the idea that big government knows more about how to run your life than you do, is wrong, it’s innately wrong. It’s against human nature.

“We’re gonna keep making America great and Georgia it’s in your hands. We’ll save the Senate, save Georgia and save America.”

 

Jewel Wicker: Two of our producers on this show, Julia Beverly and Jaime Albright, spent a lot of time over the past few weeks attending and recording campaign events for the Senate runoffs.  Because all eyes are on the state, these events were hosted by a wide range of people, from the candidates themselves, to Killer Mike and President Donald Trump.  However some of these events, even once Julia and Jaime got on the press lists, were harder to cover than others.  

 

Here’s Julia.  

 

Julia Beverly: So I come from the entertainment world and 2020 has really been my first time getting involved with a political campaign. I’m on the press list for the Biden transition team. I get dozens of updates from them every day, and the Warnock and the Ossoff campaign sends out daily updates with their itinerary and their upcoming events. I guess, I assume that’s how all the political campaigns operate.

 

Jewel Wicker: This is Jaime Albright. 

 

Jaime Albright: It was definitely much more difficult to find the events for Loeffler and Perdue. Signed up for the email list and didn’t get any emails actually checked my spam at one point. I almost felt like there was a list we weren’t on or something in order to get information about the events. We arrived at the event for Hosea Feed The Hungry. There was music playing because of the pandemic there wasn’t going to be a sit-down meal. Um, which a lot of the people were, you know, disappointed to hear that. But people pulled up in their cars and Ossoff and Warnock  were loading their cars with boxes full of food.

 

Julia Beverly: On the Republican side, the Senate campaigns sort of kicked off when Trump rallied in Valdosta and brought out Loeffler and Purdue, but the primary focus of Trump’s rally was, as always, Trump.

 

President Trump at Valdosta:

You know we won Georgia, just so you understand. I wanna, I wanna stay on Presidential but I gotta get to these two because they’re incredible. But listen to this, these are the facts. I got more votes than any sitting president in history, eleven million more votes than we got in 2016.

 

Julia Beverly: You know, there’s a lot of animosity toward the media at their events, not to the point where I felt like I was in danger necessarily, but there’s definitely the assumption that anyone with a camera is fake news. 

 

Republican rally clips: People yelling 

 

Jaime Albright: So the event in Cumming was for Loeffler and Perdue. When I arrived, I saw a Confederate flag on the back of a pickup truck. So I felt unwelcomed from the beginning as a Black woman at this rally. As I walked up, I immediately noticed that there was a lack of diversity and then a black deputy approached me and asked me if I had security, because he said there had been some incidents at these events. And I do think he approached me because, you know, I was one of four black people at this event and we were all working there. So I definitely did feel like I stood out. And that was just an interesting experience and much different than at Warnock and Ossoff.

 

Julia Beverly: The Perdue and Leffler campaigns did not seem too concerned about COVID precautions. The events I attended were outdoors, but Loeffler also did a lot of speaking engagements at smaller indoor venues with small crowds. I was wearing an N 95 mask at the first GOP event I went to and people seemed skeptical and hesitant to talk to me. At the next event, I wore an American flag mask and almost immediately walking up to the event, I saw a man with a Trump flag and he kind of paused and made eye contact with me and gave me a thumbs up.

 

Jewel Wicker: Jaime and Julia also spoke with voters at GOP events and at so-called “Stop the Steal” rallies, hearing what GOP voters in Georgia are concerned about and how they’re feeling about the Senate runoff elections.

 

Rally attendees:

“Stop the steal chants”

“I feel like it is really important that we stop the steal, we expose the fraud, that we support our president and that we support our United States. Are you not better off than you were four years ago?

“There is blatant stealing. There’s buffoonery going on. Especially with Kemp and the Secretary of State. It is ridiculous what is going on. They are gonna to find out that they were on the take. The problem is that they are getting all their information from fake media, that is the problem.”

“But I know that there is no way that Joe Biden got eighty million votes.”

“We are giving away fake ballots so people recognize fake ballots when they see them because apparently they don’t in Georgia.”

“Chuck Schumer said it. He said, we’re going to take Georgia and change America. Our rights are slowly gonna be taken away from us.”

“Jon Ossoff is paid for by the Chinese Communst party.”

“Jon loves China.”

 

Jewel Wicker: While chanting was a big part of the republican events, when a few Democrats at a Warnock/Ossoff event shouted “lock him up” referring to President Trump, Reverend Warnock shut them down saying “we will not become like that which we reject”.

 

Rembert Browne: As long as I can remember, Jon and I have been talking about politics and thinking about how to involve ourselves in the process and push things forward. When we caught up just last week, I asked him when did he decide he actually wanted to be the front facing person in politics, rather than the person in the background. When did he decide that was the best way for him to contribute.

 

Jon Ossoff: Here’s the evolution of it. So from, from really my first contact with John Lewis and the development of our relationship, that was a time in my life. When I believe that the kind of change that we needed to see in the world, the potential to make progress could be best pursued through political engagement, but then working in and around politics and government, disillusioned me. Which is why I left and went into journalism because investigative journalism is a pureer endeavor, and still motivated by that passion for making the world a better place. The way that I chose to pursue that, was to try to ruthlessly expose people who were exploiting, murdering, enslaving their fellow human beings. And then it was around when Trump was elected that I sort of came to think that the disillusionment that I had experienced from proximity to the political process, that the cynicism was an indulgence and an excuse for disengagement. And I think that like, this is in some ways for, for our generation, that our generation at once expresses all of this vision and ambition and optimism about the kind of world that can be built. But then it’s also locked into this sort of performative cynicism.

 

I think that it says so much about where Georgia is now and how far the American South has come. That, okay not only is Georgia the most competitive state in the country, something that would have made people’s heads explode, if you had told them this 12 years ago, not only is Georgia hosting two United States, Senate runoffs for control of the United States and the biggest Senate races in at least a generation, not only all of that, but the Democratic standard bearers are the young Jewish son of an immigrant mentor by John Lewis and a Black preacher who holds Dr. King’s pulpit, at Ebeneezer Church who pastored John Lewis, that is the New South, That’s where we’ve been headed. 

 

I want to, I want to have one more, one more word with the, uh, the person’s still weighing the rest of their daily schedule, whether they’re going to go out there. Listen, I don’t, I don’t

promise to always vote the way that anyone wants me to. You shouldn’t trust any candidate who does, but I’ll come right back here with Rem, and I’ll hold town halls in your community. And I’ll welcome criticism and scrutiny and tough questions and demand to be held accountable because that is what you deserve in a public servant. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t pretend to. I’m not even going to get it right every time, but I will make decisions using my abilities to their maximum, to make life better for ordinary working people in our state. That will be my North star, to expand health and equal opportunity and equal justice. Everything I do will be guided by a commitment to those principles. And so I humbly ask for your vote today.

 

So listen to everyone, stop listening, turn off the podcast, proceed immediately to your polling place. There are much more important things to do today. Then listen to me and Rem talk, go vote right now.

 

Rembert Browne: Next time on Gaining Ground: The New Georgia — the finale. We talk about what happened in Georgia’s Senate runoffs, and what’s next for the State, and the Country. That’s about as specific as we can get — no montage, no teaser, no nothing — because as of right now, we have no idea what’s about to go down. 

 

Jewel Wicker: Gaining Ground: The New Georgia is brought to you by Tenderfoot TV and Crooked Media, in association with Cadence 13

 

Donald Albright and Payne Lindsey are Executive Producers on behalf of Tenderfoot TV.

 

Jon Favreau and Tanya Somanader are Executive Producers on behalf of Crooked Media.

 

Executive Produced, written and hosted by Rembert Browne.

 

Written and co-hosted by Jewel Wicker.

 

Our lead producer is Christina Dana.

 

Gaining Ground: The New Georgia is produced by Jaime Albright, Mike Rooney, Matthew Pusti, Julia Beverly, Tracy Leeds Kaplan, Anne Rusten, Christina Toney-Schmitt and Stephanie Booker, with additional production support from Shaniqua McClendon and Justine Howe.

 

Edited by Christina Dana and Mike Rooney. Mixed and mastered by Cooper Skinner, with additional mixing by Devin Johnson. Original music is by Makeup and Vanity Set. 

 

Special thanks to Chris Corcoran and the team at Cadence 13, Oren Rosenbaum and Grace Royer from UTA, Ryan Nord, Jesse Nord and Matthew Papa from The Nord Group, and the teams at Tenderfoot TV, and Crooked Media.

 

And an extra thanks to all our guests and contributors who helped make this show possible.

 

Don’t forget you can donate to the gofundme of  Manuel’s Tavern by visiting gofundme.com/save-manuels-tavern

 

Check us out online at gaininggroundpodcast.com, and for information on how you can become politically active, check out votesaveamerica.com/volunteer. Thanks for listening.

 

Gaining Ground: The New Georgia