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Nov. 27, 2020, 12:05 p.m. EST

Supporters of Democrats in Georgia races for U.S. Senate are optimistic about turnout

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Donnell Suggs

Attendees of a Thursday event where the two Democrats in the Georgia runoff elections for the U.S. Senate in January said they feel optimistic about voter turnout, which analysts believe will be a key factor in the outcomes of those pivotal races.

The two Georgia runoffs are being watched closely because they will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate, a significant factor in President-elect Joe Biden’s capacity to pursue his agenda.

Read: Here’s what you need to know about Georgia Senate races

Plus: Georgia is a political outlier in the South — and here’s what sets it apart

On Thanksgiving morning, Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the two Democrats in the race, were both helping to distribute food to those in need alongside fellow volunteers at the annual Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless holiday food drive in downtown Atlanta.

Among the onlookers was Dr. Frank K. Jones, the president of the Atlanta Medical Association, who was in scrubs following a shift at a local hospital and said he had dropped by to get a good look at the two candidates.

Asked about voter turnout, Jones said he expected it to be strong, if for now other reason than “to just have positive results that continue to turn Georgia blue.”

Biden was the first Democrat to carry Georgia in a presidential election since Bill Clinton won the state in 1992.

“We’re just supposed to do what we are supposed to do, and that’s vote. We have enough momentum, and we have young people out here. It’s a movement,” Jones added.

Adalina Merello, an Atlanta resident who made her way downtown to see if there was anything she could do, said she’s “personally involved in Latino voter engagement” and thinks the Ossoff and Warnock campaigns have little to worry about in regard to voter turnout.

“We’re headed in a good direction because we saw what this kind of turnout can do,” she said. “I believe the national attention is helping as well.”

Georgia had record voter turnout for the November presidential election, with 1.1 million absentee ballots cast by mail and an average of 66,241 in-person ballots cast per day during the in-person early voting period, according to the Secretary of State website.

Weygand Grant, 46, a volunteer at the food-distribution event and a registered voter, agreed. “I think they will [turn out], since they know what’s at stake, and as long as the candidates keep pressing, keep campaigning like they did last election.”

Daniel Blackman, 41, who is also involved in a runoff on Jan. 5 as the Democratic candidate for the District 4 Public Service Commission, said he believes the momentum from the Nov. 3 election will carry over to the first elections of 2021. 

Blackman said he didn’t believe the statistics that show runoff elections are not as popular as primary elections.

“I feel the opposite,” he said. “Traveling in rural and coastal Georgia feels different. They are so motivated because they feel like they are finally a part of change in Georgia.” Blackman recently traveled to Liberty County in south Georgia with the Warnock campaign and remembers feeling “optimistic.”

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