AJC Interview: Why the DNC added Georgia to its list of top 2020 targets

CHARLESTON, S.C. - The Democratic National Committee added Georgia to the list of battleground targets for the election, opening the door for a new infusion of money and resources devoted to flipping the state in November.

It’s part of the DNC’s “Battleground Build Up 2020” program and Georgia is among several Republican-controlled states added to the party’s priority list, reflecting an ambition to vastly expand the party’s political map this year.

DNC chair Tom Perez spoke with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about why he’s “bullish” on a state where Democrats have a more than decade-long drought in statewide races.

“In the past - and this is a shame on us moment – we were sprinters, we weren’t marathon runners,” he said. “We’d go in for the two-month sprint. That's mobilizing. We need to organize – that's the difference.”

Why choose Georgia?

"We have two Senate pickup opportunities there, we've got great candidates. We have so much progress that has been made there. You look at Lucy McBath, you look at the near victory in the 7th Congressional District and frankly, but for voter suppression, Stacey Abrams would be Governor Abrams. We know we can win Georgia, but we also know we have to continue to invest ...

“I am bullish. Our field continues to expand as Democrats, and our most recent battleground build up reflects the fact that there are opportunities everywhere: Texas, Ohio, Georgia and the like. And we're going to be fighting everywhere.”

Why this change in approach?  

"In the past - and this is a shame on us moment – we were sprinters, we weren't marathon runners. We'd go in for the two-month sprint. That's mobilizing. We need to organize – that's the difference. Organizing is the marathon, mobilizing is the sprint. We're in it for the long haul in Georgia and elsewhere, and I think those investments that were made in the (Jon) Ossoff race (in 2017) ended up paying dividends for Lucy McBath, and the investments that were made in Georgia 7th, whoever the nominee is that emerges from there, are going to pay dividends this November."

Was this announcement intended to calm nerves among anxious Democrats worried about Bernie Sanders’ rise?

“This is an effort to win, up and down the ballot. We've been doing this battleground build up for some time. And because we've been able to attract additional investors who understand that the DNC is helping people up and down the ballot, we're able to invest in more states. This is what it's about -- winning plainly and simply. And it's not just winning the presidency, it's taking back the Senate, it's expanding our margins in the House and it’s wining in statehouses across the country.”

Are you concerned that Democrats still have a jumbled field in the race for Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s seat? 

“It’s not my place to tell any candidates what they should do. They’ll have to make those assessments, and I’m sure they will. If I didn’t feel bullish about our chances in Georgia, we wouldn’t have made them part of our battleground buildup.”

What can voters expect to see from this initiative?  

“Offices. More organizers. A field operation that is going to enable those relationships to develop. We're investing in digital organizing so you'll see ads coming up. We bought up 115 million cell phone numbers and we've given those to state parties. You’ve got to meet the voter where they consume their news and what we know is most voters consume their news, including their political news, on their smartphone. A lot of these investments are totally unsexy, and they're totally indispensable.”