Four of the leading presidential candidates are in Atlanta on Thursday to court voters, the latest sign that Democrats see Georgia as a battleground state in 2020.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and Mayor Pete Buttigieg spoke at the African-American Leadership Council Summit at a downtown Atlanta hotel.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke capped the day by headlining a Democratic party fundraiser in Buckhead.
While Georgia isn’t getting the same treatment as early-voting states, candidates are visiting here earlier and more often than in past presidential cycles. Follow below for live updates of the day’s events.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke opened his address with a nod to the 75th anniversary of D-Day, challenging the audience to reflect on the epic battles that helped defeat the Nazis.
“We are the heirs to their service, to their sacrifice and their struggle,” said the former Texas congressman. “And we must ask ourselves what we do now with this inheritance.”
O’Rourke outlined his voting rights proposal, which sets a goal of registering 50 million more voters by 2024, and said it was shaped with Stacey Abrams in mind.
“Though she may have technically and legally lost the election,” he said, “she won a much larger battle.”
Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke at length during remarks at a Democratic fundraiser about the need to combat voter suppression, calling it a “methodical assault” by Republicans.
“Voter suppression is the reason Stacey Abrams isn’t governor right now,” the Democratic presidential hopeful said.
Biden told the room of Democrats that policies put in place since the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a bulk of the Voting Rights Act aren’t about voter fraud.
“It’s about making people of color work harder to vote,” he said. “It’s a direct descendant of the poll tax.”
Biden said the Republican strategy is to “disengage and disenfranchise” voters.
“We’re going to get every single informed and registered voter to turn out on Election Day,” he said.
Joe Biden made national news when he reversed course on the Hyde Amendment, saying he now opposes the ban on the use of federal funds for some abortions.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., took aim at what he called “patterns of voter suppression” across the country and Georgia.
“Stacey Abrams ought to be the governor of Georgia,” Buttigieg told a room full of mostly black Democrats.
“When racially motivated voter suppression is permitted, when districts are drawn so that politicians get to choose their voters instead of the other way around, when money is allowed to outvote people in this country, we cannot truly say that we live in a democracy.”
Buttigieg said Democrats have to beat back efforts of voter suppression so they can right things from within office.
He said if Democrats organize and invest in Georgia, there’s no reason the state couldn’t go for the Democratic presidential candidate next November.
“We invested in Ohio and not so much in Georgia last time and we saw actually the results suggested Georgia is no less within reach,” he said. “Part of that is demographics, but a lot of it is organizing.”
Buttigieg also leaned into “identity politics” and spoke of using what he called his privilege to advocate for those who are marginalized.
“Because I am a man it is twice as important that I be standing with women whose reproductive freedoms are at risk today,” he said. “And yes, because I am white, it is twice as important that I stand up to inequality that is visited upon the heads of black Americans in our country.”
Most Georgia Democrats haven’t picked sides in the race for president, but the Joe Biden fundraiser Thursday was packed with big names.
Former Gov. Roy Barnes was at the Ansley Park home of Mack Wilbourn, as were Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young.
A host of candidates and former candidates joined the crowd, too: U.S. Senate candidate Teresa Tomlinson, ex-gubernatorial contender Stacey Evans, and former 6th District challengers Kevin Abel and Bobby Kaple.
Biden spoke for about 30 minutes, thanking the crowd and pointing out the movers and shakers in the room. He singled out Young, saying we “owe you a big debt of gratitude” and then nodded to Barnes.
“I can’t tell you how much we’d like to see another Democratic governor here,” he said.
Biden noted that many in the crowd of more than 100 vented about President Donald Trump before saying “he will go down — and I mean this sincerely, I’m not trying to be snide — as an aberration.”
Soon, he had turned toward the day’s 75th anniversary of D-Day. After U.S. and allied forces “liberated Europe and saved the world,” leaders came together “and decided that we would make sure we would never make those mistakes again.”
One of their finest accomplishments, he said, was NATO.
“What’s he doing? He’s destroying NATO,” said Biden, referring to Trump. “If he gets re-elected, watch: NATO will be disintegrated.”
Biden added, with a sigh, that Trump is “tweeting about Bette Midler” while overseas to honor the war dead. And he remarked, with sarcasm, that it “really worries me” that both Trump and North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un have criticized him.
He ended on a more positive note, saying the U.S. is poised to “own the 21st Century.”
“And the rest of the world needs us to own it, because we are the glue that holds the world together – we are the only country with the capacity to do it,” said Biden.
“If we continue to treat the other team like they’re the enemy and not the opposition, how are we going to get anything done?” he asked.
“I’m not joking – I’m deadly serious. If we don’t change who we are, our kids will inherit a country that will take a long time to get back on track.”
Beto O’Rourke held a town hall meeting Wednesday night to highlight his new voting rights policy. But he had a lower-key start to Thursday that included a visit to Krog Street Market.
Pete Buttigieg just finished up a private fundraiser at one of Atlanta’s Democratic institutions: Manuel’s Tavern.
The South Bend mayor noted he was on “hallowed ground” at the refurbished bar, and he’s right. Generations of presidential candidates have visited Manuel’s, founded by former DeKalb chief executive Manuel Maloof, over the decades.
Jimmy Carter announced his governor's bid at Manuel's in 1970 and remains a regular customer. Countless local Democrats have held events and fundraisers there. Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore trekked to the tavern in the 1990s.
And Bill Clinton made an impromptu visit to the tavern in August 2016, as his wife’s campaign for president hit the homestretch.
At the event, Buttigieg warned dozens of his donors that President Donald Trump “can absolutely win again, as unpopular as he may seem” if Democrats nominate a candidate who “looks like we are preserving the system.”
His campaign, he said, has a special ability to “represent something different and potentially unifying without trying to be all things to all people ideologically.”
Buttigieg, one of three presidential candidates to make the pilgrimage to Plains, also spoke highly of his visit with Jimmy Carter. He called it an “amazing, almost spiritual experience.”
Cory Booker is bullish on Georgia.
He told reporters that he believes there are more Democrats in the state than Republicans, and echoed Stacey Abrams by saying the party must focus on registering first-time voters of color in “overlooked” communities.
“What we need to do is get people out to vote,” he said. “This is a blue state. What that means is we need to go back to organizing and build a 50-state party.”
Booker quickly hit several highlights of his campaign platform during his brief address to summit attendees, ranging from his desire to “take on the gun lobby” and guarantee access to health care — including abortion.
Booker and Democrats have zeroed in on Georgia’s House Bill 481, and several similar anti-abortion measures being considered across the country, which bans the procedure once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill into law last month, but it’s certain to face legal challenges before it can take effect in January. In his remarks, Booker called it an “anti-democratic law” and an attack on low-income women and minorities.
“I think a lot of people are going to be working to change that,” he said. “But I think until then, nobody should be silent on this issue. I think that silence is tantamount to complicity.”
Four presidential candidates are roaming Georgia today, but don’t forget there’s a U.S. Senate race on the ballot, too. Teresa Tomlinson isn’t.
The former Columbus mayor is the lone major Democratic challenger to Republican David Perdue, and she was on hand for Booker’s speech.
She noted that having so many presidential candidates in the state this early in the campaign season shows Georgia’s importance to next year’s election.
“They understand that we’re evolving at a very rapid pace,” she said shortly before the morning’s summit began. “Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi — it’s not what it used to be. We need to make sure our power structure begins to respond to the changing demographics.”
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