111419 NORCROSS— From left, Penny Bernath, Chair of Campaign Elections, greets Pinkie Farver, the District Director for the Georgia Federation of Democratic Women before they watch the presidential debates held in Atlanta Wednesday, November 20, 2019 at Mazzy’s Sports Bar in Norcross, Ga. PHOTO BY ELISSA BENZIE
Photo: Amanda.Coyne@coxinc.com
Photo: Amanda.Coyne@coxinc.com

Local Democrats gather to watch Atlanta presidential debate

Danise St. Andrew doesn’t know who she will vote for in the crowded Democratic presidential primary. But on Wednesday night St. Andrew, president of the Gwinnett County Federation of Democratic Women, was at a Norcross sports bar hoping the 10-candidate debate in nearby Atlanta would help her decide.

“I’m keeping a close eye on this debate because I have to start narrowing down my choices,” she said.

111419 NORCROSS— Gwinnett Democrats gather to watch the presidential debates held in Atlanta Wednesday, November 20, 2019 at Mazzy’s Sports Bar in Norcross, Ga. PHOTO BY ELISSA BENZIE
Photo: Amanda.Coyne@coxinc.com

St. Andrew was among a small group gathered at a Gwinnett County Democratic Party event to watch the event. Basketball and hockey games played alongside MSNBC ahead of the 9 p.m. start time. The venue for this contest — Tyler Perry Studios — thrust Atlanta into the national political spotlight.

Photos: Democratic presidential candidates debate in Atlanta

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Multiple partygoers shared St. Andrew’s sentiment about the large field; Most expressed a hesitance to commit to a candidate while the field was so large and the primary still four months away.

111419 NORCROSS— Gwinnett Democrats gather to watch the presidential debates held in Atlanta Wednesday, November 20, 2019 at Mazzy’s Sports Bar in Norcross, Ga. PHOTO BY ELISSA BENZIE
Photo: Amanda.Coyne@coxinc.com

David Mahle believes the most successful candidate would be one that could pull support from people who otherwise favor Republicans. Mahle listed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and entrepreneur Andrew Yang as the “only” candidates who’ve demonstrated that ability so far.

Mahle cited Sanders as the candidate that came out the strongest in Wednesday’s debate. Sanders is a consistent performer in debates, sticking to his core policy points, Mahle said.

“Everyone else tries to get their shot in without digging too deep into policy,” Mahle said.

111419 NORCROSS— From left, Denise St. Andrews, President of the Gwinnett Federation of Democratic Women, Penny Bernath, Chair of Campaign Elections, Tracy Sample, Kathleen Kelly and Pinkie Farver, District Director for the Georgia Federation of Democratic Women, gather to watch the presidential debates held in Atlanta Wednesday, November 20, 2019 at Mazzy’s Sports Bar in Norcross, Ga. PHOTO BY ELISSA BENZIE
Photo: Amanda.Coyne@coxinc.com

Health care was the issue looming largest for Stephanie Burkle. Candidates’ propsals range from adding a public option to moving the country to a single-payer public plan. 

Debate recap: Candidates discuss Medicare for All, paid parental leave and affordable housing

“I do think people are really concerned about the implications of taking people’s [private] heath care away, but they’re also sick of paying for such an expensive health care system,” Burkle said.

111419 NORCROSS— Activist Peggy Casey joins other Gwinnett Democrats gather to watch the presidential debates held in Atlanta Wednesday, November 20, 2019 at Mazzy’s Sports Bar in Norcross, Ga. PHOTO BY ELISSA BENZIE
Photo: Amanda.Coyne@coxinc.com

Pinkie Farver, a district director for the Georgia Federation of Democratic Women, was particularly interested in hearing what candidates’ proposed for women. By the debate’s midpoint, U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar had discussed their paid family leave plans. But the two senators weren’t on Farver’s shortlist, made up offormer Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Corey Booker.

There was only a brief discussion of Georgia-specific issues, like the state’s restrictive abortion law.

But some residents, like Farver, were excited for a peek at the local venue.

“I want to see that Tyler Perry Studios,” Farver said.

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