‘Gwinnett is the future’: Warren makes first Georgia 2020 campaign stop

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren waves to supporters during an "organizing event" at Central Gwinnett High School on Saturday, February 16, 2019, to rally supporters behind her bid for the White House. (Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

Georgia has yet to set a date for its 2020 presidential primary, but that didn’t deter U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren from making Gwinnett County one of her first campaign stops in her bid for the White House.

Gwinnett has transformed from a Republican stronghold to a Democratic-leaning county in past elections, going for Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams by 14 percentage points in the 2018 governor’s race and for Hillary Clinton by six in the 2016 presidential race.

READ | Abrams puts support behind Gwinnett MARTA expansion

The Massachusetts Democrat recognizes the county’s potential for her party, she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution before taking the stage.

“Gwinnett is the future, not just of Georgia, but of America,” Warren said. “This is a place where Democrats need to get out and make the case for what we are fighting for, and to enlist people from all around this county and around this state to make this a country that works, not just for a thin slice at the top, a country that works for everybody.”

Warren was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of about 1,100, filling the Central Gwinnett High School gymnasium. She used her time in Lawrenceville to introduce herself to the crowd, telling formative stories from her life that have shaped her political principles.

The audience responded enthusiastically to Warren’s comments on implementing anti-corruption measures, raising the minimum wage and implementing a “Medicare for All” universal health care system. One protester was removed from the crowd, and others sported pro-Donald Trump and anti-abortion hats and signs outside the event.

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren speaks to supporters at a rally at Central Gwinnett High School on Saturday, February 16, 2019. She is the first of the 2020 presidential candidates to make a public visit to Georgia after formally entering the race. (Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

Ray Noblit, 66, made the four-hour trip to Lawrenceville from Cookeville, Tennessee, with his wife and daughter to see Warren. The family of three is undecided, but interested in Warren’s policies. Ann Austin, Noblit’s wife, is a fan of Warren’s work with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Noblit agreed, saying Warren’s focus is squarely on average citizens.

“She represesnts the common people, not Wall Street,” Noblit said.

Carrie Weston, of Marietta, waited outside Central Gwinnett High School for half an hour before doors opened Saturday. The 55-year-old has been waiting for Warren to run “for years.”

“She can take on Trump,” Weston said, wearing a Warren 2020 sweatshirt. “She’s not scared. She doesn’t back down. There is no ‘no’ in her. She stands her ground.”

"Gwinnett is the future, not just of Georgia, but of America,” Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said about the metro Atlanta county at a rally at Central Gwinnett High School in Lawrenceville on Saturday, February 16, 2019. (Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

Bailey Beebout, 17, of Grayson, brought his mom to see Warren at Central Gwinnett. Beebout has been interested in politics since he was 6 years old, when he was in the voting booth as his mother cast a vote in the 2008 presidential election. He’s excited he’ll finally be able to get into the voting booth on his own and wants to see every candidate who visits Georgia.

Gwinnett County and other suburban metro Atlanta counties have increasingly voted Democratic in recent elections, leading many to speculate whether Georgia could become a swing state in the general election. Because of the 2018 governor’s race, decided by 1.2 percentage points, Weston thinks Georgia can’t be ignored.

“Georgia is turning purple and I believe a lot of candidates realize that,” Weston said. “After Stacey Abrams, there’s no pushing us to the end of your tour.”

Staff writer Michael Kanell contributed to this article.

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Former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is speaking??for the first time since she delivered the Democratic Party response to the State of the Union last week.

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