Hillary Clinton’s coming to town. So is Barack Obama, a swarm of Democratic presidential candidates, and a string of President Donald Trump’s surrogates.
Sure, Washington will be abuzz with the ongoing impeachment hearings. But for at least a few days this week, Georgia will be where the political action is.
It will kick off Monday as presidential candidates begin to arrive in Atlanta — and schedule events to raise campaign cash, meet with voters and huddle with activists and elected officials.
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Some of the plans are not yet public, though details are emerging. Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., plans to use Georgia as a staging ground for a new effort to win over black voters, starting with an afternoon event at Morehouse College in Atlanta.
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota will host a roundtable on “democracy and voting rights” at an Atlanta museum.
And Monday evening, Clinton will appear with her daughter, Chelsea, at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta’s book festival to promote her latest publication — and, perhaps, talk about the pressure she has said she’s facing to mount a 2020 campaign.
State and national Democratic Party officials will hold a string of events Tuesday, including a panel discussion in downtown Atlanta on “battling voter suppression tactics” that will be headlined by Stacey Abrams, the party’s 2018 nominee for governor.
Abrams is also urging candidates to join her Thursday in a phone bank at Ebenezer Baptist Church to call thousands of Georgia voters who might be purged from the rolls because they haven’t participated in elections for several years.
More events are expected to pop up as other contenders arrive in town ahead of the Wednesday showdown at Tyler Perry Studios.
The debate will feature 10 top White House hopefuls at the studio complex, and local leaders see it as a moment to convince the activists, donors and journalists who will flock to the event that Georgia is truly a politically competitive state.
“The choice to have the debate in Atlanta signifies what we’ve already been saying: We are the battleground state, and Georgia represents both the present and the future of this country,” said state Sen. Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia.
Even as the candidates prepare to take the stage, Obama will be down the road delivering a keynote speech at an environmental conference attended by thousands of contractors, homebuilders and designers. He’s not expected to appear at the debate, though he could attend party fundraisers.
Since only a few hundred people can cram into the studio for a firsthand view of the debate, watch parties organized by Democrats and Republicans are sprouting up throughout metro Atlanta, giving Georgians a chance to cheer or boo the candidates with some company.
The political spotlight isn’t likely to shift from Atlanta the day after the debate, either, with two rallies planned at historically black colleges.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will speak at Morehouse College about his plan to eliminate student debt. A few hours later, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren will deliver an afternoon speech at Clark Atlanta University to honor the women behind the Atlanta Laundry Workers’ strike in 1881.
Republicans, who say the debate will only show Georgians that Democrats are out of touch, plan to roll out the welcome mat with a slate of their own events. Among them: a tea party-organized protest march on the day of the debate and appearances by Kimberly Guilfoyle and Katrina Pierson in Sandy Springs on the eve of the event.
The latter is part of a Women for Trump initiative meant to close the gender gap between the president and his Democratic rivals, and it stars a trio of prominent Georgia conservative women: Alveda King, Ginger Howard and Julianne Thompson.
A former tea party leader, Thompson said national Democrats might be surprised by what they find in Georgia — a solid bloc of conservative-leaning voters who are “tired of the time and money Washington is wasting going from one accusation to the next” in the impeachment push against Trump.
“People like the policies and accomplishments of this administration,” she said, “and they are tired of Congress wasting time and money when they should be working hard for the American people.”
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