Herring is the well-funded newcomer running a polished, professional campaign, the successful attorney with no previous political aspirations who was called to run because of dissatisfaction with the incumbent.
Griggs is the self-proclaimed "grassroots" firebrand who upset a one-time party darling in a previous primary and is running another understated campaign, confident that her name recognition and passion for change will carry her again.
Munroe is the unknown quantity, a U.S. Army veteran and health care professional who entered the race late following her retirement from the military.
All three, to varying degrees, have been putting up campaign signs, airing advertisements, knocking on doors and speaking at events and forums — the political "ground game."
And with such similar stances on the issues, the winner of the May 24 primary may be determined by their campaign strategy alone.
Joyce Marie Griggs
Griggs speaks emphatically and passionately, and this isn't her first political foray.
She's run for Congress twice before, most recently in 2020, when she defeated Democratic rival Lisa Ring in a runoff. She still lost to Carter in November, though, receiving only 41.7% of the vote.
She's still underfunded, though, having raised just $2,264 this campaign cycle as of March 31. She's relying on a dozen campaign staffers and "hundreds" of volunteers to make up the ground game.
She also has a campaign bus, a shortened school bus with Griggs' face on the side. Not the massive RVs used in large races, but a bus nonetheless.
Griggs says she's uniquely positioned to represent the working people of the First District. She paints herself as a candidate of the people, someone who has lived through poverty and understands the stresses it brings. She says when knocking on doors, she often asks folks if any other candidates have been out to see them.
"I understand you. I've been poor, and I've had to receive help, and I've worked my way up to where I am today," Griggs said. "So I understand what's going on. I understand. I feel the pulse of the people. I hear the heartbeat of the people."
Herring is measured and stoic, an upstart candidate spurred to run by Carter's vote to overturn the election in 2021, as well as the congressman's actions of Jan. 6, 2021.
Herring is also proving to be a prolific fundraiser.
He's already raised more money than any 1st District Democratic challenger in recent years - over $560,000 as of March 31, all from individual donors.
Herring says from the start, his goal was to build a professional, well-funded campaign, with one goal in mind: to beat Carter in November. But he says he's "not taking the primary for granted."
He employs a working staff of 75 to 100 people, including volunteers, and he's collected several local endorsements from elected officials in Savannah, including those of former mayors Otis Johnson and Edna Jackson.
"We are working hard, a lot of long days," Herring said. "But at the same time, I feel, in a way that I have never felt before in my life, that this is absolutely what I'm supposed to be doing right now."
Credit: Courtesy Michelle Munroe
Credit: Courtesy Michelle Munroe
Munroe sees herself as a "trusted leader for change," leaning on her experience as a pioneering health care executive in the U.S. Army. Prior to her military retirement, she was the first-ever female commander of Winn Army Community Hospital, located at Fort Stewart.
She joined the race in January and raised $81,000 within the first three months, running a campaign centered on Georgia’s maternal mortality rate, an issue that she’s passionate about as a midwife. She believes Rep. Carter isn’t doing enough to curb it, and if elected she hopes to expand health care access and affordability.
Health care issues are important to Munroe, and she's leaned into her work history since launching her campaign. She hopes the media coverage from her time leading the Fort Stewart hospital translates to name recognition with voters.
She has a campaign staff of eight and a network of family, friends and volunteers to help get her name out there. She says she's traveled around the district, going door to door and talking to voters. As the primary creeps closer, she's looking to ramp up the door knocking with the help of college volunteers.
"I categorize myself as someone who will fight for the people and connect with the people and really be that advocate. And as a nurse, that's what I've been, I've been a patient advocate," Munroe said. "And so I really feel like in this role, you are an advocate for the people. And so I have that experience, and I have the federal experience."
How will they beat Buddy Carter?
The most important question for any Democrats for this race is: How will they beat Buddy Carter?
Griggs believes that practice makes perfect. At a couple of forums, Griggs said that each time she’s run for office, she has done better than the previous time. Griggs has yet to win an election, but she says she’s on track this year.
“Each time, I've gained 10 points. From 30-something % against Jack Kingston [in 2000] to almost 42% in 2020. Look at the trend,” Griggs said. “Another 10%, guess what? It's over 50%.”
Herring said his campaign is designed to "take it to Buddy Carter" citing his more than 1,500 individual campaign contributions. Though he often bemoans the role of money in politics, he acknowledges its necessity.
"That's what it's gonna take to beat Buddy Carter, and that's what I want people to remember when they vote in May,” Herring said.
Munroe touts her history of implementing change in short time periods, a nod to the two- or three-year assignments of her military career. She called the election an "elected assignment."
"Do you want to change in this district? Because I know I do. And I have the experience necessary to make that change within the district," she said.
Will Peebles is the enterprise reporter for Savannah Morning News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @willpeeblessmn on Twitter.
This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Three candidates, three campaign approaches. Inside the U.S. House District 1 Democrat race.