A socialist campaign and sexist mailer defeat Teri Anulewicz in Cobb County

Rep. Teri Anulewicz (D-Smyrna) is congratulated after her first bill passed the house, March 1, 2019. (Bob Andres/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: Bob Andres/AJC

Credit: Bob Andres/AJC

Rep. Teri Anulewicz (D-Smyrna) is congratulated after her first bill passed the house, March 1, 2019. (Bob Andres/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

It’s an old-fashioned — and misguided — notion that a woman should be judged by her husband’s occupation, or that her husband’s job must influence a female elected official.

And yet, there it was in Cobb County voters’ mailboxes recently, in an attack mailer sent by Democratic socialists against state Rep. Teri Anulewicz. “Why is Teri Anulewicz’s lawyer husband defending a Trump co-conspirator?” the mailer asks in bold letters.

The mailer is one of several reasons Anulewicz lost her reelection bid on Tuesday in a surprise defeat to Gabriel Sanchez, a 27-year-old democratic socialist from Cobb County. Others included a blitz of text messages, fundraisers, door knocking and grassroots organizing by the Atlanta chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, of which Sanchez is a member.

If Sanchez wins a general election in November, he’ll be the first democratic socialist ever elected to the General Assembly. But he may find less than enthusiastic Democrats waiting for him in the state House, if he gets that far, after making accusations about Anulewicz during the campaign that many said were not only sexist, but in many cases inaccurate.

The mailer itself features a photograph of Anulewicz, a Smyrna Democrat, superimposed over a photo of Jan. 6 rioters in front of the U.S. Capitol. The back of the mailer called Anulewicz “a Republican operative” and a “Trump coup defender.”

A flyer in the race between Democrats Gabriel Sanchez and state Rep. Teri Anulewicz attacked her husband's representation of a defendant in the election interference case against Republican Donald Trump.

Credit: Contributed

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Credit: Contributed

Separately, text messages to voters asked of Anulewicz, “Did this ‘Democrat’ in name only tell you about her ties to January 6th?”

The “ties to January 6th” and the “lawyer husband” in the campaign mailers and texts is Chris Anulewicz, one of 50-plus Georgia defense attorneys who agreed to represent one of the 18 Trump co-conspirators in the Fulton County election interference case.

An analysis by the AJC’s Chris Joyner found that more than one-third of the lawyers who signed on to the cases are Democrats. As for Chris Anulewicz, he also defended Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office in the aftermath of the 2020 election as Trump falsely claimed the election had been rigged against him.

“I heard your lawyer is very difficult,” Trump said to an official in Raffensperger’s office during that infamous phone call when he told the Secretary of State to “find” him 11,780 votes to reverse his Georgia loss. That “very difficult lawyer” was Chris Anulewicz.

But Chris Anulewicz’s job duties or political loyalties were beside the point in Teri Anulewicz’ reelection campaign, or should have been, unless Sanchez thinks a woman in politics can’t think for herself.

Fellow Democrats have been incensed by the insinuation.

“Of course it’s sexist. We never asked a male candidate, ‘What about your wife and what she’s done?’” said Jen Jordan, a former Democratic state senator and candidate for attorney general.

When I asked Sanchez in an interview whether he thought attacking a woman over her husband’s job was appropriate, he was quick to point out that the mailer did not come directly from his campaign.

Did he see the mailer before it went out, I asked. “I believe so, yes,” he said.

“But I think that we need to make sure that we do not have someone who’s tied to the overturning of an election and destroying our democracy with the Georgia election case, where they really tried to overturn the election,” he said.

But not only did Teri Anulewicz not try to overturn the election, she worked in the aftermath of the 2020 election to help prove that Trump’s accusations of “dead people” voting were false. She called Republicans “whiny children” as they demanded one recount in Georgia after another. Earlier this year, she called a Stop the Steal rally thrown by Republican activists “an homage to treason.” That led to so much bad press the event was canceled.

If Anulewicz is a “Republican operative” as the mailer says, somebody forgot to tell the Democratic Party of Georgia, which relied on her repeatedly as a spokesperson for the party to attack Trump in press conferences, press calls, and interviews.

Nobody told Georgia’s actual Republican operatives, either. “Her voting record is reliably Democratic,” said Brian Robinson, a Republican operative in Atlanta. “If she’s an undercover Republican operative, she’s fooled a lot of people.”

The mailer and text messages were sent from the Atlanta Chapter of the DSA according to Kelsea Bond, the co-chair of the group. But that’s just part of what the democratic socialists did to get Sanchez elected.

Bond also described a sophisticated, seven-month campaign by the DSA in conjunction with Sanchez.

“We canvassed weekly starting in November,” Bond said. “We had students from Kennesaw State and Georgia Tech coming out to knock on doors. Individual members hosted fundraisers for the campaign at their houses.” Bond said they also threw fundraiser concerts and a comedy show to help elect Sanchez.

“We were pretty involved in the life of the campaign, the energy around it, and a lot of the community outreach.”

Sanchez canvassed with the group every week. “He was out there knocking on doors with us. And obviously, those are the most effective conversations with voters because they love to talk to the candidate.”

All of this paints a portrait of an effective grassroots campaign against Anulewicz, but one that also raises potential ethical concerns since the Atlanta chapter of the DSA is a 501(c) 4 nonprofit organization, which worked directly with Sanchez to get him elected.

David Emadi, the executive director of the State Ethics Commission, said that in general, nonprofit groups are permitted to conduct issue advocacy, but not to campaign to elect or defeat a specific candidate. In contrast, a super PAC could work to elect specific candidates, but would not be eligible for tax-exempt status and would not be allowed to coordinate with a candidate’s campaign.

In Bond’s opinion, the coordinated activity is allowed and the Sanchez campaign is “just the beginning” in Georgia.

Speaking of the future, Sanchez will now go on to face a Republican in the November contest in the district, which leans heavily Democratic.

One of the people who will help him is Sanchez’s partner, a paid staffer on his campaign.

We can assume that Sanchez’s partner agrees with his political positions since she’s working on his campaign. But we should also believe that she has the right to her own opinions and professional choices, apart from her partner’s politics.

That’s the very least a woman in politics should be able to expect in 2024, but even that, as Sanchez himself has shown, is not guaranteed.