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Joe Biden unveils senior leadership team in Georgia

FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2018, file photo, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden greets supporters during a rally with Wisconsin Democrats in Madison Wis. While Democrats are still planning to meet in person in Milwaukee in August, Wisconsin's state convention was scaled back from a two-day event to a two-hour virtual meeting. But the goal of focusing on beating Trump remains the same. (Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2018, file photo, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden greets supporters during a rally with Wisconsin Democrats in Madison Wis. While Democrats are still planning to meet in person in Milwaukee in August, Wisconsin's state convention was scaled back from a two-day event to a two-hour virtual meeting. But the goal of focusing on beating Trump remains the same. (Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)

Credit: STEVE APPS

Credit: STEVE APPS

Georgia Democrats have called on Joe Biden’s presidential campaign to devote more serious resources to the state. On Tuesday, he announced members of a senior leadership team that could pave the way for more investment in Georgia.

The presumptive Democratic nominee hired five well-known strategists to operate in a state that’s a must-win for President Donald Trump. Republicans have carried Georgia in every presidential cycle since 1996, but recent polls show Trump deadlocked with Biden.

Biden’s state director is Tracey Lewis, who was most recently a national senior adviser to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign. She has deep Georgia roots, serving as Hillary Clinton’s senior adviser in the state in 2016 and as a key deputy in Michelle Nunn’s 2014 U.S. Senate bid.

Former state Rep. Simone Bell will serve as one of Biden’s two senior advisers in Georgia. Bell, who served in the House from 2009 to 2015, runs a political consultancy firm and was a key deputy to Stacey Abrams during her 2018 bid for governor.

Tharon Johnson is Biden’s other senior adviser in the state. One of the state’s best-connected political operatives, he worked for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and DeKalb County Chief Executive Michael Thurmond. He was also President Barack Obama’s regional director in the South during his 2012 re-election bid.

Tharon Johnson, one of Georgia's leading political operatives, will work as a senior adviser on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign in the state. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Tharon Johnson, one of Georgia's leading political operatives, will work as a senior adviser on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign in the state. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Reese McCranie will work as the Biden campaign’s coordinated deputy director. A veteran of Obama’s 2008 campaign, McCranie was a Reed deputy and strategist for Bottoms’ 2017 runoff victory before he was tapped to help lead the city’s Office of One Atlanta, which focuses on equity and inclusion.

The campaign’s political director is Dominick Perkins, a longtime aide to U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop who was the data director for Jim Barksdale’s 2016 bid for the U.S. Senate. Perkins is now the Democratic Party of Georgia’s affirmative action chairman and was political director for the state’s Young Democrats chapter.

With big leads in national polls, Biden is facing pressure to expand the political map beyond traditional battleground states to targets such as Georgia and Texas where Republicans have long dominated.

Democrats haven’t won a statewide election in Georgia since 2008, though the margins have grown steadily tighter. Fueled by gains across metro Atlanta’s suburbs, Democrats flipped a long-held Republican congressional seat in 2018 and forced two statewide races into runoffs.

This year, emboldened Democrats warn it would be “political malpractice” to sideline Georgia, with two U.S. Senate seats on the ballot, a couple of competitive U.S. House seats and a chance to defeat Trump, who carried the state by 5 percentage points in 2016.

The tight polls have forced Trump to start airing ads in the state over the summer. And Republican-aligned groups are pouring tens of millions of dollars into TV campaigns backing GOP candidates for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats.

Trump’s campaign has fast fortified the state. The Republican’s Georgia campaign boasts more than 100 staffers and reports that thousands of volunteers have knocked on a quarter-million doors.

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