From Maria Saporta
The runoff election in Georgia was the most significant national election of all time, said national policy advisor James Carville in an exclusive interview with Zoom on Jan. 15.
“I would love to be challenged, the Georgia runoff was the most significant national election since then, and I’m fighting to fill the void,” Carville said.
And it wasn’t just the runoff elections when two Democrats – Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff – won seats in the US Senate against Republican incumbents that gave the Democrats control of the US Senate.
It was the November election when Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden won Georgia, helping solidify his nomination with 16 votes and defeating President Donald Trump’s re-election. It was the first time since Bill Clinton in the 1990s that Georgia voted for a Democratic presidential candidate.
“Georgia has 16 (voters), so it’s the biggest unpredictable state in the presidential election, so that’s huge,” Carville said. “It ruled the entire United States Senate, it doesn’t get any bigger. Never in history have you had two people in such determined control. The difference between 50 and 49, as I said earlier, to quote Mark Twain, is the difference between a lightning bolt and a lightning bug. One can say without hesitation, with reservations or ambiguity, that Georgia was the single most important state in the entire 2020 cycle. “
The interview with Carville was a continuation of our July conversation after Georgia held a disastrous June 9th primary and Carville challenged the Metro Atlanta business community to ensure Georgia held fair elections on November 3rd. Although Carville is a Democratic strategist, he said his calling was impartial.
After the two US Senate runoff elections on January 5, I wanted to hear Carville’s views on Georgia’s performance.
Carville was accompanied on the Zoom call by his close friend Keith Mason to share their wisdom and insights. Both Mason and Carville collaborated on Zell Miller’s gubernatorial campaign and Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1990. Mason was Miller’s chief of staff and a member of the Clinton administration.
The state’s business community got involved in helping Georgia hold two fair elections (November 3 and January 5) that were in the national spotlight, Carville said.
“The right to vote is a safe place for them,” Carville said. “Corporate America says one of the things we care about is protecting and expanding the franchise. Who will get mad at you?”
Carville also said it was in their best interest.
“Every business marketer is more looking for people in a democratic coalition – younger people, not white people,” Carville said.
Gwinnett-born Mason, a Dentons attorney and now a national infrastructure consultant and real estate investor, gave Georgia leaders high marks for handling the elections.
“Georgia made tremendous strides in running the November elections compared to the June primary, where we had all these bad national stories about how we couldn’t hold elections efficiently,” Mason said. “Georgia was in the national spotlight. James and I saw this. We thought the Georgian business community has a great opportunity to step up and take the lead to help our state conduct good, fair and efficient elections so that every vote is counted. “
Mason mentioned several efforts, including the launch of Georgia Support the Vote, a bipartisan coalition formed by business and state leaders jointly chaired by Dentons Republican Eric Tanenblatt and CARE CEO Michelle Nunn, Democrat. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Metro Atlanta Chamber, and GaVotingWorks.org, an impartial initiative to mobilize Georgia businesses to prepare for the election. Among other things, companies started a campaign to hire tech-savvy election workers.
“I have spoken to senior officials from a number of companies who have used their staff to support the operation in the electoral process,” added Mason. “We have some of the top brands in the country. And we’re kind of a booster state, ”said Mason. “We have formulated our mantra of public leadership that social progress means economic progress. So we can’t have anything that doesn’t support social progress, like people’s right to vote. “
Carville credited Stacey Abrams, founder of Fair Fight, for bringing attention to the issues of suffrage and electoral repression in Georgia.
But he went on to say that there are two types of Democrats: “Democrats who focus on curbing corporate power and Democrats who are obsessed with harnessing corporate power.”
After the unrest and the takeover of the US Capitol on January 6th by insurgents who wanted to overthrow the presidential election in 2020, the American company took notice. Many companies have frozen their political contributions, including several Georgian companies: Coca-Cola, UPS, Aflac, PulteGroup and WestRock.
“You are starting to see that companies now have limited political contributions,” Carville said. “You are part of America and you have to react to what is going on.”
When asked how Georgia’s elected leaders, including Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, reacted, Carville put this into context. The recorded conversation between Trump and Raffensperger on the Saturday before the runoff showed how adamantly the President urged election officials to find 11,780 Trump votes so he could win a victory over Biden with one vote in Georgia. Raffensperger told the President that he had to go with the votes cast.
“To do anything else would have put them at risk of breaking the law and getting into great trouble,” Carville said of Raffensperger, who added that his parents must have raised him properly. “It’s amazing where in America someone becomes a hero when they count votes. That’s the most basic function in a democracy … But he turned against Trump because it was just a law. (The President) asked him to break the law and he said, “Sir, I can’t.”
Back in 2018, Mason said Republicans were concerned that Georgia would turn blue. They were more concerned than the Georgia Democrats were optimistic. But Mason said he used his homeland – Gwinnett – as an indicator. If the Democrats won 60 percent in Gwinnett, Biden would win. Biden won the county by 58 percent and the Democrats won the Senate races by more than 60 percent.
Interestingly, Mason and Carville said Ossoff and Warnock would not have won if only one of them had made the runoff.
“I think the (Democratic) candidates really exceeded all expectations,” said Carville, who called Republican Kelly Loeffler “just one terrible candidate.”
“You can’t underestimate the importance of having both of them on the ballot at the same time,” said Mason. “That was huge. I think the Republicans would probably have won one on one, any of them. If they were up there at the same time and Trump was pushing them around for two months, they were told that the Georgia vote didn’t matter, it wasn’t fair, it wasn’t correct, all of which was in favor of the Democrat. ”
Republicans traditionally win runoff elections in Georgia. If the state hadn’t had a runoff election, Republican Senator David Perdue would have won 49.7 percent of the vote in November.
So will efforts be made to abolish runoff elections in Georgia?
Carville doesn’t think this would be successful, as television stations “are lobbying in Atlanta like you’ve never seen before”. It is estimated that the Senate campaigns spent nearly half a billion dollars between the general election and the runoff election, plenty on television advertising.
When asked if attempts to change and restrict Georgia’s electoral laws would succeed in the 2021 General Assembly, Carville said it was unlikely – although Republicans recognize that the state’s demographics are working against them.
“They’re being scrutinized and watched closely,” Carville said. “If they introduce a bill in the Georgian legislature that restricts voting rights, it will be published in the New York Times. It’ll be on the TV news at night. This is not a small warehouse business in the Georgian legislature. This becomes a national message as soon as they do something. “
Still, Carville is expecting Republicans from Georgia “post the vote because the Democrats did their best there. “Allegations of fraud have produced” no evidence “but he expects attempts to be made because” their own survival depends on them restricting the franchise “.
When asked what messages they wanted to give the Georgia voters, they both spoke with pride.
“Georgia can be proud of how it came about,” said Mason. “The fact that we were on the side of the law is important. We had our problems, but the leadership supported the law. “
Carville went even further.
“Whenever you live in a state and it’s in the spotlight and the light is on and it looks good, that helps everyone,” Carville said. “Corporate Georgia goes like this, ‘Hey, we got through this. It could have gone the wrong way and it didn’t. Not only did we avoid a bullet, we also received a medal. ‘“
Hannah Elise Jones, Atlanta Civic Circle Social Media Manager, contributed to this column.