Georgia Democrats Predict a Return to Political Power

Twit-FacebookBy Maynard Eaton

Is Georgia about to become a blue state again? Perhaps. A group of past and present Democratic Party power brokers prognosticated at the Atlanta Press Club this week about how the party’s fortunes were on the rise and predicted that a Democrat could win statewide by 2014 or 2016.

“We’re close, we know that,” said the Georgia Democratic Party Chairman Mike Berlon. “It’s not a question of if, it’s when. I think we are on the right track.”

A panel discussion included House Minority Leader Rep. Stacey Abrams, Georgia State political professor Stephon Anthony, Chairman Berlon, Rep. Scott Holcomb and Better Georgia CEO Bryan Long.

“There are two reasons we’re on the rise,” said Abrams, an attorney and astute debater, who is the first woman to lead either party in Georgia’s Legislature. “Demography is moving in our favor, and we’ve actually had electoral successes that indicate that. We’ve hit the lowest ebb that we are going to hit as Democrats. The reapportionment map that drew us so low was unable to destroy us.

“Every election from here on will be about gaining seats; it will be about gaining seats in the House and gaining seats in the Senate, making us competitive in state-wide races,” she continued. “That trajectory is a bit long. It’s a 2014, 2016, 2018 trajectory, but it’s coming.”

She noted that there is nothing on the Republican side that can create a drag for Democrats because GOP members are squabbling internally, particularly on the national and state level. “As long as we have a cogent strategy and are willing to work at it, we can take advantage of it,” she said.

For the past several years, the palpable public perception of the Democratic Party has been almost laughable given the Republican political domination in the Legislature and state-wide elections. But Abrams, who is considered a brilliant, thoughtful and open-minded up-and-comer in the Democratic Party, plans to reverse that mindset.

“The people react to what they remember,” opined Abrams, of DeKalb’s House District 89, which includes the communities of
Candler Park, Columbia, Druid Hills, Gresham Park, Highland Park, Kelley Lake, Kirkwood, Lake Claire and South DeKalb. “The seeding of new ideas takes time. I’ve only been employing my strategy for two years and I’ve been successful.” But, she cautioned, “That’s a small success in a narrow place in a really large state.”

She believes that if the state party and Better Georgia keep up the good work, the seeds will take root.

“You have a coalition of groups working in tandem to create a perception and that perception becomes reality. In Georgia when it comes to politics the perceptions become reality at election time,” she asserted. “So you watch us in 2014, you watch us in 2016 and you will see that what we are saying isn’t fantasy but really is a prognostication of our opportunities.”

Her energy and optimism was dampened a bit by some doubters within the party and on the Atlanta Press Club panel.

Stephen Anthony, a Georgia State University lecturer and former executive director of the state party, questioned the validity of the Democratic claims, agreeing that the panel’s prognostications were somewhat “pie-in-the-sky.”

“No not at all,” he said when asked if he agreed with his party’s optimistic political forecast. “I don’t think it’s as bad as it’s been, but I disagree with many of the things that were said tonight. Democrats have got to develop a different message. One of the ways that we were able to hold the fragile coalition that we held was that we looked after the have-nots and did a little bit for the have’s also.”

“Success is several years away,” he continued, “especially at the Congressional and General Assembly levels. It’s a vicious circle. With Republicans in power, they control reapportionment. And, they draw the lines their way.”

Maynard Eaton is a Blogging While Blue contributor. This article originally appeared in the Atlanta Daily World


  1. Dave Bearse says:

    Unfortunately this interactive graphic by Nate Silver, one of the best in the business, indicates it’s likely to be more than several before Georgia Dems will contend statewide.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      The interactive graphic and demographic assumptions by Nate Silver are likely a bit off as the graphic predicts that Georgia will not turn in favor of the Democrats until about roughly 2044.

      Silver’s prediction seems to quite possibly miss the mark because current demographic trends make it likely that the state of Georgia is likely to turn in favor of the Dems roughly probably no later than the mid-late ’20’s just on the strength of the state’s continuing demographic changes alone.

      Silver’s prediction also is a bit misleading because his forecast is based on growth rates of 0.5% for whites, 1% for blacks and 3% for Hispanics for the entire country when in many places, including here in Georgia, the number of white voters has been shrinking, largely due to shrinking voting participation rates by whites, while the potential voting strength of minorities (blacks, Hispanics and Asians) is increasing due to faster growth rates amongst minorities than amongst whites in Georgia.

  2. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    With the state’s continuing demographic changes, it is certainly very-likely that Georgia could turn in favor of the Democrats in the not-too-distant future, likely before 2030.

    But even despite the continuing demographic changes that already has Georgia with a demographic makeup that is very-similar to the Democrat Party-dominated Mid-Atlantic state of Maryland (roughly 45% of the population is made up of non-white minorities in Georgia vs. roughly 46% of the population being made up of non-white minorities in Maryland), Georgia will not turn in favor of the Democrats off of numbers alone.

    Georgia Democrats will not become competitive in statewide politics until they realize that they will have to go on the offensive and start relentlessly raising ridiculously huge sums of money and stay on the fundraising offensive like their dominant Republican counterparts, who are often like walking ATM’s win it comes to their top candidates and statewide organization.

    Georgia Democrats also will not become competitive in statewide politics until they start building out an organization that rivals their dominant Republican counterparts at the regional and state levels, particularly in the increasingly diverse Atlanta region where Democrats should be able to pick-up 60% of the vote in statewide elections with relative ease.

    What is especially telling about the current dismal state of the organization of Georgia Democrats is the party’s lacking presence in large, fast-growing and increasingly diverse mega-suburban counties like Cobb and Gwinnett.

    Mega-suburb Cobb County may be a traditionally and notoriously-conservative hotbed of GOP activity with a county Republican party that has over 80,000 members.

    The powerful Cobb County Republican Party is likely second in strength only to the Gwinnett County Republican Party which represents a community in Gwinnett County that is home to the largest cluster of Republican voters in the state of Georgia.

    With Cobb County having a fast-growing population of 707,000 that is 44% minority and Gwinnett County having an even faster-growing population of 842,000 that is 57% minority and is quickly charging towards the 1 million population mark, it is somewhat puzzling that Georgia Democrats don’t have much more of an organizational presence in two of the largest, fastest-growing and most rapidly-urbanizing counties in the entire state.

    The failure of Georgia Democrats to have a more significant organizational presence in those two politically-crucial large OTP counties is even all the more puzzling considering the fast-growing population of political moderates who are often alienated by the notoriously-ultraconservative rhetoric that is a hallmark of Cobb County politics.

    The failure of Georgia Democrats to have a more significant organizational presence in those two politically-crucial large OTP counties is also very puzzling considering Gwinnett County’s increasingly ultra-diverse population in which non-Hispanic whites now makeup an increasingly-shrinking minority of the county’s population, as well as the repeated incidents of political corruption involving the Republican members of the GOP-dominated Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners.

    Also, considering that formerly predominantly-white and Republican outer-suburban Metro Atlanta counties Henry (48% minority), Newton (48% minority), Douglas (51% minority) and Rockdale (59% minority) all have populations that are either majority-minority or stand on the verge of becoming majority-minority, Georgia Democrats should likely ALREADY be much more intensely-competitive at the statewide level.

    Based on fast-changing demographics that are increasingly favorable to the left and center of the political spectrum, particularly within the increasingly-diverse metro Atlanta region, one can make the argument that Georgia Democrats should not only be intensely-competitive at the state level of politics, but should also likely be nearing a level of dominance on the state’s political scene instead of scraping along rockbottom as the party is currently.

    With increasingly-favorable demographics and a Georgia GOP that is politically-dominant but has often governed the state miserably and wretchedly during their decade at the helm of state government, the conditions are there for Georgia Democrats to make significant inroads at the statewide level, probably even moreso than the party itself may be aware of at this point.

    But for Georgia Democrats to make those significant inroads at the state level they have absolutely and positively got to relentlessly and ruthlessly fundraise like money is going completely out-of-style to the point where the state party and individual candidates are like walking and talking Automated Teller Machines (like their Republican counterparts who, despite governing the state miserably, routinely raise ridiculous amounts of money for their campaigns).

    To make significant inroads at the state level, Georgia Democrats also have to build a statewide network while relentlessly raising ridiculous sums of money like their dominant Georgia Republican counterparts as Georgia Democrats will not become competitive at the state level just by sitting around and imagining wins.

    There are just two things that Georgia Democrats need to remember if they are to become competitive at the state level:

    Fundraising and organization.

    Fundraising and organization.


  3. Burroughston Broch says:

    Did I miss something? Where are the viable Democrat candidates lining up to qualify? Rep. John Barrow just announced that he will not run.
    At this time, Democrats don’t seem to have fundraising, organization, or a viable candidate. Talking about winning at the Atlanta Press Club is easy, but winning is another matter.

    • The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

      You can’t have viable candidates without the money and organization to make them viable.

      Why should a John Barrow (who seems to be surviving just fine absent any help from a state Democratic Party that is non-existent at this point) basically commit career suicide by giving up his Congressional seat to run for the U.S. Senate when what very-little is left of the state party constantly chides Barrow for being too conservative in a Congressional district and a state that is thoroughly and overwhelmingly dominated by conservative politics?

      If the Georgia Democratic Party (which is led by a chairman who strangely openly espouses without shame that it is not his job to raise money for the party for which HE leads) had any money or semblance of organization, figures like John Barrow and Michelle Nunn might actually be viable candidates in statewide races against a less-than-robust Georgia Republican Party that at least has enough sense to hold both low-priced and high-priced fundraisers multiple times each week all over the state, particularly in suburban North Metro Atlanta where most of their voters live (say it with me: in COBB and GWINNETT!) amongst a sharply-rising number of centrist and moderate voters.

      I would ask why John Barrow should run for higher office when he probably feels that the state Democratic Party would hang him out to dry, but that would be pointless because at this point there is no state Democratic Party to hang him out to dry.

  4. Burroughston Broch says:

    I am amused by the Democratic gossip that Michelle Nunn will run. One of my siblings once worked with her and describes her as aloof, cool if not cold, ultra-liberal, and very aware of her privileged position. Those aren’t the sort of attributes that will play well outside metro Atlanta. I suspect her knowledgeable father will advise her better.
    But, I would love to watch a race between Michelle Nunn and Karen Handel.