All eyes on the Peach State: MVP, local Democrats gear up to help party in runoff for Georgia races; Senate majority at stake

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  • Billy Wimsatt, founder and executive director of the national Movement Voter Project, based in Northampton, stands with one of the limited edition signs created as a humorous appeal to local voters. The standard slogan, “Support Local Organizing in Swing States” has been modified to play on the Montague Bookmill’s popular tagline: “Books you don’t need in a place you can’t find.” Photographed on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Billy Wimsatt is the founder and executive director of the national Movement Voter Project based in Northampton. Photographed on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Billy Wimsatt, founder and executive director of the national Movement Voter Project, based in Northampton, stands with one of the limited edition signs created as a humorous appeal to local voters. The standard slogan, "Support Local Organizing in Swing States" has been modified to play on the Montague Bookmill's popular tagline: "Books you don't need in a place you can't find." Photographed on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Billy Wimsatt is the founder and executive director of the national Movement Voter Project based in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The national Movement Voter Project, based in Northampton, printed a limited edition of signs for a humorous appeal to local voters. The standard slogan, “Support Local Organizing in Swing States” has been modified to play on the Montague Bookmill’s popular tagline: “Books you don’t need in a place you can’t find.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • In this June 20, 2017, file photo, Jon Ossoff speaks in Atlanta. Ossoff, a Democrat, is facing Republican Sen. David Perdue, in a runoff election for Georgia senator. AP

  • In this Dec. 2, 2016, file photo, Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., walks to the elevator for a meeting with President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower, in New York. Perdue is facing Democrat Jon Ossoff in a Jan. 5 runoff election. AP

  • In this Friday, March 20, file photo, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Georgia, waits to speak in a television interview on Capitol Hill in Washington. Loeffler is facing Democrat the Rev. Raphael Warnock in a Jan. 5 runoff election. AP

  • The Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate speaks during a rally, Tuesday, Nov. 3, in Atlanta. Warnock is facing a runoff against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler. AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, Pool

Staff Writer
Published: 11/15/2020 7:55:41 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Just when people thought the political stakes couldn’t get any higher than on Election Day, along comes Billy Wimsatt with a prediction about two runoff elections in Georgia in seven weeks.

“This will determine the entire future of the world. Everything is on the line with these two races,” said Wimsatt, executive director of the Movement Voter Project, a Northampton-based organization that raises and distributes money to progressive organizations that mobilize voters around the country.

That’s why MVP, after months of mobilizing to help in the effort to defeat President Donald Trump, quickly pivoted its resources to the Peach State, where control of the U.S. Senate will come down to the outcome of runoff elections between the top two candidates in each race held on Election Day, Nov. 3.

In one race, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, squares off against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, while the other contest features Republican Sen. David Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff. The runoffs are necessary because none of the candidates in either Senate race got more than 50% of the vote in the Nov. 3 election.

So why does a race more than 1,000 miles and seven states to the south mean so much to the nation?

The Georgia races are the last undecided contests for the U.S. Senate this election cycle. If both Warnock and Ossoff were to win, the next Senate would be split 50/50 between the two parties. That would mean that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be in a position to break ties in party-line votes.

“Things that move the country forward will get done,” said Larry Hott, a volunteer with MVP’s western Massachusetts chapter. He points to health care and coronavirus relief as examples.

Hott said that Democratic control of the Senate will allow a Joe Biden presidency to be more effective and progressive, although he said that what passes will still be centrist in nature.

Interest in the Georgia races aren’t exclusive to MVP. Others in Democratic politics in the Pioneer Valley are also hyper-focused on Georgia.

“We’re trying to figure out how we can be of service to the campaigns,” said Elizabeth Silver, who heads the Northampton Democratic Committee, adding that “Biden needs a strong Democratic Senate to undo the immense tangle of problems that Trump has plunged our country into. This is the only way that he can get there.”

Silver said that the Northampton Democratic Committee is looking into participating in locally-based phone banking for the Georgia runoffs, in association with other groups.

Stephen Linsky, who chairs the Easthampton Democratic Committee, is considering going down to Georgia to volunteer for the elections in an effort to do everything in his power to ensure that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell loses his majority position.

“The notion of Mitch McConnell having a virtual veto power over the next administration is something I can’t abide by,” Linsky said.

Northampton’s Bill Scher, a contributing editor at Politico Magazine, said that whether or not Democrats capture the Georgia seats, Biden will have to gain some bipartisan support for bills, as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, have both expressed opposition to doing away with the filibuster, which allows most pieces of legislation to be obstructed through continuous debate, preventing them from coming to a vote unless 60 votes can be found to invoke cloture.

That said, if Democrats control the Senate, they would only need to convince a faction of Republicans to join them on issues, Scher said. Should Republicans stay atop the power rankings in the Senate, Democrats would need to convince Republican leadership to join them.

“It determines who controls the Senate floor,” Scher said.

MVP’s model

MVP’s Hott said that statistics show that money spent on organizing is more effective than money spent on television. That’s why the organization gives money to groups that focus on mobilizing voters.

“It needs to go to the grassroots groups on the ground,” Hott said.

The western Massachusetts chapter of the MVP has raised about $1 million locally for the 2020 election. For the Georgia races, Hott said that the local chapter will raise money to go to grassroots groups in Georgia.

Wimsatt, who lives in Northampton, said that MVP nationally hopes to raise $5 million to $10 million for the Georgia Senate races.

“Donors are just calling us like crazy,” Wimsatt said, referring to shortly after the election.

He attributed this to people realizing that politics isn’t just candidates but organizations as well.

For the Nov. 3 election, MVP raised $103 million, only about $3 million of which went to Georgia.

Georgia, however, ended up seeing strong electoral performances from Democrats this year, with Biden carrying the state and a U.S. House seat flipping to Democratic control.

“In hindsight we under-invested in Georgia during the general,” Wimsatt said. “It is now a tier one state for us.”

Wimsatt said the organization is partnering with and providing funding to about 30 organizations in Georgia.

“It’s largely Black women-led organizations,” he said.

For his part, Linsky said that he expects the runoff elections to be close.

“It’s all going to be down to a handful of votes,” Linsky said.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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