‘Hello, my name is Linda, and I’m volunteering today on behalf of Stacey Abrams for Governor. I was wondering whether we could … Hello?’
Five women sit at folding tables, dialing the digits of registered Democrats in a nearly deserted outlet mall in Decatur, Georgia. In previous lives, the building was a supermarket and a megachurch, but now it’s a campaign outpost for the Georgia Democrats, who find themselves at the heart of one of the more keenly contested midterm races this fall.
As opponents, Brian Kemp and Stacey Abrams couldn’t be more different. Kemp, the Republican candidate for Governor of Georgia, hails from Athens in the northeast of the state. The fourth-generation UGA alum ran a construction firm before entering politics, and has earned an endorsement from President Trump.
His adversary Abrams is a tax lawyer and consultant who grew up in rural Mississippi and served as Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives for six years. Her backers include Kavanaugh hearing starlets Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who paid a visit to Atlanta last week. These big-name supporters are a key line of attack for Kemp, who paints her as a radical backed by ‘San Francisco socialists’ and ‘George Soros’ in his daily emails. ‘They want to turn our state into the next California!,’ the subject line of one declares, in an attempt to stir skepticism of outside interest among Georgia voters – seemingly oblivious to the recent visits of Indianan Vice President Mike Pence, New Yorker Donald Trump Jr. and his Californian beau Kimberly Guilfoyle on behalf of Kemp.
The contenders’ political histories are curiously intertwined, as the recent ‘voter purging’ scandal demonstrates. Kemp, in his current role as Georgia Secretary of State, has held up 53,000 voter applications. This adds to the 1.4 million registrations his office have cancelled since 2012. Kemp alleges that forms have been incorrectly filled out, and that the group largely responsible is the New Georgia Project…an initiative Abrams founded in 2013. Abrams is demanding Kemp’s resignation as Secretary of State, Kemp is accusing Abrams of ‘pushing for illegal immigrants to vote’, and Georgia voters are caught in the middle.
But on this weekday lunchtime, the phone-banking volunteers are preaching to the converted, calling registered Democrats likely to vote for Abrams, encouraging them to vote early. They’re a diverse bunch, retired moms of various ethnicities, scrolling through an iPad’s worth of numbers, patiently dialing again and again. Across the board, their phone manner is warm and welcoming.
Nora Shariff-Borden is a recently retired sales director and a first time volunteer. Why is she giving her time to Stacey Abrams? ‘Well, she’s a woman, she looks like me…I think that her ideas and her mindset and her heart are for women all over, and people all over the state of Georgia.’
Not everyone here ‘looks like’ Abrams though. Cathy Greenough is a grandmother who used to work in a garden centre in Massachusetts. She’s been stumping for the Democrats since 1968. ‘I wanted a close campaign where it mattered and it doesn’t get any tighter than this,’ she told me.
‘This candidate is inspirational. If this state can be turned for her, it would be just wonderful. So my little dog and I drove 1,200 miles down here last week, and we’re here until after the election.
It’s a nice change to see a white woman on the phone who isn’t calling the police in a viral video clip. It may not feel like the crashing Blue Wave so many pundits are certain is approaching, but could it perhaps be the first ripple?