'They Don't Care About the Little Guy': Progressives Take Aim at Greed of GOP Senators in Crucial Georgia Runoffs

Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Raphael Warnock (L) and Jon Ossoff wave to the crowd during an outdoor drive-in rally on December 5, 2020 in Conyers, Georgia. Ossoff and Warnock face Republican candidates Sen. David Purdue (R-GA) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a runoff election that will take place January 5th. (Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

'They Don't Care About the Little Guy': Progressives Take Aim at Greed of GOP Senators in Crucial Georgia Runoffs

To win on January 5, organizers say, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock should focus on getting direct economic relief to struggling Americans, raising the minimum wage, and the greed of the Republican Party.

With Democrats hoping to secure a crucial majority in the U.S. Senate by winning two runoff elections in Georgia, grassroots progressive organizers are spreading the message that the Republican Party's minority rule continued control of the chamber will make economic recovery impossible for the state's struggling people, especially amid the crush of the ongoing pandemic.

Medicare for All advocate Ady Barkan of the Be A Hero campaign wrote on Twitter last week that without grassroots mobilization, Democrats will be relying on "the same terrible ad consultants who lost Senate races in Kentucky, Iowa and North Carolina" to win over Georgia voters.

"There's a better way," he wrote, explaining that Be A Hero has tested several ads it produced with National Nurses United (NNU) and found that Georgia Republicans were moved to support the Democrats when they watched a particular ad featuring registered nurse Irma Westmoreland.

"I was a Republican for many years and I have gone to be a Democrat because Republicans are not doing their job," Westmoreland says in the web ad, explaining how she could not support Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler because both used early information they got about the coronavirus pandemic from briefings not to warn their constituents about the virus, but to enrich themselves by buying and selling stocks.

"All they want to do is to make a profit off of what they have learned, and that's where their focus is," Westmoreland says. "It's not on the general Georgian that needs to be taken care of."

As Barkan wrote to supporters on Monday, the ad "is moving moderate Republicans by up to seven points."

"If we stay focused and organized, we can make a real difference in the two January runoff elections in Georgia and flip the Senate," he wrote.

Another ad by the two groups features Alice Beasley, another Georgia-based registered nurse who lost her mother to the coronavirus pandemic and who places the blame for the loss of nearly 10,000 state residents since March directly on Loeffler, Perdue, and the Republican Party--also condemning the two Georgia lawmakers' insider trading.

While Be A Hero and NNU are laser-focused on the urgent need to defeat two senators who are more focused on enriching themselves than looking out of the health and safety of their constituents, other progressive groups are hoping other messages about economic inequality will appeal to Georgia's working-class voters.

In The Hill on Saturday, Patriotic Millionaires vice chair Stephen Prince wrote that while the Democrats face "long odds" in Georgia's January 5 runoff--with Warnock leading Loeffler and Ossoff narrowly ahead of Perdue according to recent polls, in a state that hasn't been represented by two Democratic senators in over a decade--the party does have "a clear path to winning Georgia and winning the Senate: pin all of [its] hopes on raising the minimum wage."

Prince urged Warnock and Ossoff must pledge to vote for the Raise the Wage Act, which would implement a $15 federal minimum wage, as soon as they take office.

"For all the hand-wringing about progressives pushing the party too far to the left, progressive economic policies, like a higher minimum wage, are incredibly popular with voters across the political spectrum," wrote Prince, noting that red states including Missouri, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Florida have all voted to raise the minimum wage at the state level in the last decade.

Georgia, where more than 34% of workers would get a raise if the Raise the Wage Act were signed into law, according to the Economic Policy Institute, "is ripe for this kind of economic message," Prince added.

As it did during the general election last fall, the climate action group Sunrise Movement is working to secure "more favorable terrain" in Georgia and the U.S. Senate, for its movement and the passage of a Green New Deal and other climate legislation.

Canvassers with the organization's hubs in Georgia are phone-banking, deep canvassing, going door-to-door, and holding trainings to help canvassers engage with young white voters who supported President Donald Trump but may still be persuadable in the runoff Senate race.

"Some serious muscle and hustle in Georgia," Sunrise Movement co-founder Evan Weber tweeted.

The progressive political action committee Justice Democrats noted on Monday that local media outlets in Georgia are paying attention to calls from the left for a runoff election that is framed as a referendum on whether Georgia voters and all Americans will receive substantive aid from Congress, nearly a year after a single, means-tested $1,200 check was sent to some households through the CARES Act.

According to a memo sent last Thursday from Justice Democrats, the Sunrise Movement, New Deal Strategies, and Data for Progress, Ossoff and Warnock should spend the next three weeks making clear that they would prioritize another round of $1,200 relief checks in any coronavirus package, while the rest of the Democratic Party makes it "unambiguously clear that if Georgians give Democrats the Senate, this will get done and the money will get in their pockets."

"This strategy would give Democrats something they haven't had in years: a clear message about something tangible that Democrats will do for you, communicating how voting for Democratic candidates will make your life better," the groups wrote. "It would make the stakes of the runoffs crystal clear, directly tying votes for Warnock and Ossoff to something concrete that Democrats can and will deliver--actual results that people can see and feel."

Fox 5 News in Atlanta on Monday pressed a Republican strategist on the need for more relief--which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who will retain control of the Senate if Ossoff and Warnock lose, is vehemently against despite rising rates of food and housing insecurity.

The strategist admitted in the interview that "many of the voters right now are really hurting in terms of the economy and losing jobs, especially the small business owners," before claiming Georgians will likely reject promises of more direct aid because they don't want blue states receiving help.

As the groups wrote in their memo last week, a recent Data for Progress poll showed that "63% of likely Georgia runoff voters said they'd be more likely to vote for a candidate who commits to passing an additional $1,200 relief check, with just 10% saying they'd be less likely."

Warnock tweeted over the weekend that Georgians are "fed up with Loeffler's failure" and that he would vote for a new round of direct payments, while Ossoff said at a debate last week--where he was the only participant, addressing an empty podium since Perdue declined to show up--that if the senator had come, he would have asked Perdue "why he continues to oppose $1,200 stimulus checks for the American people."

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