A Message From Rep. Wallace (GA 119)

From Our Representative Jonathan Wallace:

Last week, I was disappointed to see a federal court reject a request that Georgia switch to paper ballots for this November’s election. Given the known weaknesses of Georgia’s voting technology, I believe paper ballots would give us the most confidence that every vote will be counted.

There are still steps we can all take, however, to protect our votes this year and going forward.

1. This year, consider voting by mail. You may not be able to cast a paper ballot on Election Day, but you can still cast one by voting absentee. Just mail an absentee ballot request form to your County Board of Elections, and they will send you your ballot. Then complete it, and mail it back.

You can download a ballot request form here.

In Athens, mail your request form to:

Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections

P.O. Box 1828

Athens, Georgia 30603

In Oconee, mail your request form to:

Oconee County Board of Elections & Registration

P.O. Box 958

Watkinsville, Georgia, 30677

For more guidance on voting absentee in Georgia, check out this great twitter thread by the election integrity activist Marilyn Marks.

2.  Support candidates who will fight for fair elections. Our current state government may have failed to safeguard our elections, but we can change that by electing officials who will protect the right to vote.

This year I sponsored a bill that would allow Georgians to pre-register to vote when they are 16, so their registration becomes automatic when they turn 18. Let’s make it easier to vote, not harder. I support an independent redistricting commission that will put an end to partisan gerrymandering. And as I recently had a chance to explain in this interview with Civicist, I’m ready to use my tech background to ensure Georgia’s voting technology is reliable and secure.

Let’s continue this important work together. I’m grateful for any support you can offer today.

Jonathan

Oconee Young Democrats Speak Up

If this doesn’t give you faith in the next generation, I’m not sure what will!  Carter Watson is a student at Oconee High School and he penned the following letter to Angie Eells about an inspiring visit from Jonathan Wallace to OCHS’ Young Democrats Club:

On Wednesday, August 22, 2018, State Representative Jonathan Wallace came to speak to our humble club, the Oconee County Young Democrats. As a member of the club and a fan of Wallace, not just because of his policy positions, but in his success in flipping a gerrymandered Republican district blue, I was excited to meet him. As one of the first people in the class, our club sponsor, Mrs. Jennifer Strickland, sent me to the front office to escort him to our class. There I had the opportunity to shake his hand and to compliment his work on protecting sanctuary cities like Atlanta.

When we got back to the classroom, he started out by talking about reelection. Since we are under 100 days away from election day and in a historically Republican district, Representative Wallace understandably had the campaign in mind. He spoke to us about how important it is for him to bring out the vote by canvasing, a process which he very much enjoys. He told us a story about a woman whom he met whilst canvasing that used to walk to town in the 1940s to listen to FDR’s fireside chats. He told us that this woman has a large family of Democrats, all of which voted for him and are going to vote for him again.

After discussing his reelection, he described what he has been focusing on in the state house. He said that his three top priorities in the state house is to learn as much as he can, establish a reputation, and spread his knowledge on cybersecurity. He discussed how he was unable to kill a bill related to cybersecurity, but he later was able to help convince Governor Deal to veto it. He also described his ongoing efforts to implement an important regulation to rental car companies, which would require them to erase all synced data to cars which people may have accidentally synced. These efforts and more is what his focus is on and why it is important we keep him in office.

One thing that I took to heart was Wallace’s rhetoric when he talked about his opposition in the upcoming election. The kindness and non-hostile approach he took when someone asked him about his opposition or the Republican party as a whole is exactly what we need right now in our government, both at the state and federal levels. The general hostility in this country toward people who have conflicting values or opinions needs to change, and that all begins with elected officials. His honest, kind rhetoric is exactly what we need right now, and we are incredibly lucky to have him representing us.

It was absolutely excellent to have had the privilege to meet and listen to our representative! While he does have a tough reelection ahead, I believe that he can win over the hearts and minds of the people of which he disagrees and go back to the state house again next year.

~ Carter Watson

We couldn’t agree more, Carter!  Hope to see you and your friends on the canvassing trail this fall!

Primary Wrap-Up

Primary season officially ended at 7pm last night, and the Oconee Democrats would like to take a moment before we all dig into the General Election (November 6th!) to extend our thanks to all candidates for a great race.  Remember, it was only 2 short years ago when Congressman Hice ran unopposed, and we had 3 Democrats in the hunt for his seat this time. We have truly come a long way!

In addition, we Democrats have a lot to be proud of that we had so many women and minorities running for office.  We are truly changing the face of politics for the best!

Of course, the battle is not over, and we have a lot of work to do!  Here is a quick rundown of the general election candidates and their opponents:

Race Democrat Republican
Governor Stacey Abrams Runoff
Lieutenant Governor Sarah Riggs Amico Runoff
Secretary of State John Barrow Runoff
Attorney General Charlie Bailey Chris Carr
Comm. of Agriculture Fred Swann Gary Black
Comm. of Insurance Janice Laws Jim Beck
School Superintendent Runoff Richard Woods
Comm. of Labor Richard Keatley Mark Butler
PSC, District 3 Lindy Miller Chuck Eaton
PSC, District 5 Dawn A. Randolph Tricia Pridemore
US. Rep., District 10 Tabitha Johnson-Greene Jody Hice
State Senator, District 46 Marisue Hilliard Bill Cowsert
State Rep., District 117 Deborah Gonzalez Houston Gaines
State Rep., District 119 Jonathan Wallace Marcus Wiedower

We had some wonderful candidates in the primary season, and it was simply incredible to have so many progressive ideas in the conversation.  It is truly a shame that all candidates can’t win, but in a democracy, that is just how it works. Now is the time for everyone to come together to support our chosen candidates.  Regardless of whether your particular candidate won the nomination, we can all agree that the Democratic nominees are better for our communities than their GOP opponents.

It is worth pointing out that the top state offices will have runoffs on the GOP side, giving Democrats the advantage of campaigning for the General Election (November 6th) NOW while they are still sorting out their candidates.  This is an opportunity we can’t afford to squander!

It may seem like a long time until Election Day (November 6th!), but it will be here before you know it.  All of these fine candidates will be needing your support over the coming months, so please get involved and do what you can to help them succeed!

Did we mention that the General Election is on November 6th?

Now, about 2018…

Didn’t we just do this election thing?  And win it?  Well, yes… but that was only the 2017 special election, one race per district to fill the seats vacated by former Representatives Quick and Williams.  There’s still the regular 2018 election, with a whole slate of state, district, county, and local elections, plus our representative in the U.S. Congress.

So… for the first few months of 2018 we’ll have an eye on the Georgia legislative session, and we always have an eye on Congress (which is surprisingly necessary despite so little actually getting done), but… it’s time to talk about the road to November 2018.

Election Calendar

From the Secretary of State’s office, here are the key dates:

  • Voter registration deadline for the Primary: April 23, 2018
  • Primary election: May 22, 2018
    • Primary runoff, if needed, July 24, 2018
  • Voter registration deadline for the General Election:  October 9, 2018
  • General election: November 6, 2018
    • General election runoff, if needed: December 4, 2018

Additionally, although we don’t yet anticipate needing one, there could be a springtime special election on March 20, 2018; if so, its voter registration deadline would be February 20, 2018, and any runoff would be April 17, 2018.  No reason we’d need that, but… you never know.

Open Offices

There are a lot of offices up for grabs; you should consider running.  (We can teach you how,.)

Our candidates page lists the races that we know are currently in contention, but we might have missed one or two.  (Please tell us, by Facebook message or email, if you think we did miss anything!)  But this is the list of all the races we know are open, regardless of whether they have a Democratic challenger yet.

Federal

State

There are enough here that we’re going to separate the legislative, judicial, and executive positions:

Legislative

Judicial (non-partisan election)

  • Judge, state-wide Court of Appeals

Executive

County

  • Superior Court Justice for Athens-Clarke and Oconee Counties, departing incumbent David Sweat
  • County Commissioner Post 2, incumbent Chuck Horton (R)
  • County Commissioner Post 3, incumbent W. E. “Bubber” Wilkes (R)
  • County School Board Post 2, incumbent Amy Parrish (R)
  • County School Board Post 3, incumbent Kim Argo (R)

Local

  • Watkinsville City Council Post 3, incumbent Marcia Campbell
  • Watkinsville City Council Post 4, incumbent Christine Tucker
  • Watkinsville City Council Post 5, incumbent Dan Matthews

(None of Bishop, Bogart, or High Shoals have council seats open in 2018.  Bishop just elected a full slate to four-year terms, so they’re next up in 2021; the others have a half-council up in 2019.)

Interested in Running?

If you are, come to one of our meetings and talk to us about it.  Or contact us on Facebook or via this form to express your interest.

Even if you’re not sure, let us know; we can help you understand what the job would involve, what running for it would involve, and how we can help you do those things.  We can also help train you for the race, and maybe help you find volunteers to staff your campaign…

District 119 Candidate Forum, question by question

The Oconee Candidates’ Forum on Monday October 9th was, let’s be honest, a marathon: two races, six candidates, just under two and a half hours.   Which is exciting in terms of civic engagement, but does make it hard to find the questions and answers you were looking for.  So, while the full video of the entire evening is available here, this post gives you a question-by-question index into the video of the 119th district forum specifically.  (We have a companion post for the 117 forum too.)

District 117 Candidate Forum, question by question

We posted the entire video of the 117 session, but the questions being asked and links to those specific moments are below:

Interview with Deborah Gonzalez

This year, both of Oconee County’s two districts for the Georgia State House are up for special elections: both Rep. Regina Quick and Rep. Chuck Williams (both Republicans) have accepted other positions, as a federal judge and as head of the state Forestry Commission respectively.

Athens attorney Deborah Gonzalez is running in the 2017 special election for the 117th district, hoping to claim Regina Quick’s former seat.  She recently gave us an interview covering her background, her views on state government, and many of the issues facing the state house today.

Deborah told us of her life as an Army child, her first job in a factory, and the challenges raising her daughter as a single mother.  She went to law school to be able to give her daughter more, running her law practice as a small business.  Running for office she describes as “an responsibility, instilled in me by my father”… but also one that is worthwhile and rewarding for the people she meets, and for their stories.

Asked about the district she hopes to represent, which includes portions of four counties (Oconee, Clarke, Jaskson, and Barrow), she described the district as “gerrymandered” and said she had originally been worried the various constituencies would have different needs and concerns.  Instead, however, she has found that across the district, people largely want the same things: affordable care to keep themselves and their families healthy; a good education, whether college or technical training, and K-12 education before that; jobs that pay well enough to support themselves.  In that very basic sense, she finds the district very unified in its desires.

When discussing plans to keep in touch with voters after the election, however, she did acknowledge some separation, describing a need for county-specific contact people, and plans to keep her office available late at least once a month, in locations varying across the four counties.  This would make her accessible to citizens whose schedule might not allow them to see her during “business hours:” she promised that anyone in the office by 9:00pm would be seen.  This is an idea she borrows from former Atlanta Mayer Shirley Franklin, which she hopes will augment more traditional hours, as well on on-line and social media resources.

Like many candidates, Deborah has announced positions on many national issues on her campaign website.  However, we wanted to ask her about her views at the state level, since that is the office she is contending for.   As Deborah noted, we are nationally very divided today, but what divides us is known.  That creates an opportunity to find what will bring us together—a process which she believes government, and particularly the state government, has a large role to play.  It is also an environment in which her experience at mediation may be particularly helpful.

In Deborah’s view, elected officials have information, collected by aides or provided by lobbyists, that citizens do not have access to, nor time to understand.  She views it as the officials’ job to gather as many viewpoints as possible, consider all of them, and then to communicate accurate, reliable information to all stakeholders.  She cited the recent Campus Carry bill as an example of the system not working properly: the governor received over 14,000 calls against from citizens’ voices across the community, but passed the bill in response to about 1/100th as many supporters, many of them lobbyists.

And Deborah pointed out that the state government is relevant even on those national issues.  Healthcare, for example, is not only the ACA and its repeal and replace efforts: it includes expansion of Medicare, which  is a state decision.  So are school privatization decisions, livable wage and minimum wage laws, and other examples.  Asked about the top challenges facing Georgia specifically, Deborah lists representation as one: which voices are heard, who gets to vote, and how those votes are apportioned during redistricting.  All are issues addressed at the state level.

Deborah also brought up Internet privacy and accessibility issues during our interview; these are issues she feels strongly about, and has expertise in, from her previous work.  When I pressed about why she emphasized those, and why voters should care about issues that may seem abstract and technical, she reminded me of how deeply the Internet has penetrated our lives.  The issue for her is not only about bandwidth costs for large corporations like Netflix, but about Internet service costs to consumers, and costs to smaller entities: schools and on-line education offerings,  technology entrepreneurs, and “mom-and-pop” companies hosting their websites.  If Internet costs for those enterprises rise sharply, that causes a loss of access to what has become a necessary resource in modern business and modern life.

And, despite viewing the district as having been gerrymandered, Deborah sees an opportunity to flip the 117th.  The district voted for President Trump, but only by a 3% margin; her challenge, as she sees it, is ensuring turnout in the special election, particularly by those who are supporters, but hesitant of her chances: she feels she can win, but only with all of those voters’ votes.

Time to Speak

Wouldn’t it be nice for a political candidate to start by knowing what the district actually wants from their representative?

Deborah Gonzalez is running for the GA House of Representatives District 117 (which includes parts of Oconee County). Deborah wants to know what the residents in Oconee County are concerned about so she is inviting you to come to a forum so she can listen to and learn exactly what is on your minds.

Join us on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in the Main Auditorium at the Oconee County Library from 7:00 – 9:00 pm.

This forum is open to and welcomes the public.  Oconee Democrats are sponsoring it, but the goal is a non-partisan discussion.

Deborah has some questions she’d like to ask you, such as:
• What do you like about living in Oconee County?
• What are the most significant issues facing our county?
• What should be the role of citizens related to legislation in the State?

Most importantly, she would like to hear your concerns and questions. As a candidate Deborah really wants to know what can she do for you.

The forum will be moderated by Oconee County resident, Margaret Holt, who has worked with the National Issues Forums since 1981. The process is designed for our community to have a conversation, not a protest. Ideas shared will be captured to help Deborah shape a legislative agenda that matches the concerns of the District. She’s a candidate who will speak to you clearly and honestly. She is also a candidate who will listen to you attentively and authentically. So stop by and share your thoughts, your story, your voice.

Non-partisan. All are welcome.

Website for Deborah Gonzalez:
votedeborahgonzalez.com

Oconee Democrats at Deborah Gonzalez’ Launch

Deborah Gonzalez
Deborah Gonzalez at her launch event

Today at Bishop Park, Deborah Gonzalez official launched her campaign for Georgia State House Representative for District 117, composed of parts of Oconee, Clark, Barrow, and Jackson counties.  She is challenging Regina Quick in November 2018.

 

Deborah Gonzalez
Deborah Gonzalez speaking at her launch

We’re excited to have a strong candidate to support, in a district which has been identified as one of the likeliest for Democrats to flip.  Ms. Gonzalez spoke of her father’s service in the U.S. Army and his Puerto Rican heritage, of her own career spanning from computer networking to entertainment law, and of her philosophy on the importance of “borrowing” the present from future generations: how can we ensure we not only give to our children all that we enjoy today, but more?  She also stressed her support for local entrepreneurship, environment, and education issues, all dear to the hearts of those of us who attended her launch from Oconee County.

Thank you for running, Deborah!  Those interested in volunteering to assist or, or merely in learning more about the candidate, can visit her website at http://votedeborahgonzalez.com/.

Oconee Democrats at Gonzalez launch
Oconee Democrats with Deborah Gonzalez after her campaign launch