Jonathan Wallace gave Oconee County Democrats a decidedly upbeat assessment of the Nov. 6 election in which he was defeated in his bid to retain his House District 119 seat.
Wallace confessed he was not excited about “the actual outcome of the election,” which he lost to Republican Marcus Wiedower, but he said “There is a lot to be proud about.”
“We’re not just trying to get a specific candidate elected,” Wallace said. “We’re trying to connect with the people in our neighborhood. We’re trying to connect with people in our neighboring neighborhoods.”
Wallace made his comments on Nov. 15 at the final meeting for 2018 of the Oconee County Democratic Committee.
Reversal Of 2017
Republican Wiedower, with 52.8 percent of the vote, defeated Democrat Wallace, with 47.2 percent, on Nov. 6.
The numbers were a reversal of those from the Nov. 7, 2017, special election, when Wallace got 56.7 percent of the vote.
Wallace said when he started planning for the election last summer he thought he needed 12,000 votes to win, and he ultimately received 11,929 votes.
“We did what we set out to do,” Wallace said. “There was just a larger turnout than we expected.”
Wiedower received 13,336 votes in the District, which is made up of parts of Oconee County and parts of Clarke County.
Turnout A Factor
Wallace said Clarke County suffered from a lack of poll workers on election day, and long lines there may have discouraged some people from voting.
“I think those long lines impacted the turnout that we saw there,” Wallace said, though he said he would be “surprised” if he would have picked up 1,400 votes had that not been the case.
The actual gap between Wallace and Wiedower was 1,407.
Clarke County had a turnout rate of 61.5 percent, while Oconee County had a turnout rate of 75.5 percent in the election on Nov. 6.
Clarke County actually had more registered voters going into the Nov. 6 election than did Oconee County.
Wallace received 70.0 percent of the votes cast in Clarke County on Nov. 6 but only 29.0 percent of the votes cast in Oconee County.
Turnout was much lower in the 2017 special election, but it was nearly the same in the two counties. Wallace carried Clarke County in 2017 while he lost in Oconee County.
Wallace told the 16 people in the audience at the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 15 that he was buoyed by an experience he had in the last two days of the election.
A stranger he met on election eve while going door-to-door texted him on the day of the election saying she didn’t feel she had done enough and wanted to do more to help with the campaign.
“That’s the work we’re doing when we’re trying to get a candidate elected,” Wallace said. “We’re trying to get the community together to be stronger and take care of one another, understand what’s going on in our community.
“If you took the time to go knock doors or make phone calls, you probably talked to people you would never have talked to otherwise,” Wallace said. “You would see neighborhoods that you’ve never seen before, both on the high end of doing very well for themselves as well as folks who still really struggling.
“I think that awareness is how I’ve changed more than anything else throughout this process,” he said.
Wallace spoke for nearly 13 minutes, and before he came to the podium Dan Matthews thanked those who supported him on Nov. 6 in his re-election to the Watkinsville City Council.
That race was nonpartisan.
Wallace and Matthews were followed by the featured speaker, John Dayton from the Department of Lifelong Education, Administration, and Policy at the University of Georgia.
Following a general discussion of the importance of religious freedom, Dayton criticized the Oconee County School system, saying there have been instances of teachers and coaches “coercing” students to participate in prayers and displaying personal religious symbols in the classroom, among other things.
“Religious diversity continues to increase, including here in Oconee County,” Dayton said, “with endless variations of believers and non-believers sharing one community and one public school system.”
“The most important thing we as citizens can do to improve the culture and climate in our schools and community is to insist that all public employees respect our laws and the equal rights of all persons in an open, honest, and transparent manner,” Dayton said.
I was not able to attend the meeting of the Oconee County Democratic Party on Nov. 15.
Robert Wyatt, an officer in the Party, agreed to record the video for me.
Unfortunately, I forgot to tell Wyatt that the battery on the camera would not last through the whole meeting.
Wyatt counted 17 people at the meeting.
The video below ends abruptly and does not include the presentation by Dayton.
Ann Stoneburner, also an officer in the Party, gave me a copy of Dayton’s comments, and the summary above comes from those written comments.
In the video below, Wallace began his comments at 4:48.