Raphael Warnock, running as a Democrat in the special election for the U.S. Senate, told Oconee County Democrats earlier this month at the party’s virtual meeting that the country is facing a number of crises and the election underway is a particularly important one.
The country is being called on “to figure out how we navigate our way through this,” Warnock said. “And I think that on moral and practical grounds, we’ve got to see that the only way to do it is to do it together.”
Ed Tarver, also running as a Democrat in the special election, had told the Democrats at their virtual meeting the month before that he considered this “the most consequential election of my lifetime” and asked for “support if we’re going to be able to set Georgia out on a new course.”
Speaking at that same meeting in September, Matt Lieberman, also running as a Democrat in the special election, said “It truly is no ordinary time,” the views and needs of Georgians are not being represented in the Senate, and the Senate is dysfunctional.
Lieberman promised, if elected, to offer a “a new politics of patriotism” to address these problems.
Eight Democrats are on the ballot in the nonprimaried special election to fill the unexpired term of Johnny Isakson, who resigned for health reasons, and the local Democratic Party heard from another of the four, Richard Dien Winfield, on Aug. 20.
The names of six Republicans are on the ballot, and the Oconee County Republican Party has heard from five of them: Kelly Loeffler in May, Wayne Johnson in June, Annette Davis Jackson in August, and Kandiss Taylor and Derrick Grayson in September.
Doug Collins, the sixth candidate, is scheduled to speak at the party meeting at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Monday) at party headquarters, 1050 Barber Creek Drive, off Mars Hill Road. He will be joined by Tim Burgess, incumbent Board of Education member seeking re-election, and James Chafin, running as an independent for District Attorney.
As of the end of voting on Saturday, 11,357 Oconee County voters had cast a ballot in-person in early voting. By the end of the day on Friday, another 4,512 absentee ballots had been received. So 15,869 of the county’s 31, 594 eligible voters, or 50.2 percent, already have cast a ballot.
Warnock made his comments at the Oct. 15 virtual meeting of Oconee County Democrats, where District Attorney candidates James Chafin, Deborah Gonzalez, and Brian Patterson also spoke.
Lieberman and Tarver were speaking at the Sept. 17 virtual meeting of the Oconee County Democrats.
Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, said the country is facing five different crises, “any one of which, under typical circumstances would define an election. And we are dealing with all of them simultaneously.”
The first is the COVID-19 pandemic, Warnock said, “and then there is another kind of virus that we found ourselves confronting yet again this year through tragic flashpoints.” Warnock called this “the virus of racism.”
Warnock said “the good news is we saw in the wake of those tragic moments a vast, multi-racial, multi-generational, multi-faith coalition of conscience pouring out into American streets, risking exposure to one virus but masking up in order to wage nonviolent struggle against the other virus.”
Warnock said the other crises were “our struggle with climate change,” an “assault on the very institutions of our democracy,” and and “economic turndown unlike anything we’ve seen since the great depression.”
“All five of those things, big things, all at once” also present opportunities, Warnock said. “I think rainbows only come after storms. And it is only when it's dark that you can see the stars really shine.”
Warnock said he has spent his career bringing people together and would make that his task if elected.
Tarver, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia, said during his time in that office he battled crime and corruption and helped formerly incarcerated individuals return to society.
“I will not forget the important criminal justice work that still needs to be done,” Tarver said.
“I certainly agree that we should make adjustments, make changes legislatively, to ensure citizens that we can hold police and law enforcement accountable for excessive force and misconduct,” Tarver said.
He said he would support legislation “that would allow us to put in place a national database so that we could track those individuals who are bad applies who have been found responsible for excessive force or use of force and misconduct.”
Tarver said he believes the Affordable Care Act has flaws that need to be corrected and that Medicaid should be expanded.
“I believe we should have universal access to healthcare, and no one should decide not to seek healthcare or should not be able to obtain healthcare because of some type of fear of being financially harmed or because of poverty,” he said.
Tarver said he is a strong supporter of Georgia farmers and that he supports the Green New Deal.
Lieberman, a health insurance business owner and former teacher based in Atlanta, said he decided to run for the U.S. out of frustration with what has happened in Washington in the last four years.
“I’m running as a fed up citizen of Georgia for the fed-up citizens of Georgia, and I think that’s most of us,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman said he saw from his father, former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman from Connecticut, “that is it is possible to work across the isle.”
“Our government really is broken in two ways,” Lieberman said. “Our senators, they don’t represent us,” he continued. “We don’t have a voice in Washington.”
Lieberman said Georgians need senators who will push to expand the Affordable Care Act to include a public option, address climate change, know that Roe v. Wade should stay the law of the land, support common sense gun control, and protect voting rights.
The U.S. Senate at present is a “taxpayer rip off. It’s like we’re paying them to tweet. That’s all they have to do,” Lieberman said.
“It’s not opposing parties, it’s like warring tribes,” Lieberman said of the two parties in the Senate. “You’ve got to be awfully brave or stupid to try to venture out and make something happen with the other party.”
“I promise to be that brave and that stupid to do that,” Lieberman said.
The first video below is of the Oct. 15 meeting of the Oconee County Democrats.
Warnock began speaking at 2:29 in the video.
The three candidates for the District Attorney election began speaking after introductions at 34:33 in the video.
Chafin is running without a party label, and both Gonzalez and Patterson are running as Democrats.
The three candidates covered much of the same ground as they covered in an earlier forum sponsored by The Oconee Enterprise and the Oconee and Athens Area Chambers of Commerce forum.
The second video is of the Sept. 17 meeting of the Oconee County Democratic Party.
Tarver began speaking after introductions at 6:27 in the second video.
Lieberman began speaking after his introduction at 29:39 in the second video.
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