University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock, in a retrospective on the Nov. 3 election for Oconee County Republicans, said the Democratic victory in the presidential race in Georgia was the result of trends a long time in the making.
“The state has been changing,” Bullock said. “This is not something that has happened over night.” The highwater point for Republicans came in 2004, and since that time Republican strength in the state has been on the decline, he said.
Bullock, an expert on Georgia politics, was the featured speaker at the November meeting of the Oconee County Republicans.
About 25 people assembled in the basement meeting room of the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce on Nancy Drive in Watkinsville, but Party Chair Steven Stickland as well as Bullock and two other speakers were connected via Zoom.
The first speaker was Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, who is in a runoff with Democrat Daniel Blackman in District 4 of the Georgia Public Service Commission. The candidates run statewide despite being designated as from a District.
McDonald, who is the incumbent, said he wants to stay on the Commission to see Plant Vogtle nuclear plants three and four near Waynesboro through to completion
James Chafin, running without a party label in the District Attorney runoff on the ballot in Oconee and Clarke counties Tuesday, followed McDonald and said voters should pick him over Democrat Deborah Gonzalez because of his experience as a prosecutor.
In early voting last week, 3,467 of Oconee County’s 30,071 active voters cast a ballot, and another 175 voters had returned an absentee ballot. That’s a turnout rate so far of 12.1 percent.
In Clarke County, 5,743 of the county’s 76,779 active voters participated in early voting, and another 242 turned in an absentee ballot. That’s a participation rate of 7.8 percent.
Turnout Key In DA Race
In his comments to the Republican Party members at the Nov. 23 meeting, Chafin focused on turnout, urging those present to vote and get others to do so as well.
On Nov. 3, Gozalez got 60.1 percent of the votes cast in Clarke County but only 24.4 percent in Clarke County, while Chafin got 22.5 percent of the vote in Clarke County and 60. 3 percent in Oconee. Gonzalez ended up with 48.4 percent of the vote to Chafin’s 34.9 percent.
Chafin, who lives in Athens-Clarke County, currently is deputy chief assistant attorney in the District Attorney Office for the Western Judicial District, which consists of Oconee and Clarke counties.
Gonzalez is an Athens entertainment attorney and former state legislator.
“This job is all about experience,” Chafin said. "It’s all about holding people accountable. It’s all about public safety.”
Voting is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the county's regular voting locations.
Composition Of Electorate
Bullock identified a number of trends that have worked to make Georgia more competitive.
One is the shift in the population away from the rural areas to metropolitan areas. Rural areas remain Republican strongholds, he said, but fewer people live there.
The composition of the electorate also has changed, Bullock said.
Twenty-four years ago, 77 percent of the votes cast in Georgia were by Whites, Bullock said. In 2018, less than 60 percent of the votes cast were by Whites, he added.
“It is changing in terms of people moving here from across the country,” Bullock said “These folks who are moving to Georgia tend to be more Democratic.”
Million Voters Added
The state has added more than a million voters since 2016, Bullock said. Two-thirds of these added voters are minorities, he said, and half are younger than 25 years old.
“Both of those elements tends to be voters who favor Democrats,” he said.
“If you’ve been here less than 20 years,” Bullock said, “the odds were you were voting for Joe Biden.”
Bullock said it is difficult to speculate about how these changes will affect the vote in the January 5 runoff elections.
He said the rivalry between Doug Collins and Kelly Loeffler left over from the Nov. 3 special election could be hard to set aside.
He also said the argument that Republicans shouldn’t vote because of their concern about the Nov. 3 outcome was “illogical,” but he said it could have impact.
McDonald And Plant Vogtle
“The reason Bubba McDonald is seeking re-election is because I want to finish those two nuclear plants in Georgia,” McDonald told the audience.
“It is going to be the greatest thing for Georgia for the next 80 to 100 years, developing, having clean, affordable and reliable energy,” McDonald said. “It’s the best partner that solar energy can have.”
McDonald will be on the ballot on Jan. 5, with incumbent U.S. Senator David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff, and incumbent U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock.
McDonald began his comments talking about those two races.
“If we don’t win these seats, folks,” McDonald said, “my grandchildren won’t have a chance in this world.”
The video below is taken from the Zoom session.
I did not attend the physical meeting at the Chamber of Commerce.
McDonald began his comments at 14:14 in the video.
Chafin began speaking at 21:20 in the video.
Bullock’s comments begin at 35:25.