Oconee County Democrats do not need to turn the county blue, Jen Jordan, a candidate for Attorney General, said at last month’s party meeting.
They just need to make it a little less red, Jordan said, for the party to have success in statewide elections in November.
To that end, Jordan said, it will be helpful if the party can field candidates for the county Board of Education and the Board of Commissioners races in November, as well as to run in the county’s two state House districts and the county’s state Senate district.
The Republican Party, because of gerrymandering approved in its special session last November, likely will continue to control the state House and Senate for the remainder of the decade, Jordan said.
That is why the elections for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and other statewide offices in November are so important, Jordan said.
The good news, she said, is that “You can’t gerrymander a state.”
To have success, Jordan said, it is important for Democrats to reach out to independent and Republican voters and seek common ground.
Less than a week after the meeting, the party announced “A Walk and Talk Event to Strengthen Community Ties” for 3 p.m. on March 27 at the pavilion at Oconee Veterans Park, 3500A Hog Mountain Road.
Jordan was one of two speakers at the virtual meeting of the Oconee County Democrats held on Feb. 17.
An Atlanta attorney, Jordan currently represents state Senate District 6, which includes portions of Fulton and Cobb counties.
Jordan spoke and took questions for a little more than 30 minutes at the front of the meeting.
Fred Swann, seeking the Democratic Party nomination as Agriculture Commissioner, followed Jordan and spoke and answered questions for just less than 30 minutes.
At least 30 persons were online for the session.
One other Democrat, Christian Wise Smith, also an attorney from Atlanta, has declared for the Attorney General race.
Nakita Hemingway from Dacula also has announced for the party nomination for Agriculture Commissioner.
Incumbent Republican Chris Carr is seeking re-election in the Attorney General race, and State Sen. Tyler Harper from Ocilla is a candidate in the Republican primary for Agriculture Commissioner.
Incumbent Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black is seeking the Republican Party nomination for U.S. Senate.
Qualifying for all local and state offices for the May 24 primaries is next week, March 7 to 11.
Jordan On Decision To Run
Jordan, a partner in her law firm, told the group she made her decision to enter politics for a special election in 2017.
“Like a lot of folks after 2016, I felt a little dejected,” she said, “and I really started to feel like the folks that were holding public office really didn’t represent me. They didn’t represent my family.
“And it really didn’t feel like they were fighting for women, for children, for communities that really were marginalized,” she said.
She said she considered entering the attorney general race because she observed that incumbent Carr “put business interest, or big money interest, partisan interest, or party over the people that he was elected to represent in the first place.
“And so I’ll tell you the thing that kind of pushed me over the edge was Jan. 6,” she said.
Carr was chair of the Republican Attorneys General Association, which sent robocall urging supporters to march to Washington on Jan. 6 to dispute the certification of the election, which Joe Biden won.
“I just was like, I’ve had enough,” Jordan said. “It wasn’t even any more that he wasn’t doing his job.
“It was that there were things that he was doing that was actually hurting the people of this state and this country,” she continued. “And that’s when I made the decision to run.”
Goals For Office
Jordan said as attorney general she will fight for constitutional rights, workers rights and workers safety, and environmental justice.
She said a key constitutional right will be protecting voters and “their right to exercise the franchise.”
She said wage theft is an example of workers rights she will pursue.
Examples of issues of environmental justice she would address are mining next door to Okefenokee Swamp, coal ash ponds, and the location of industrial sites next door to communities of color.
“That’s going to be one of the number one jobs,” she said, “which is to actually stand up to industries that are poisoning our air and our water and our people.”
Color Of Oconee
“After the gerrymandering that’s happened this year,” Jordan said in response to a question, “Republicans are going to probably stay in control of the House and the Senate for the next eight years minimum.
“That is why it is so important that we focus on these statewide races so that there can be someone calling them out, because you can’t gerrymander a state,” she continued. “We can win, but we’ve got to work at it.”
“We are a very, very, very red county,” said Courtney Davis, who is working on candidate recruitment for the Oconee County Democratic Party.
“We struggle to find local Democrats to run,” she continued. “But if running local Democrats is helpful to up-ticket candidates like yourself, we can do that.
“So I’m curious about that,” she said. “You always hear about down ticket voting. But is there like an up-ticket advantage, that is, running local candidates for you?”
“Yes, there is,” Jordan said. “I like to say it’s down ballot, it’s up ballot. It’s all around the ballot. So at the end of the day, there are going to be people in your local communities who get out for local candidates.”
“And I like to say, it is about losing less,” Jordan said. “That’s all we need. We just need to lose less in the dark red areas of this state.”
“It is hard to recruit candidates out here knowing they are going to get beat,” Davis replied. If knowing of an advantage for statewide races "can be a motivating force, it might help me,” she said.
Reaching Out To People
“We have to get our people out, kind of in the core Democratic areas,” Jordan said. “We need to lose less, kind of all around the state.
“And we need to bring our message to the voters,” Jordan continued. “And not talk about everything in terms of buzz words the way Fox News does it. But talk about our values. Who are we? What do we value?
“Because when we talk about that, people, regular, normal people, they say, well I believe that too,” she continued. “That’s eventually what flips districts as well.”
“This election year is out of control. It is really out of control. Because of the Trump factor and all of that, in terms of how he is inserting himself into the election again,” Jordan said.
“It is just getting to know each other on a more human level, so we’re just not motivated by some weird kind of, you know, I hate that person.”
“I just tell people to take a deep breadth, take a step back, and get to know people on a human level. And then maybe you can build a bridge in some way,” she said.
“We have a real opportunity here to have a slate that looks like the state of Georgia,” Jordan said. “And it is something that everybody can get excited about.”
Swann On Background
Swann said he had worked as party chair for the Eighth Congressional District, which stretches from Macon to Valdosta, for four years.
“The staggering lack of access to food in agricultural communities is what originally drove me, in 2018, to run for agricultural commissioner,” Swann said.
Swann received 46.9 percent of the vote to Black’s 53.1 percent.
Swann currently does lobbying for agriculture interests and is a mushroom farmer in Gainesville.
“We do have the issues on our side that every Georgia can resonate with, but especially when it comes to agriculture,” Swann said. “These issues are not left and right, they are right and wrong.”
Plans As Commissioner
Swann said one of his goals would to increase the number of small family farmers throughout the state.
“Small family farms have been decimated by big agricultural operations, especially in poultry, but in other areas as well, where they are getting completely boxed out of the market.
“And that is decimating local communities that no longer can rely on the stability of these farms," he said. "Coupled with that, in my opinion, is the lack of food access in so many communities. We have too many areas throughout the state that are food insecure areas.”
“Small farmers are good stewards of the land because they live on the land,” he said, in contrast with corporate farmers.
Swann said he also want to simplify the licensing for growing hemp.
“Hemp is legal, and you can grow it, but it is sure hard to do in this state because of the regulations they have around it,” he said. “They don’t want people to grow it.”
“Fees are too high, regulations are too harsh,” he said. Hemp provides opportunities for small farmers, he added.
“We don’t talk enough about agricultural workers’ rights,” Swann said. “The people in the fields, and the people in the processing plants. I want to fight for their rights."
Right now, agriculture “is only working for the wealthy and well-connected,” Swann said.
“Agriculture is Georgia’s number one industry, but we have far to many food insecure areas throughout the state,” Swann said. “I’d like to help communities grow their own food, purchase their own food, and have it available in the communities.”
At present nine counties in the state do not have a grocery or supermarket, Swann said. “If they have anything it’s a Dollar General,” he continued.
“There’s no fresh fruit, no fresh vegetables, and no fresh meats on the menu at all,” he said.
“We want to help support more local grocers in food insecure areas, maybe do something like an economic opportunity zone,” Swann said.
“We will need to create more pop-up markets, more farmer’s markets,” Swann said, as well as “mobile markets.”
Mokah Jasmine Johnson, a community organizer from Athens, is the first Democrat to announce plans to qualify next week.
Johnson will seek the Democratic Party nomination to run in the newly created House District 120, which includes Bogart and Marswood Hall precincts in Oconee County.
Republican Houston Gaines currently holds House District 117, which will make up the bulk of the new House District 120. He and Johnson faced off in 2020.
Elliott Rogers also has announced that he plans to run as a Republican for the open Post 3 on the Oconee County Board of Education. Rogers is a realtor.
Rogers joins Ryan Hammock and Julie Mauck, who previously announced plans to seek the Republican Party nomination in the May 24 primary.
If none of the candidates gets a majority, a runoff will be held on June 21.
Oconee County Schools issued a news release announcing that Post 2 Board Member Kim Parrish plans to run for re-election.
So far, no one has announced plans to run against her.
Pat Priest is the organizer of the March 27 event, called “New Friends for Fractured Times: A Walk and Talk Event to Strengthen Community Ties.”
“Finally the long period of isolation that has many Americans feeling lonely and disconnected is lifting gradually,” Priest wrote in her news release.
The Walk and Talk event is designed “to rebuild a sense of community,” the news release says.
Beginning at 3 p.m. participants will start at the pavilion to walk short lengths of a path with people new to them while they converse about nonpolitical topics determined by the organizers.
“We face so many challenges in America,” Priest wrote, “and being torn apart by political differences hurts our ability to solve problems and reduces our quality of life. We need to renew a sense that we are neighbors with much in common despite our differences.”
Rev. Kevin Daniel, Senior Pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Watkinsville, will provide instructions and give the first question to get participants talking.
Attendees are to meet at the pavilion that is between the tennis courts toward the rear of the park complex.
This free, nonpartisan event is open to the public. Teenagers are welcome, Priest wrote.
I recorded the video below from the Zoom virtual session of the Feb. 17 meeting of the Oconee County Democratic Party.
Jordan began speaking at 2:48 in the video.
Swann began speaking at 35:52.
The Oconee County Republican Party met in person on Feb. 28, but party leaders will not allow me to arrange to video record their meetings. Candidates were scheduled to speak, and I would like to have been able to report on what they said.
On my doctor’s advice, I do not attend meetings.