Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Two Candidates At Democratic Party Meeting Offer Different Assessments Of Their Likelihood Of Winning in November

***Few Using Democratic Ballot In Early Primary Voting***

Jeff Auerbach told Oconee County Democrats last month that, as the Democratic Party nominee in the new House District 121, he does not expect to be able to defeat Republican incumbent Marcus Wiedower in his first match-up on Nov. 8.

Auerbach said he had been recruited by the Georgia House Democratic Caucus to run against Wiedower, and he thinks, in the future, he will represent the 121 House District in the Georgia General Assembly. The 121st is made up of  most of Oconee and parts of Clarke counties.

Jessica Fore, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the open U.S. 10th Congressional District, told the local Democrats she is running to win in November.

Fore said the key for Democrats is to pick a candidate who can appeal to a wide group of voters. Republicans are engaged in a divisive primary that could produce a nominee selected by the primary base who does not have wide appeal in the general election, she said.

Auerbach has no Democratic opposition in the May 24 Democratic primary, but Fore is one of five contenders for the party’s nomination in the 10th Congressional District.

The only contested local election is in the Republican primary, where Ryan Hammock, Julie Mauck, and Elliott Rogers are seeking the party’s nomination for Post 3 on the Board of Education.

Because Georgia does not have registration by party, voters are free to ask for either the Democratic, Republican, or solely nonpartisan Judicial ballot for the May 24 election.

In the first two days of early voting in the county, 420 of Oconee County’s 32,034 registered voters cast a ballot, with 376 of them using the Republican ballot, 43 using the Democratic ballot, and one using only the nonpartisan Judicial ballot.

Auerbach On Healthcare

The April 21 meeting of the Oconee County Democratic Party was split between an in-person gathering at the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce and a virtual session on Zoom.


Party leaders said 10 people were in the live gathering, and I counted 12 in the Zoom session when Auerbach began his comments.

“I am focusing on fixing things that we can fix,” Auerbach said. “It’s a lot of unglamourous, sometimes boring, technical issues that are what 95 percent of what the legislature does.”

Auerbach teaches political science at Emory Oxford College, which is a residential college of Emory University that is located in Newton County.

He also is head of data analytics of Left Hand Math LLC. He earned his doctorate in political science at the University of Georgia and was a research affiliate of the Center for International Trade and Security at the University of Georgia.

Auerbach says he has a background in public health and health policy “and I’m looking to put a large focus towards that.

“Not just toward the expansion of Medicaid, which is incredibly crucial, to helping Georgians survive and thrive, helping keep the rural hospital afloat, but more complex fixes–things like state based reinsurance programs,” he said.

Auerbach said a state based reinsurance program is insurance for insurance companies that “make risky insurance less risky.” Auerbach added that “This drops the price for everybody, like 10 to 15 percent.”

Auerbach On His District

Auerbach said Democrats need to win so they can control redistricting, but he said the party needs to resist the temptation to “do it right back at them.”

The solution has to be turn redistricting over to an independent redistricting commission, he said. That “takes it out of the political process,” he said, and “ensures that no matter who has power, nobody is getting abused.”

“The only way to fix it is going to be the hard way–winning,” he said. “The easiest way for me to think about my district is not as a one cycle play. Think about this as not just November, but two years, four years, six years.”

President Joe Biden won 47.5 percent of the vote in the new district, Auerbach said the data show. All but Oconee's Marswood Hall and Bogart precincts are in the new 121st House District.

“That was sort of the high water mark,” he added. “My goal in this cycle to match that or beat that. I’m not necessarily looking at this as this is the cycle I’m going to win.”

To increase that percentage, Auerbach, he needs to talk to Oconee County voters about issues of concern to them.

“I think Oconee County is not as Republican as it often is assumed by a lot of people like me,” Auerbach said. “I think oftentimes there has been an outreach issue.”

Fore On Power

Fore told the Democrats that she lived in Watkinsville for four years, rented a pottery studio there, and worked on the staff at Watkinsville First United Methodist Church, where she ran the contemporary worship service.


She now lives in Athens, where she works for the Methodist church regionally.

“I’m going to save democracy from abusers of power,” she told the group, “and we’re going to flip the District in November.”

Fore said the real issue facing the country is abuse of power, and in Georgia’s 10th District “we are at the very center of a national conversation about this.”

“As you all know,” Fore said, “Jody Hice, who voted to overturn the election, he is vacating this Congressional seat to try to primary (Brad) Raffensperger for Secretary of State so that he can rig elections in the future.

“And the Republicans that are running for this seat, all eight of them, they are all Big Lie supporters,” she continued. “They are all arguing and falling all over themselves over who is the Trumpiest and who is the most willing to go along with election fraud.

“So they’re not running any moderates for thoughtful conservatives who say we want small government and low taxes,” Fore said. “They’re not anybody that the sane people can kind of get on board with if they want to vote Republican, but they don’t want to support Trumpism and sedition, basically.”

Possibility Of Winning

“This has been considered a solid red, unwinnable district for a long time,” Fore said. “And Republicans were up about 28 points prior to redistricting,” she continued.

“With redistricting, Republicans are now up about 15 points, which is still pretty pink, but it is kind of getting into the realm of what might be competitive for a Hail Mary if we can get the right kind of candidate to win the primary,” Fore said.

“The point is you’ve got to have a candidate who is going to get 15 points in swing votes from people who usually don’t necessarily vote Democrat,” she said.

“The current election situation in Georgia is really across the board a referendum on democracy itself and whether we can hang on to the Republic and hang on to the democratic processes, or whether we are really turning the corner, hitting the point of no return, into authoritarianism,” according to Fore.

Fore said the other candidates running “are going to get straight party line votes.”

Because of her work regionally with church and victim abuse groups, she said, some people “might be persuaded to go for a fiscally responsible businesswoman and worship leader from Macon who has been here for 23 years doing community service.”

The other candidates are Tabitha Johnson-Green, Phyllis Hatcher, Femi Oduwole, and Paul Walton.

Fore said her campaign will focus on voting rights, on keeping “abusers of power out of positions of public trust,” and on equity in the education system.

Independent Candidates

John Phillips, who joined the Democratic Party meeting on April 21 via Zoom, told those gathered that he and others are helping Ryan Repetske and Melissa Eagling, who are seeking signatures from voters in Oconee County to run as Independents in November.


Repetske has qualified for Post 2 on the Board of Education, and Eagling has qualified for Post 3.

Repetske and Eagling will not appear on the ballot, however, unless each obtains 1,425 names of voters on a petition.

Phillips reported that he and others have now begun door-to-door canvassing.

Eric Gisler, party co-chair, asked other members of the party to help with the effort.

The Democratic Party did not put forward any candidates to run in any of the Oconee County local elections.

Party Walk and Talk

The Oconee County Democratic Party sponsored an event on March 27 at Oconee Veterans Park that was attended, according to Courtney Davis, by 26 individuals.

The program was called New Friends For Fractured Times. The goal was to have people walk on the trail in the park in pairs and talk about non-political topics as a tool of community building.

Sign Along Trail

Among those attending were Chuck Garrett, a member of the Watkinsville City Council, and Chuck Horton, Oconee County commissioner.

Assigned questions asked about values that were instilled to you by your parents and about memories of COVID.

Pat Priest organized the event.

Early Voting

On Monday, the first day of early voting, 201 persons cast a ballot, with 182 of those in the Republican primary, 18 in the Democratic primary, and one for a person who only used the nonpartisan Judicial ballot, according to data released by Rebecca Anglin, director of Elections and Registration for the county.

On Tuesday, 219 voters cast a ballot, with 194 using the Republican ballot and 25 using the Democratic ballot.

Voters are spread across all eight of the county’s precincts, with the largest number in Civic Center, the county’s largest precinct. The former East Oconee/Athens Academy Precinct has been merged into Civic Center.

So far, the county has issued 308 absentee ballots and received 34 of those, according to Anglin.

Early voting is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday until May 20 at the Office of Elections and Registration, 10 Court Street, across from the Courthouse in downtown Watkinsville.

Saturday voting will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on May 7 and 14, also at 10 Court Street.


I recorded the first video below from Zoom.

Auerbach began his comments at 1:50 in the video.

Fore began her comments at 36:07 in the video.

I have been prohibited from video recording Oconee County Republican Party meetings by party leadership. All those meetings are held in person.

On the advice of my doctor, I do not attend meeting indoors.

I do cover Oconee County Republican Party meetings when someone provides me with audio recordings of those events.

The second video is made up of clips recorded by Davis at the March 27 Walk and Talk event at Oconee Veterans Park.

I could not attend, so I lent a camera to Davis, who recorded the clips I used in the video.

Dr. Neal Priest served as moderator of the event and is featured in the first clip, which explains the procedures to be followed for the hour-long exchange.

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