Monday, May 20, 2024

Executive Director Of State Democratic Party Offers Advice To Oconee Democrats On Dealing With Republicans Running As Democrats

***Wants To Maintain Big Tent Party***

Kevin Olasanoye, Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Georgia, said last week he would be glad to help Oconee County Democrats decide how to deal with the three candidates who qualified for county offices but have no association with the party.

Olasanoye cautioned the group, however, that great care should be taken with the process.

Olasanoye called the Democratic Party a “big tent,” and said “We've got to have some space for people to have some broad disagreement about some issues. But there are some fundamental things that we all should agree on.”

Those comments came in response to a question from the audience at the meeting of the Oconee County Democrats, where Olasanoye, connected remotely, was the featured speaker

Olasanoye was not told this when he was asked the question, but in the audience were two of the three candidates in question.

Neither of those candidates showed any reaction to the question or Olananoye’s response, and the bulk of Olasanoye’s comments in the 45 minutes he was linked into the meeting dealt with party strategy, particularly leading up to the November elections.

“I don't have to tell y'all how important what we are about to do, in electing Democrats up and down the ballot, including the President and the Vice President of the United States, actually is,” Olasanoye said.

Question From Zoom

Shortly after Olasanoye finished his formal comments, a person linked to the May 16 meeting at the Oconee Chamber of Commerce meeting hall via Zoom asked if Republicans qualifying as Democrats “is a trend or an anomaly?” Twenty-one people were in the room itself.

Olasanoye and Audience 5/16/2024

“It's definitely a trend,” Olasanoye said. “I have had more than my fair share of conversations with county parties that are experiencing this.”

The Democratic Party of Georgia has amended its Bylaws to create a process for the local party to make endorsements in “races where there were Republicans qualifying as Democrats, who didn't share our values,” he said.

“There are going to be people who are going to vote in a Democratic primary and they're going to think that people, because they qualified as Democrats, are with us on our issues,” he added.

“I don't think Democrats should be agreeing that what happened on January 6th was a tourist visit, right?” Olasanoye said. “There are just some fundamental things that we all agree about as Democrats.”

“I'll say this, though,” Olasanoye continued. “I want to be very careful, and I think we should be very careful, about how we go about this.”

I think there should be a fairly intensive fact finding process when we do this,” Olasanoye said, “because, number one, we don’t want to get it wrong.”

“And number two,” Olasanoye said, “what we don’t want to do is be defining someone as a Republican because they're a different flavor of Democrat than the one that I'm used to or the one that I vote for, right?”

Big Tent

“Because we're a big tent party,” Olasanoye said. “We’ve got to have a big enough tent to allow for a lot of different ideas underneath the tent.”

King 6/16/2024

Olasanoye said he and his colleagues at the Democratic Party of Georgia would be glad to work with the Oconee County Democratic Party should it decide it wants to make endorsements.

The conversation has come up in Oconee County this election because local Attorney Pam Hendrix has organized six candidates running under the label Choices 4 Oconee 2024 for the General Primary/Nonpartisan General Election tomorrow.

Many of those candidates have been active in the Republican Party in the past, including Hendrix, and three of those candidates, Hendrix, Stephen Aleshire, and Victoria Cruz, are running in tomorrow's Republican Primary.

Three others, Laura King, Suzannah Heimel, and Sheri Ward, are running as Democrats, for Clerk of Courts, the Board of Commissioners, and for the School Board, respectively.

All three of the Republicans have opposition, but the three who qualified as Democrats do not, and Heimel has stated explicitly that she chose to run as a Democrat in order to survive the primary and remain in the spotlight until November.

Long has never appeared before the Oconee County Democrats, but King and Heimel did in March, saying they wanted to run as “moderate Democrats.”

In April, King, Heimel, and Ward participated in a forum of the Conservatives of Northeast Georgia at which they said they were conservatives and rejected and criticized both parties–as does the web site of Choices 4 Oconee 2024.

So far, Oconee County Party Chair Harold Thompson only has recommended that Democratic voters pass over the names of King, Heimel, and Ward on the ballot, not voting for them in the primary.

Campaign Infrastructure

In response to a question from Thompson, Olasanoye said the campaign for the fall election is “going to include a very robust field footprint.”

“We want to make sure that we have organizers on the ground working to push out Democratic votes in all corners of our state,” he said.

“The way that we're going to win this here is we're going to squeeze every ounce of toothpaste out of the tube in some of our metro areas, but we're also going to have to have a sustained presence everywhere else,” according to Olasanoye.

“I've talked at length with donors and the DNC (Democratic National Committee) and everybody else about the need for us to have a sustained presence in the rural parts of our state as well,” Olasanoye said.

“I just don't believe that we can take anything for granted,” he added.

“So we are going to make sure that we hire a robust field operation and a field team that knocks on doors and makes connections and builds coalitions literally in every part of our state, ” Olasanoye said.

159 Counties

“I think it's critically important for you to understand that for Georgia to become the blue state that everybody wants to become, it is not possible to win with a metro county only strategy,” Olasanoye said.

Thompson and Olasanoye 5/16/24

”We must be a 159-county party. We must play everywhere,” he said. “We must run candidates everywhere. And we must have a story to tell about the work that we are doing that resonates with people everywhere.”

“Elections are a math problem,” Olasanoye continued. “And the reality is that there is not enough Democratic vote in the state of Georgia in metro counties for us to win.”

To win an election you have to get to “50 percent plus one,” he said, “And as I look, my vantage point is the entire state.”

“And the way I believe to do that is by increasing our net Democratic vote total by 5 percent in places where either Donald Trump and/or Herschel Walker won by 10 percentage points or more in either 2020 or 2022.”

In 2020, Donald Trump received 65.9 percent of the vote in Oconee County, to 32.4 percent for Joseph Biden.

In the December 2022 runoff, Herschel Walker received 67.2 percent of the vote in Oconee County and Raphael Walker received 32.7.

“This would also require us to make sure that we hold onto nearly 90 percent of our net democratic vote in every other place across the state,” Olasanoye said.

Challenge To Oconee

“So, I challenge you in Oconee to find a way to get 5 percent more Democratic vote than you got in 2022,” he said.

“I think if you do that, and if redder counties across the state are able to do that, I think there's a pathway for us to be able to not just win in November, but to win convincingly,” he continued.

“Which I think is what we need to do to get rid of Donald Trump and the rest of these MAGA crazies, right?” Olasanoye said.

“I think there's a pathway to being able to do that for sure,” he said.


The video is of the entire meeting of the Oconee County Democrats on May 16.

Olasanoye began speaking at 3:04 in the video.

The first question directed to Olasanoye is at 9:36 in the video

The question about Republicans running as Democrats came in at 23:05 in the video.


Harold Thompson said...

I view the Exec Director's comments about following a "Big Tent" approach to be in the abstract. To cut to the chase, Heimel, King and Long are NOT borderline Democrats, nor did they get an epiphany that would create any doubt about which party they favor. In fact some of them decry political parties, yet qualified in one instead of running as an independent. There's no mystery here. They qualified as Dems because they wouldn't survive a GOP primary race and they can stay in the political news until November. As I told Greg Bluestein, "we see the game here".

Lee Becker said...

Just a reminder. I will only publish comments that include a full, real name.