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Senate Control Brings Urgency to GA    11/28 08:39


   MILTON, Ga. (AP) -- In a black face mask and cap, activist Garrett Bess 
walked up driveway after driveway of million-dollar homes in suburban Atlanta 
on a recent afternoon, placing a flyer in each door, ringing the bell and 
stepping away to make a socially distanced pitch to vote for the conservative 
candidates in Georgia's pivotal U.S. Senate runoff elections.

   Bess' group, Heritage Action for America, plans to knock on half a million 
doors before the state's two Jan. 5 contests that will determine whether 
Democrats or Republicans control the Senate.

   "Everyone in Georgia knows the candidates," said Janae Stracke, a colleague 
of Bess' who also canvassed the subdivision. "There's not a lot of convincing 
to do. They've made up their mind. It's mostly knowing when to vote, how to 
vote, encouraging them to vote."

   This election season, the coronavirus pandemic has upended traditional 
get-out-the-vote efforts where campaign workers go door to door to encourage 
people to cast ballots. With people staying at home and limiting contact with 
outsiders, an extended conversation with a campaign worker who shows up 
uninvited may actually encourage people to vote for someone else.

   But it's a sign of how important the two Senate elections are that both 
parties and independent advocacy groups are going all in on their in-person 
get-out-the-vote efforts.

   After the GOP lost the presidential election in Georgia for the first time 
in 28 years, conservatives are urging Republicans to get more aggressive with 
their turnout efforts in the state to match the outreach of former Democratic 
gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

   After Abrams lost the 2018 governor's race, she devoted herself to voter 
outreach, convinced that the state was a genuine battleground if Democrats 
galvanized young voters, minorities and people moving in from other states. She 
raised millions of dollars to organize and register hundreds of thousands of 
voters in the state --- efforts credited with helping Democrat Joe Biden win 

   Republicans have to catch up, Republican operative Karl Rove told Fox News.

   "Let's not kid ourselves: This is a real race," said Rove, who is leading 
fundraising efforts for the runoffs.

   The National Republican Senatorial Committee expects to have 1,000 staffers 
on the ground in Georgia. For comparison, the Republican National Committee had 
a total of 3,000 paid field staff across the whole country during the 
presidential race.

   Democrats carry their own baggage into the runoff. In many parts of the 
country, they limited face-to-face campaigning ahead of the Nov. 3 election 
because of the pandemic, arguing that was the responsible thing to do. But that 
decision was second-guessed in places such as Florida.

   The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee plans to spend millions on 
voter registration and turnout efforts.

   Outside groups are also hitting the ground, and the in-person appeals will 
be supplemented with a fusillade of phone calls, text messages, mailers and ads 
aimed at boosting turnout for the races pitting Republican Sen. David Perdue 
against Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler against Democrat 
Raphael Warnock.

   Turnout tends to drop precipitously in runoff contests in Georgia. And 
activists fear there might be even more of a falloff this time, when the 
excitement of the Trump-Biden race is over. So getting voters to come back to 
the polls becomes more of a focus than "trying to find new voters or win over 
voters who voted for your opponent," said Charles Bullock, an expert on 
Southern politics at the University of Georgia.

   Historically, that drop-off has disproportionately affected Democrats, so 
the party faces strong headwinds heading into January. The Republican candidate 
has beaten the Democrat in seven out of eight runoff elections since 1992, 
including two U.S. Senate races.

   Democrats have reason for optimism after Biden's win, but his margin of 
victory was tiny --- less than 13,000 votes of nearly 5 million cast --- and 
it's been 20 years since the state elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate.

   But groups whose efforts tend to favor Democrats are charged. On Friday, 
representatives of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America went door 
to door in a neighborhood just outside Atlanta encouraging people to vote for 
Ossoff and Warnock.

   "If we don't get those two seats in Congress, everything we did to flip 
Georgia blue is not going to help us," Phyllis Morrow told a couple that pulled 
over in their car.

   The African Methodist Episcopal Church in Georgia, which has more than 
150,000 parishioners in the state, is asking members to call eligible voters in 
their congregations, encourage them to vote early and assist with rides if they 
need help getting to the polls on Jan. 5.

   Bishop Reginald T. Jackson said Black voters are excited and "realize the 
eyes of the nation are on Georgia."

   "They know people are going to be looking to see whether or not Blacks turn 
out," he said.

   The New Georgia Project, a group founded by Abrams, will try to register 
some of the estimated 35,000 people who have finished their felony sentences 
and can requalify to vote as well as some of the estimated 23,000 people who 
are turning 18 before the runoff, Executive Director Nse Ufot said.

   Ufot said the group also aims to knock on 1 million doors before the runoff, 
up from 500,000 before the general election, and is training volunteers to take 
coronavirus precautions.

   In Milton, Bess and Stracke were in friendly territory. The affluent, mostly 
white city about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of Atlanta showed strong 
support for President Donald Trump in the November election. The neighborhood 
they canvassed last week featured manicured lawns and spacious homes set back 
from the street.

   "Oh, you have no problem here," Holly McCormick, 73, told Bess after he rang 
her doorbell. The flyers he carried warned that Georgia was the country's "last 
line of defense from a socialist takeover."

   McCormick called the outcome of the presidential race "rigged" though there 
is no evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, and she said Trump's 
claims of illegal votes made her more energized to vote for Perdue and Loeffler 
in January.

   "We have to hold the Senate," she said.

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