As the semester comes to a close, Yale students’ attention has shifted to the upcoming Thanksgiving break, frantically re-watching lectures before finals and the Georgia runoff election as Yalies both in New Haven and Georgia focus in on the Georgia races.
In the Nov. 3 general election, none of the Senate candidates in either of the two Georgia races reached the required 50 percent vote threshold to be elected. Georgia will now host runoff elections for both seats on Jan. 5. In the first race, Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler will face off against Democratic nominee Rev. Raphael Warnock. The second race will see Democrat Jon Ossoff challenge Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue. Four students involved in the runoff elections spoke to the News regarding their feelings on the races.
“A major problem in Georgia was that for too long, national leaders discounted our state as being unwinnable and it finally took the leadership of Stacey Abrams to convince national leaders that Georgia is worth investing in,” Patrick Chappel ’24, a Yalie from Georgia, told the News. “We proved that Leader Abrams was right in November, and we plan to prove her right again by electing two Democratic Senators in January. As for the general vibe, there is definitely a feeling of electricity right now in GA. We all had one day to say wow we just flipped this state only to then turn around and recognize that the work was only just starting.”
If Warnock and Ossoff win in January, they will secure Democratic control of the Senate, whereas if even one of them loses, the Republican Party will maintain control. As the political focus moves from the general election to Georgia, Yalies have been getting involved both on and off campus.
Chappel has been using his leave of absence to work for the Democratic Party of Georgia, working as a full-time field organizer during the general election earlier this month. He is now organizing in the runoffs. A Georgia native, Chappel said he is “so proud” of his state.
“I have dreamed of seeing a blue Georgia for so long and to be on the team that delivered the state to President-elect Biden filled me with intense pride,” Chappel wrote in an email to the News. “That being said the work isn’t over. With the eyes of the nation watching my state, there is definitely pressure to prove to the nation that Georgia is a true battleground.”
Emmett Shell ’23, who is a former staffer of the News, is another Yalie on a leave of absence currently working on the Georgia runoff elections. Shell spent the first part of his leave working on Amy McGrath’s campaign in Kentucky but is starting a job as a canvasser in Georgia this week.
He will be working specifically on voter registration, which he said will be a “sprint to the finish” as the voter registration deadline approaches on Dec. 7.
“Obviously Georgia is an incredibly competitive state now,” he said. “So it’s gonna be two very close races and every vote’s gonna count, so that’s very exciting.”
Other students are finding ways to get involved on campus. Alex Halberstam ’22, who led a Yale Votes Coalition team to contact every voting-eligible Yale student prior to the general election, was inspired by the success of Yale Votes to set up a similar program to distribute voting information to Yale students who are eligible to vote in Georgia.
“We’re still in the brainstorming stages of creating a [Georgia-]specific outreach team, and we’re trying to be especially mindful that individuals who are eligible to vote in Georgia are receiving an overwhelming number of emails, phone calls and texts from eager volunteers around the country,” Halberstam told the News.
Georgia resident Julian Daniel ‘24, who said he is looking into jobs with the Warnock and Ossoff campaigns, raised concerns about the number of out-of-state volunteers in Georgia as national Democratic attention turns to the state.
“The organizers [from Georgia] that have been fighting to elect Democrats and build power in Georgia for years, most of them POCs and from disadvantaged backgrounds, absolutely deserve to have a first crack at getting these jobs,” Daniel wrote in an email to the News. “It’s simple: when you’re trying to connect with voters, you need organizers that come from these communities. A lot of the organizers I’ve talked to are concerned about (primarily white and wealthy) people from blue states coming to supplant the organizers from Georgia with real ties to Georgia communities.”
The significance of the election, though, seems to be clear across the board.
Daniel told the News that the outcome in Georgia and subsequently the outcome of the Senate party breakdown will determine whether President-elect Joe Biden will be able to implement changes.
Shell expressed similar sentiments. He noted that Biden’s ability to pass legislation regarding climate change, racial justice, economic practices and public health policies all hangs on the fate of the U.S. Senate and as a result, this runoff election.
“I love my state,” Chappel wrote. “I know that it is going to take work to prove that Stacey Abrams’ vision is now a reality.”
The voter registration deadline for the runoff is Dec. 7, and the election will take place on Jan. 5. Georgia residents can currently request an absentee ballot, and early voting will begin in December.
Galia Newberger | firstname.lastname@example.org