The Other Big Runoff Election in Georgia: Daniel Blackman Explains Why the Public Service Commission Matters

In the ultra-tight runoff election scheduled for January 5th, a progressive Democrat has the chance to break the GOP’s years-long lock on policy-making, a hegemony that has left the environment polluted, working people gouged by big corporations, many Black communities robbed of opportunity, and lawmakers increasingly unresponsive to the demands of their constituents.

Oh, and there will also be two US Senate elections on January 5th as well.

It’d be an understatement to say that the race for a spot on the Georgia Public Service Commission hasn’t received the same level of attention as the Ossoff-Perdue and Warnock-Loeffler showdowns, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important. In fact, it’s the sort of down-ballot position that has an outsized impact on people’s lives but has been largely ignored by Democrats over the last few decades. Thanks to the energetic campaign of activist, nonprofit leader, and Obama administration vet Daniel Blackman, that’s now changing. (It also doesn’t hurt that instead of appearing 13th or 14th on the ballot, it was just below the Senate races this year.)

Georgia’s Public Service Commission oversees all utilities, from power production to broadband internet. Its members play a huge role in setting environmental policy and helps determine the utility rates paid by millions of people in the state. Their decisions have wide-reaching implications, with racial justice, environmental pollution, and economic opportunity all directly impacted.

One quick example: Georgia is the only state in the country building new nuclear power plants. Republicans continue to green-light the projects, which accrue huge cost overruns which in turn get passed to Georgia consumers. They continue to invest in these projects, funneling money to the privately held Georgia Power monopoly, gouging people on their monthly energy bills instead of investing in the solar and wind power that would help the environment and save people money.

“Folks in Georgia have been footing the bill for a long time, not just on nuclear, but on our coal ash cleanup [another $525 million], and its really been a burden on folks,” Blackman says. “That people are struggling COVID-19 has amplified that a thousandfold.”

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Georgia can be flipped blue… if Shea Roberts wins her race.

A red state that could turn blue. A Republican incumbent that previously went unchallenged. A first-time candidate who nearly won an unlikely uphill race in 2018, now back to finish the job… if the GOP doesn’t away with massive voter suppression once again.

Does that sound familiar? As we’re seeing, a lot of the most crucial legislative races we’re looking at across the country fit the same profile. Last week we spoke with Jessica Harrington in Florida (who is running against Jim Crow 2.0 in khakis) and earlier this year, it was Luisa Wakeman in Georgia. Now, we’re focusing on another candidate in Georgia who is running a campaign we absolutely have to win if we want any chance of ending the state’s rampant voter suppressionattacks on women, and deadly mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic.

The moment you start talking with Shea Roberts, the Democratic candidate for the state House of Representatives in Georgia’s 52nd district, you know that she’s going to be an effective, badass legislator from day one. Roberts is a land use and small business lawyer, so she’s long been enmeshed in the community in and around Sandy Springs. Working every single day with people and small businesses in her district has provided her a deep understanding of the issues its residents face and the relationships required to begin solving its long-lingering and newly emergent problems. I know this because it took approximately one minute into our conversation last month for us to get down to the nitty-gritty issues.

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This Georgia election proves why every race matters, win or lose

Donald Trump being elected president is one of the worst things that has ever happened to the United States. It’s been a full-on catastrophe in all ways but one: The resistance to his regime also provided a jolt of new energy and determination to a Democratic Party that desperately needed it, motivating millions of activists and candidates to build grassroots infrastructure that generally takes years to grow.

Luisa Wakeman is a perfect example of this progressive revival. A resident of the Atlanta suburbs, she’d long figured most of her neighbors were Republicans, so she never spent too much time on politics; instead, she focused on her family and her dual career as a flight attendant and cardiac care nurse (really!). But when Donald Trump mocked of Gold Star families and disabled reporters in 2016, it pulled her off the sidelines; she began volunteering for the Clinton campaign that summer, and when Trump scored his unlikely victory, Wakeman vowed to get even more involved.

Fast forward a few years later and Wakeman is one of the most promising Democratic state legislature candidates in Georgia. She’s running a strong campaign in the rapidly changing and very flippable HD-43, a seat Democrats desperately need to win.

CLICK HERE to donate to Luisa Wakeman’s campaign via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

“My parents were immigrants, my family is originally from Holland, and my grandparents were in the Dutch Resistance during World War II. I grew up with stories about what can happen when people look away,” Wakeman tells Progressives Everywhere. “I knew I had to get involved when I saw hatred infused without repercussions.”

This is Wakeman’s second run for the State House. In 2018, Wakeman came less than 800 votes of unseating long-time State Rep. Sharon Cooper, a Republican who hadn’t faced any electoral opposition since 2010. It’s a familiar story; for a decade, Democrats just ceded legislative seats like this one to Republicans, allowing them to enact all sorts of racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti-democratic laws in states throughout the country. That’s especially true in Georgia, where extreme anti-LGBTQ laws and mass voter suppression have become the norm.

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Previewing special elections in January and early February: A rising Democratic star, wingnut Republicans

Thought election season was over? Sorry, to paraphrase Jimmy Buffet and people who enjoy life more than me, it’s always election season somewhere.

January 8th

Virginia: Special election for State Senate, District 33

Democrat Jennifer Wexton won her race for Congress this fall, necessitating a special election to fill her northern Virginia State Senate. Wexton was first elected to the seat in a 2014 special election and won a full term in 2015. She won that race by 13% and the seat has been in Democratic hands since the 2005 election, making it a pretty safe blue seat.

Still, given the tight margins of the Virginia State Senate —- Republicans hold a two-seat majority — it’s important to not take anything for granted.

The Democratic nominee for this special election is Jennifer Boysko, who represents the 86th district in the House of Delegates. She has a long history in Democratic and progressive activism, having gotten involved with the Dean campaign early on in the 2004 election cycle. She wound up chairing Howard Dean’s campaign in Virginia, then ran for office herself for the first time in 2012. After losing by 32 votes, Boysko ran again and won her rematch for the House of Delegates in 2014.

During this very shortened campaign, Boysko has focused mostly on economic opportunity, pushing for independent redistricting to break the GOP’s gross gerrymander in Virginia, and reducing gun violence.

CLICK HERE to donate to Boysko’s campaign via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page!

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Special elections down south could make a huge difference

You thought there would be time to rest after Election Day? C’mon. There are some big special elections coming down the pike already!

In Virginia, Democrats could take the State House of Delegates and win a state government trifecta if they can pull off an upset in the special election for HD-24. It’s a historically very red seat, but remember that Democrats flipped a ton of red seats in the Virginia legislature in 2017 and won big in congressional elections there this year, so the party is motivated and firing on all cylinders.

The Democratic nominee, chosen yesterday, is Christian Worth. The Republican nomination is a bit cloudy right now, as two candidates are separated by a single vote and there’s been no concession. Perhaps Democrats can take advantage of the division and grab the seat. The election is December 18th.

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