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Can Democrats Really Win Georgia’s 2 Senate Seats?

A vast multiracial coalition swept Joe Biden to victory in Georgia last month, with all racial groups turning out in record numbers, making Biden the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state in almost 20 years. But a stunning 91 percent increase by Asian American/Pacific Islanders over 2016 exceeded expectations. Many were first-time voters; in Georgia’s Seventh Congressional District, including rapidly diversifying Gwinnett County, 41 percent of the AAPI residents who helped carry Democrat Carolyn Bordeaux to victory cast their first-ever ballots, researchers told The New York Times. Hispanic participation jumped an astonishing 72 percent.

These increasingly powerful members of what former state House minority leader Stacey Abrams identified as key partners in her “New Georgia Project”—which is both the name of the voter education and mobilization group she founded in 2014 and a description of her vision of what Georgia is becoming—present an important opportunity for Democrats as they try to propel investigative journalist Jon Ossoff and Ebenezer Baptist Church pastor Raphael Warnock to victory in the January 5 Senate runoff election. But mobilizing them means doing things a little differently from how Democrats have always operated.

Everyone I talked to in Georgia says there are two keys to winning those races in January. One is preventing that drop-off in votes cast in a runoff, and reassembling a version of the coalition that elected Biden, who got about 100,000 more votes than Ossoff. (Ossoff trailed Perdue by about 80,000.) It will be especially important to get 2020’s new voters—young voters, who increased their vote share in 2020, as well as Black, Asian, and Hispanic voters—to come out a second time, on a Wednesday just after the New Year holiday.

One obstacle, notes Atlanta state Representative Bee Nguyen: Some Asian languages, including Vietnamese, don’t have a word for “runoff.” Nor does Spanish. (Atlanta school board chair Jason Esteves told me the closest he could get was “elecciones de segunda vuelta,” or “second round of elections,” which surely lacks the zip of “runoff.”) So convincing those new voters they should turn out again, after electing Biden, to vote for two Senate candidates they don’t yet know well, presents a stark definitional challenge (why is there un eleccion de segunda vuelta anyway?), alongside the other logistical obstacles that have caused voter participation by Democrats to crater in past runoffs.

The other key is Donald Trump. He is openly feuding with Georgia’s two top Republicans, Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffesperger, because they certified Biden’s legitimate win (after completing a hand recount). Some of Trump’s supporters are insisting that Georgia Republicans should boycott the Senate runoffs to punish incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue for inadequately aiding Trump’s efforts to overturn Biden’s victory. Both candidates have called for Raffsperger’s resignation, with zero justification; it’s not clear what more they could be doing.

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