Georgia 2020 Open Primaries Guide

Editor’s NoteThanks to the Atlanta Press Club and the nonpartisan nonprofit Informing to Empower, you can see videos for six of the candidate’s platforms and positions.We added these additional videos from a previous version of this guide. June 9, 2020 at 5:40 a.m.

    UPDATE: If you or someone you know experienced inconveniences or had trouble at the polls, click here to fill a survey about the experience.

    Election season is gearing up once again with the fast-approaching primaries. Most of us may remember learning about various processes of the government from a Schoolhouse Rock video. They don’t have any videos on primaries and caucuses, but we’re happy to debrief you!

    The election starts off with caucuses. A caucus is an event organized by a political party to choose a delegate for the national convention. Candidates are elected by the state’s delegates and only state-recognized parties can hold caucuses. Iowa, despite being the most visual caucus, is not the only one. 

    Iowa has been the first to vote since 1968. The chaos that came with the assassinations of MLK Jr., Robert Kennedy and our involvement in the Vietnam War, the Democratic party created the McGovern-Fraser Commission to improve the nomination process by ensuring transparency.  

    Nevada, the American Samoa, North Dakota, Wyoming, Guam and the Virgin Islands also hold caucuses. 

    Although candidates chosen at the caucuses are usually not elected into the Presidential Office, this process is important because it provides insight as to who the voters are truly interested in heading into the election. 

    Primaries or Primary Elections are like a second kick for the election process before the National Conventions and the official election in November. Primaries are a much more local process that are organized by state and local governments. 

    The Senate elections place two senators in the Senate for a six year term. One seat is for regularly-scheduled elections and the other is for a special election, which can be used to fill a seat if there is a vacancy.They are intended to narrow down candidates for general and local elections, and there are different kinds:

    • Open Primaries are elections where a voter does not have to be affiliated with the party holding the election to go and vote. There are 22 states that have open primaries for congressional and state level offices. 
    • Closed Primaries are primary elections where a voter has to be affiliated to participate and vote. In 14 states, and the District of Columbia, there are closed primaries for congressional and state level offices. 
    • Semi-Closed Primaries, which are also known as hybrid primaries, are elections where voters who aren’t registered can vote but they cannot be members of the opposing party. There are 15 states that use semi-closed primaries. 
    • Top two Primaries are where all candidates are listed on the same ballot regardless of their party affiliation which occurs in Washington, California, and Nebraska. 

    Georgia’s primary for the senate is set for June 9 and voters from either party can participate. 

    The presidential nominations are pretty cut and dry. If there is only one nominee before the National Convention, they become the presumptive nominee. A presumptive nominee is an individual who is assumed to be the party’s nominee without an official nomination because the last serious competitor has dropped out or they gain the necessary amount of votes. 

    In Georgia, our system’s a bit complicated: We regularly pick 14 House members and 2 Senators to represent us federally; on the state level, we pick 180 statesmen and 56 state senators; on the local level we have 159 counties, 544 cities and 180 education and transit systems, which is why we have 180 House members.

    We will have a guide with all the candidates for the upcoming November election that will include policy platforms and legislative mandates. In addition to filling legislative offices, Georgians will also have to vote for state judges to fill judiciary roles [aka, judges].  

    It is an extremely intricate system, we know – but we’ll be here to help you make informed decisions. 

    Click images for a downloadable list of your current representative.

    U.S. Senate Candidates for GA

    Georgia’s Republican candidate and current senator is the incumbent David Perdue, who has no running competition. 

    The Democratic Party has seven potential candidates for Georgia’s U.S. senate seat: Sarah Riggs Amico, Jon Ossoff, Teresa Tomlinson, Maya Dillard Smith, Marckeith DeJesus, James Knox and Tricia Carpenter McCracken. Thanks to the Atlanta Press Club, who hosted a virtual debate with the nonpartisan nonprofit Informing to Empower, you can see videos for six of the candidate’s platforms and positions.

    • David Perdue
    • Sarah Riggs Amico
    • Jon Ossoff
    • Teresa Tomlinson
    • Maya Dillard Smith
    • Marckeith DeJesus
    • James Knox
    • Tricia Carpenter McCracken
    • Shane Hazel

    David Perdue is Georgia’s incumbent in the Senate. He’s been in office since 2014 and was a businessman before that. With over 40 years of experience, and a former CEO of a Fortune 500, Perdue has headed companies such as Reebok, Dollar General and Pillowtex.

    During his time as senator, Perdue has been part of many legislative committees. He’s voted on legislative motions such as the First Step of 2018, which proposed making changes to the criminal justice system by allowing low or minimum risk prisoners to earn credits towards early release; the Immigration reform proposal from Sen. Chuck Grassley and the Trump administration (S Amdt 1959 to HR 2579), which proposed to provide a path to citizenship for children brought to the U.S. as illegal immigrants; and the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S 2311) which proposed to make abortions illegal after 20 weeks. 

    In 2014, Perdue ran on a platform that included tax reform, revitalizing American manufacturing, becoming energy independent and protecting American’s rights to bear arms. 

    Sarah Riggs Amico is the former CEO of Jack Cooper Transport, a family business and a position she stepped down from in January 2020. As a former executive, she and her team invested in their employees health benefits and exponentially grew the company from 2008 to 2018. Amico’s last run for office was for Lieutenant Governor in 2018. She lost to Republican Geoff Duncan.

    Riggs Amico was invested in supporting her employees and it’s no surprise that the economy and workers’ rights are one of her primary concerns for future legislation. She’s running on a platform that includes expanding healthcare, protecting workers and supporting students with the financial burden of their college educations. A supporter of the PRO Act, which protects workers trying to unionize, she is looking to enact legislation that provides equal pay for equal work, create safe places for essential workers and prevent workplace discrimination. 

    (1) You’ve called yourself a recovering Republican… Why should Democrats trust you as the party’s pick over other candidates who have stayed in the party throughout all of their careers?
    (2) You’ve said in a recent tweet that investing in people matters. It’s possible and it creates growth. How do you begin investing in people, especially in the times we’re living in right now? With rebuttals by Knox, Dillard, Smith, Riggs Amico and DeJesus.
    (3) Your company filed for bankruptcy shortly before you entered the race. How do you convince voters that you’re the right person to make tough economic decisions when you’ve struggled with your own business? With rebuttals by DeJesus, Riggs Amico and Dillard Smith.
    (4) At what point do you think it’s safe to start reopening Georgia’s economy and what message do you have for people who do want to restart their businesses and start to come back?
    (5) The former vice president is facing an allegation of sexual assault from a former senatorial aide. Should the VP face a fuller investigation?
    (6) Closing statement.

    Jon Ossoff is a Georgia native and the 2017 Democratic nominee for Georgia’s sixth district Special Election. He lost by a narrow margin to Republican Karen Handel in one of the most expensive congressional races in U.S. history. Ossoff worked as a national security aid for Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson, drafting legislative initiatives and rooting out corruption and abuse by federal contractors. In 2012, he left congress to pursue investigative journalism as the CEO of Insight TWI. 

    Ossoff is running on a platform that includes improving healthcare, developing clean energy infrastructure, defending women’s rights and enacting justice reform. He’s looking to strengthen Medicare, begin transition into clean energy sources, ensure the rights women have over their bodies, and enact civil rights laws that protect citizens. 

    (1) Coming out of the pandemic the country will need to revitalize the economy more than ever. Where would you begin to help the economy rebound?
    (2) Tomlinson asks “How can we afford to make you our nominee when you lack public service experience, couldn’t win your home district, and have very little statewide appeal?”
    (3) What in your background of running an investigative journalism makes you more prepared than other candidates to be a U.S. Senator? With rebuttals by Tomlinson.
    (4) You said recently you don’t support the Green New Deal. Why not and what do you support to combat climate change? With rebuttals from all candidates.
    (5) At what point do you think it’s safe to start reopening Georgia’s economy and what message do you have for people who do want to restart their businesses and start to come back?
    (6) Is it the role of the federal government to help Georgia and other states with their state revenue shortfalls due to the coronavirus?
    (7) The former vice president is facing an allegation of sexual assault from a former senatorial aide. Should the VP face a fuller investigation?
    (8) Closing statement.

    Teresa Tomlinson is the former mayor of Columbus, GA. Out of all the Democratic candidates, she is the only one to have previously held office. During her tenure as mayor, Tomlinson made strides in regards to public safety by lowering crime, working with local police departments to improve police retention and bridge the gap between the police and citizens. She also improved her city by creating new biking trails and working with community partners to decrease homelessness by 25% and veteran homelessness by 65%. 

    Tomlinson is running on a platform that seeks to improve civic infrastructure, financial infrastructure and put Georgia on the road to adapting to a changing world. Civic infrastructure is the way communities hold themselves together and communicate their problems. Tomlinson’s ideas on infrastructure involve correcting the justice system, expanding Medicaid and Medicare, rethinking the tax code to support the middle class, and help students afford college and their debt, among other things. 

    Tomlinson also plans to ensure legitimate elections, both on local and national levels, and protect voting security. 

    (1) You’ve faced scrutiny over the local government’s use of prison labor while you were the mayor of Columbus. How do you respond to this criticism?
    (2) DeJesus asks “Recently a video surfaced of you speaking to supporters after your victory over an African-American pastor… Were you suggesting that African-Americans aren’t serious about this election or are incapable of having a steady hand to navigate GA during this time?”
    (3) Dillard Smith asks “Can you speak to your failures in not creating black cultural districts in Columbus, a predominantly African-American community?”
    (4) Knox asks “When you were mayor, what outreach programs did you develop to make sure that veterans were adequately served in the Columbus area?”
    (5) At what point do you think it’s safe to start reopening Georgia’s economy and what message do you have for people who do want to restart their businesses and start to come back?
    (6) What would you do in Washington to try and even the digital divide which impacts online learning in Georgia?
    (7) Should candidates who don’t have children be treated differently in this race? With rebuttal by Dillard Smith.
    (8) The former vice president is facing an allegation of sexual assault from a former senatorial aide. Should the VP face a fuller investigation?
    (9) Closing statement.

    Maya Dillard Smith is a Harvard educated civil rights lawyer with experience in California and Georgia. The former director of Georgia’s ACLU has a platform that includes multiple issues, ranging from education to the environment.  Dillard Smith wants to provide essential workers a livable wage and as a supporter of the PRO Act, Dillard Smith wants to protect small businesses and workers. In addition, she is aiming to close the race wage gap and promote intergenerational wealth. In regards to infrastructure, she believes a green economy that ensures replacement jobs for communities dependent on unhealthy energy sources is possible. 

    As a lawyer and former commissioner in the state of California, she wants to promote common sense laws and make sure that judges and the police are held accountable for their actions. She also worked with the Department of Justice to demilitarize police and return to community policing.

    (1) Why were you removed from your position as President of the ACLU of Georgia?
    (2) Riggs Amico asks "What is it you’d want voters to know about your journey as a mom running for office?”
    (3) What would you do to balance the economic ledger in congress in a way that can pass a closely divided U.S. Senate? With rebuttal by Tomlinson.
    (4) At what point do you think it’s safe to start reopening Georgia’s economy and what message do you have for people who do want to restart their businesses and start to come back?
    (5) The former vice president is facing an allegation of sexual assault from a former senatorial aide. Should the VP face a fuller investigation?
    (6) Closing statement.

    Marckeith DeJesus is a Georgia resident, born in New York and raised in Augusta. An alumni of Savannah State University, DeJesus has an experienced career in healthcare administration and currently serves as co-chairman of the AAHAM (American Association of Healthcare Administrative Management)  legislative liaison and member of the Board of Directors of the JoJo Martin Foundation, which raises Renal awareness in African American men. He currently serves as a financial counseling advisor. 

    Marckeith has run for office twice. Once in 2016 as special election candidate for District 56 of Georgia’s House of Representatives and again in 2017 as a special election candidate for District 39 of Georgia’s State Senate.  DeJesus is running on a platform to protect voting rights, expand Medicare to cover Georgia residents and create jobs, limit out of pocket expenses, decrease the pay gap disparity, improve educational experiences by supporting teachers and providing state wide childcare and implementing common sense gun laws.

    (1) How would you help the health care industry to recover from the financial losses related to the COVID-19 pandemic?
    (2) On your website you talk about favoring common sense gun control. What does that look like to you? With rebuttals by Knox and Dillard Smith.
    (3) At what point do you think it’s safe to start reopening Georgia’s economy and what message do you have for people who do want to restart their businesses and start to come back?
    (4) The former vice president is facing an allegation of sexual assault from a former senatorial aide. Should the VP face a fuller investigation?
    (5) Closing statement.

    James Knox is a political newcomer. He is an Air Force veteran and former civil servant. With over 30 years of service in the military and as a civil servant, Knox is reaching out to concerned citizens and voters to make a difference and participate in the process. 

    Knox is running on a platform that pushes Veterans’ Health and Services, Quality and Affordable Healthcare and educational opportunities for all. 

    (1) What should congress prioritize in order to help repair the pandemic’s damage to the economy?
    (2) Ossoff asks “How we can work together across party lines to ensure that the VA is delivering the healthcare that every veteran has earned?”
    (3) At what point do you think it’s safe to start reopening Georgia’s economy and what message do you have for people who do want to restart their businesses and start to come back?
    (4) The former vice president is facing an allegation of sexual assault from a former senatorial aide. Should the VP face a fuller investigation?
    (5) Closing statement.

    Tricia Carpenter McCracken

    Carpenter McCracken ran for Georgia’s 12th Congressional district in 2016. She lost to the Republican incumbent, Rick Allen. 

    Shane Hazel 

    Shane Hazel is Georgia’s Libertarian candidate. In 2018, he was a republican candidate to represent Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in the U.S. House against the incumbent, Rob Woodall. 

    Hazel is a veteran of the Marine Corps and co-host of the politics podcast, The Rebellion. He is running on a platform that aims to reduce America’s foreign military intervention, dissolves the Federal reserve and does away with the “bureaucratic DC cabal” around the world. 

    He is also focused on removing the federal presence in public schooling, protecting gun and property rights and promoting criminal justice reform by ending America’s war on drugs, releasing non-violent offenders and removing militarized police from communities. 

    In November, there will be a special election for Senator Johnny Issakson’s seat. (“Special,” because Issakson is leaving his term early.)

    • Republican Candidates
    • Democratic Candidates
    • Independent Candidates
    • Green Party and Libertarian Party

    Kelly Loeffler was appointed to succeed his seat. She is the incumbent but will have competition from Republicans U.S. Representative Doug Collins, an attorney and chaplain for the Air Force Reserves, who has been in office since 2007, Arthur Wayne Johnson, a former member of the U.S. Department of Education, Derrick Grayson, Annette Davis Jackson, and Kandiss Taylor.

    The Democrats running in the special election are the  Rev. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Businessman Matt Lieberman, Former U.S. Attorney Ed Tarver, University of Georgia Professor Richard Dien Winfield, business owner Tamara Johnson-Shealey, Deborah Jackson, Jamesia James and Joy Felicia Slade. 

    Elbert “Al” Bartell, who ran in 2017 for mayor of Atlanta, Allen Buckley, Michael Todd Greene, Rod Mack and Valencia Stovall are running as independents. 

    John Fortuin is running for the Green Party.  Brian Slowinski is running for the Libertarian Party. 

    This year’s senate race is a group of skilled and varied candidates from the Republican, Democrat and Libertarian parties. Each of these candidates want to enact policies and legislation that protect and promote Americans on many fronts such as healthcare, gun safety and improving America’s financial infrastructure. 

    It’s your job to participate in the process that gets your preferred candidate and policies into places. So make sure to go out and vote.

    If you’d like more information about the candidates running in the Decatur area, check out Decatur-ish’s guide here.

    Support local journalism. Support independent journalism. Support Avant-Youth.

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