Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to Georgia Democrats at a state party fundraiser held Friday night in Buckhead. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder
Vice President Kamala Harris visited Atlanta Friday – for what was her third trip to Georgia so far this year – to rally Georgia Democrats after a recent string of disappointments.
Georgia voters helped send Harris to the White House in 2020 and then handed Democrats tenuous control of Congress with the election of U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, creating a narrow path for the Biden administration’s priorities.
But more recently, Democrats here were handed a pair of setbacks when Chicago was picked as the host city for the national convention and after a push fell short to make Georgia one of the first states to vote in next year’s presidential primary.
Warnock was also the only Democrat to win statewide last year.
In a 20-minute speech to the state party faithful, Harris touted the Biden administration’s accomplishments – like a cap on insulin costs and historic climate funding – and railed against Republicans on abortion, ballot access and gun safety in the wake of mass shootings in Georgia and Texas.
“How have these so-called leaders – these extremists – dealt with what is so obviously a crisis?” she said, referring to gun violence. “By turning off microphones and expelling two elected leaders in Tennessee.
“To deal with the crisis, they silence and stifle the cries and the demands of the people, just like they are attempting to silence and stifle the teachings of America’s full history with book bans,” she said, delivering one of her big applause lines of the night. “Book bans in this year of our Lord 2023.”
Harris was greeted at the Democratic Party of Georgia’s “spring soiree” to chants of “four more years.” Before the gathering, which was held at a Buckhead events venue, Harris was at a private fundraiser at a home in southwest Atlanta.
The Atlanta visit is Harris’ first campaign trip to Georgia since President Joe Biden launched his bid for another term. She was also here just last month touring Qcells’ expanding solar panel manufacturing facility in Dalton.
Biden announced late last month that he plans to seek another term in the White House in a three-minute video that included Georgia references, such as a mural featuring former Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis and a shouting U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene as a “MAGA extremist.”
He may end up in a rematch with former President Donald Trump, who narrowly lost to Biden in Georgia by about 12,000 votes in 2020. The Trump campaign’s efforts to overturn the results of that election in Georgia are still under investigation in Fulton County.
Biden led the push to make Georgia one of the first states to vote in next year’s presidential election. But the state’s top election official, Brad Raffensperger, dashed Democrats’ hopes to have more influence in the 2024 presidential primary when he announced March 12 as the date this month, which is a month later than Democrats wanted.
And last month, the Democratic National Committee picked Chicago over Atlanta and other cities as the host for the 2024 convention, opting for a familiar Midwest setting over a more recently minted battleground state like Georgia.
If there’s lingering disappointment about the primary date and national convention, the party’s top official wasn’t showing it Friday night.
Congresswoman Nikema Williams, an Atlanta Democrat who chairs the Democratic Party of Georgia, told reporters the vice president’s visit was continued evidence of the importance of Georgia in national politics and next year’s election cycle.
“We will continue to be the center of the political universe and we’re getting ready to go on the ground and make sure that we’re continuing to engage with Georgia voters in every corner of every county,” Williams said before the event.
“We’re ready. The vice president is ready. And they understand the importance of Georgia.”
State Sen. Jason Esteves, an Atlanta Democrat who was elected last year, acknowledged last year’s heartbreaks at the ballot box while trying to rally his colleagues.
“Winning big on election day – especially in 2024 – is all about what we do in between cycles. In other words, the time to put in the work is right now,” Esteves said to the crowd.
“Let’s get fired up and finish the job,” he said, echoing the Biden-Harris reelection campaign’s slogan.
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