“Democrats Are Ready to Come For Their Seats”
This month, Chair Nikema Williams penned an editorial piece in James Magazine’s 2019 Political and Law Issue outlining how the GOP lost voters due to their extreme policy agenda this past General Assembly session, and why Democrats will win across Georgia and the nation in November 2020.
James Magazine: In January, GOP Lawmakers Had a Choice To Make
By Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Nikema Williams
In January 2019, Republican lawmakers had a choice to make.
They’d just witnessed the closest election in Georgia history, where the hard work of Democratic candidates and organizers resulted in record numbers of voters turning out to make their voices heard and asking for their government to reflect them. Stacey Abrams may not have ended up in the Governor’s Mansion, but the diverse, strong coalition she helped to build brought her closer than any Democrat in Georgia history – and flipped 13 legislative seats and a Congressional district in the process.
After Election Day, voters continued to stand up for the issues they saw represented by Georgia Democrats on the campaign trail: advocating to finally expand Medicaid, protesting against discrimination, and calling for all votes to be counted. The people made themselves clear: November 6th may have passed, but they weren’t going anywhere.
So in January, Republicans in the General Assembly had a choice to make. Do they include the voices of newly empowered Georgians, or do they pass their new governor’s extreme conservative agenda, unlike that of any of his predecessors?
Today, looking back at a session that included an abortion ban bill, failure to support business friendly policies, and continued refusal to fully expand Medicaid, it is all too clear the choice that Republicans made – and all too clear why they will lose in November 2020.
In Georgia and across the nation, Democrats made incredible strides and won in 2018 by listening to the people, and speaking to the issues directly impacting their lives. People of all communities turned out to vote because for the first time, they felt like their voices mattered. Throughout the fall, Democratic candidates were talking about healthcare, education, and economic opportunity – issues directly making a difference in people’s lives.
This year’s legislative session, led by a whittled-down Republican majority, came in stark contrast to the campaign. Led by Brian Kemp, Republicans made extreme legislation the center of their agenda, instead of focusing on shared issues and the economy like in years past. Most notably, they made Georgia infamous across the nation for passing HB 481, the bill that would essentially ban abortion and harm women in our state.
Throughout debate on the abortion ban bill, stakeholders made the costs very clear. Employers, including the billion dollar film industry, threatened to leave Georgia. Doctors testified that the ban would threaten women’s lives. And most importantly, the majority of Georgians were against it – as an April poll revealed, seven out of ten Georgians want to preserve the standing of Roe v. Wade. In the end, the bill passed – by only one vote.
While Republicans focused on the extreme abortion ban, what might be even more telling is what they chose to overlook as they stripped away women’s rights. In 2019, Republicans failed to pass bills supporting Georgia’s central industries and employers. They failed to pass long-delayed hate crimes legislation. Worst of all, they failed to take real action on the issue most pressing to many of their constituents: healthcare.
Medicaid expansion, which would help over 400,000 uninsured Georgians, and reduce healthcare costs everywhere, was the central issue of the 2018 election and continues to be the most pressing need for people in every corner of our state. Instead of addressing this need, Republicans allowed the governor to steamroll yet another lackluster waiver proposal that would delay and deny healthcare for Georgians.
After hearing loud and clear from constituents who called for Medicaid Expansion– and seeing their colleagues lose their seats for failing to stand up for healthcare – lawmakers hoped that the voters who turned up in 2018 would forget.
But after this past election, Georgians are paying attention like never before, because they know what they lost. As our state becomes more and more diverse, as businesses take heed of these extreme policies and consider leaving Georgia, the consequences are all too clear – and a newly awakened populace will not hesitate to exercise their right to vote.
Democrats have been speaking to these voters since well before November 2018, and we’re not waiting until November 2020 to remind our citizens that they can have a government that actually represents their hopes, their dreams, and their needs.
Republicans showed voters this General Assembly session that they’re not listening to their voices – and Democrats are ready to come for their seats.
Nikema Williams is Chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia and State Senator for Georgia’s 39th Senate District.
You can read the full piece here.