Georgia Democrats Abrams, Warnock are courting voters in the state's rural, Republican-heavy terrain

·4 min read
Stacey Abrams
Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams campaigns at a rally in Clayton, Ga., on July 28, 2022.AP Photo/Jeff Amy, File
  • Stacey Abrams and Raphael Warnock are courting voters in Georgia's rural, GOP-friendly counties.

  • Per a AJC report, Abrams this week spoke of the rise in Democratic support in southwest Georgia.

  • Democrats have made major gains in Georgia in recent years in large part to their support in the Atlanta area.

In 2018, then-Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams campaigned extensively in the Atlanta metropolitan area, where the party was beginning to maximize its power in the city proper and solidify major gains in its populous suburbs.

But Abrams also campaigned in Georgia's rural expanses, where Republican electoral margins — coupled with longtime GOP strength in Atlanta's suburbs — had for decades given the state a conservative veneer.

In seeking to appeal to rural Georgia, Abrams pressed the issue of Medicaid expansion, as she warned of the dangers of hospital closures which left residents in many of the state's least populous regions deeply vulnerable in the event of health emergencies.

Four years later, Abrams is back campaigning across rural Georgia, but this time Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock has also made his foray into Republican-friendly areas, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Abrams is running in a rematch against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, whom she narrowly lost to in 2018 in large part to his overwhelming success in the countryside. Kemp's rural margins, coupled with his exurban support, overcame Abrams' strong performance in the Atlanta area and metropolitan regions including Columbus and Savannah.

She lost statewide by roughly 55,000 votes out of nearly 4 million ballots cast.

During a recent campaign stop in Camilla, Ga., a city of roughly 5,200 people in southwest Georgia's Mitchell County, the Journal-Constitution reported that Abrams told the crowd she had noticed the increase in raw votes for Democrats in the region in recent years.

"I know folks paid a lot of attention to the numbers coming out of metro Atlanta. But I watched the numbers go up down here in southwest Georgia," she said at the event.

The party is eager to build on their gains from the 2020 cycle, when now-President Joe Biden carried the state, and Warnock and now-Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff knocked off then-GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in two separate January 2021 runoff elections.

Raphael Warnock
Sen. Raphael Warnock addresses attendees at the Democratic Party of Georgia convention in Columbus, Ga., on August 27, 2022.AP Photo/Jeff Amy

Warnock — who is in the midst of a tough reelection contest against Republican nominee and Wrightsville native Herschel Walker — engaged with rural voters of faith in his first race.

As the senior pastor of Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was once copastor, he has aimed to connect with a demographic that has not always been courted by the state party in the past — as they often focused on areas where they could maximize their votes.

But in statewide races, even the slightest increase in a smattering of Georgia's 159 counties can shift a contest toward a particular candidate.

Warnock on Tuesday held an event in Republican-dominated Coweta County, where he took in 32% of the vote in the runoff with Loeffler last year. (In 2018, Abrams got 29% of the vote in Coweta, and Biden received 31.5% of the countywide vote two years later.)

"The job description is to represent all of the people in the state," Warnock told a crowd in the county seat of Newnan, per the Journal-Constitution. "You can't represent all of the people in the state if you're not willing to talk to them."

However, Republicans — including GOP state agriculture commissioner nominee Tyler Harper — are not ceding ground to the Democratic efforts.

"Actions speak louder than words — and no matter how many times Stacey Abrams talks the talk, Brian Kemp and I have walked the walk for rural Georgia," he told the newspaper. "And it's why we are going to win in November."

Read the original article on Business Insider