By Terry Shropshire
The midterm elections in Georgia were already garnering national headlines and intense intrigue because of the national focus on political dynasties in the making with Jason Carter, grandson of former president Jimmy Carer, and Michelle Nunn, daughter of former senator Sam Nunn, being involved in tight and contentious races.
Now, with the arrival of the Georgia Five on state’s political landscape, another layer of intrigue has been added to key seats, which along with the outcome of gubernatorial and senate races will help determine if the U.S. Congress remains under Democratic control.
For the first time in Georgia and American history, five African American women are running for statewide office. Doreen Carter is up for Secretary of State. Liz Johnson is on the ballot for insurance commissioner. Robbin Shipp is running for labor commissioner. Former State Senator Connie Stokes is running for lieutenant governor and Valarie Wilson hopes to be the next state school superintendent.
The Georgia women’s monolithic stance sent a surge of electricity through the electorate that says two powerful things: one, there is no need to wait, as Sen. Robert F. Kennedy once said, “to be asked to do what has never been done before.” And two, this landmark development, in conjunction with other efforts, has helped to inspire the urban electorate to not only get out and vote, but also to go to the polls early. Election officials are excitedly touting the surge in the “souls to the polls” campaigns, orchestrated by such historic institutions as Atlanta’s famously politically active Ebenezer Baptist Church. Coupled with well-coordinated voter registration drives that are inspiring the masses to get out and perform their civic duties, state and local efforts appear to be converging in a perfect storm that will help change the complexion of the state from red to blue.
“Never before in the history of Georgia or the nation have there been five African American women on a ballot statewide,” said Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler, D-Lithonia at a press conference back in July. “So, we did not want to miss the opportunity to get out and announce this to everyone in the state of Georgia and tell everyone how important this election will be in November.”
“We are hopeful that the African American community, which is key to the November election, is energized and excited by the historic nature of this ticket,” said Robin Shipp, who is running for labor commissioner. Even though women make up more than half of the population and minorities comprise roughly 48 percent of the state’s population, “all of the constitutional offices in Georgia, from the top to the bottom, are held by white males,”
Doreen Carter, who disclosed that she cast her vote on the Sunday after Columbus Day at South DeKalb Mall in suburban Decatur, Ga., commented that one of her duties as Secretary of State would be to protect and expand voters’ rights. Carter intends to accomplish that objective that objective in a political climate most urbanites believe is being systematically manipulated to erode the rights of African American voters.
“We need a strong advocate as the chief election officer, [which is a prime responsibility] of the Secretary of State. Since I am pro rights and expansion at the polls, we will be focusing on making sure that no legislation gets passed that hinders voting rights. I also want someone in the statehouse to agree with me to allow felons to vote once they have been released from jail,” explains Carter.
The veteran public servant also advocates that the electorate be permitted to register to vote and actually cast a vote on the same day, using the logic that when consumers open up a checking account they are given a check or debit card and can access their money on the same day.
And that brings up a good point.
According to reports streaming out of Atlanta on Tuesday, Oct. 28, Judge Christopher Brasher of Fulton County’s Superior Court denied a petition from civil rights advocates to force Georgia’s Secretary of State to process an estimate 40,000 voter registrations that have gone missing from the public database.
Though early voting is well underway in the state, Judge Brasher called the lawsuit “premature,” and said it was based on “merely set out suspicions and fears that the [state officials] will fail to carry out their mandatory duties.”
To counter the opposition’s flagrant voter suppression tactics, which are designed to limit the number of minority and youth vote (read: black), which is couched in sophisticated, esoteric language to avoid being charged with trampling on Constitutional and civil rights, Atlanta’s election advocates decided to get proactive.
The Liberation Bus tour, organized by the AME Church, the CME Church, the COGIC Church, the United COGIC, The General Missionary Baptist Convention, The New Era Baptist Convention, The Seventh Day Adventist, The Nation of Islam, Concerned Black Clergy, Friends of Clayton Transit, SCLC, NAACP, GABEO, FACAA, SUT, NEW Order, CBTU, AFL-CIO, ORR ABL, Politics in Public Life, VEC, AAMLC, GCPA and many others will greet elected officials, dignitaries and the community in each city.
Whatever the outcome for Georgia’s Fab Five history will have been made and the gateway has been hurled open for future African American women to make their bids for political office and exceptional public service. As Rev. Jesse Jackson put it in a recent press conference in Atlanta, “They have won because they ran.”