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Why Georgia Democrats decided to meet in Forsyth County this weekend
Jon Ossoff, who ran against Karen Handel in the 2016 special election for the 6th Congressional District, speaks during a meeting of the Democratic Party of Georgia on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, at South Forsyth High School. Ossoff is one of four Senate candidates running against incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue in 2020. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

Forsyth County is a major player in state politics, and the Democratic Party has its eyes set on what has long been considered a Republican stronghold.

On Saturday, the Democratic Party of Georgia hosted its state committee meeting at South Forsyth High School, where members of the party met in smaller committees and caucuses, made decisions about policies within the party and heard from four candidates seeking the party’s nomination for the 2020 U.S. Senate race.

“I think Saturday went great,” said Melissa Clink, chair of the Forsyth County Democratic Party. “Despite the weather, there was a lot of us there from all over the state. We had people from south Georgia, from Savannah, from Augusta, so we were well represented, across the board. Lots of people from the 9th District.”

During the meeting, a change was approved by members of the party to allow party members to self-identify which committees they would like to be appointed to, along with updating policies ahead of the 2020 election.

“Our platform hasn’t been updated since 2011, so it’s a little outdated and it leans very middle-of-the-road,” Clink said. “So I think it’s an opportunity to really expand on that and decide much more what it means to be a Democrat and insert some policy in there as well, not just kind of blanket statements that we have now.”

Clink said the party was aware of Forsyth’s status as a key Republican county – all partisan elected officials representing Forsyth County are Republicans – but said it was a great chance to show “how far Forsyth County had grown.”

She said party chair Nikema Williams decided to bring the meeting to Forsyth “not only because the 7th [Congressional District] is in play, but because Forsyth County Democrats are making sure that we can be noticed in every area that we can and letting people know that we’re Democrats but we also want to volunteer. We’re just building and growing and trying our best to be a good example to any county around us, so that they can get stronger and we can all do this together.”

During the meeting, Democratic leaders spoke about the importance of the 2020 races, how to mobilize across the state and heard from Senate candidates Sarah Riggs Amico, Jon Ossoff, Ted Terry and Teresa Tomlinson, who are all running against incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue in 2020.

Speaking first was Amico, a 2018 candidate for lieutenant governor against Forsyth County’s Geoff Duncan, who said if elected she wanted to fight for working families in the state.

“We have all the pieces we need to bring our state, our economy and working families back into the discussion, but it’s going to take a lot of work,” Amico said. “We’re going to have to go out there and loudly proclaim that in 2019 America, no one should be sick because they are poor and nobody should be poor because they’re sick.”

Jon Ossoff, who ran against Karen Handel in the 2016 special election for the 6th Congressional District, thanked those in attendance for their efforts in recent years and said the state was “at a tipping point.”

“It’s easy in rooms like this sometimes or when we watch TV to get caught up in it like it is a sport. It’s not a sport. It’s deadly serious,” Ossoff said. “When Georgia has the same maternal mortality rate as Uzbekistan, when black women in Georgia have the same maternal mortality as in Iraq, it’s about human rights.”

Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry said for more than a decade he had gone around the state with Democratic candidates and he felt the party had a chance to make big strides next year and could “continue winning future elections.”

“I started working with you over 13 years ago, and now we’ve got a chance to turn Georgia blue, flip a Senate seat, maybe even two, deliver our 16 Electoral College votes for a Democratic nominee for president,” Terry said.

The final candidate to speak was former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who spoke about the party’s need to spread progressive values throughout the state, not only in metropolitan areas.

“I know the struggles of the state from the city to the coast to the rural areas of south Georgia and even in north Georgia. I can speak to those people authentically about how progressive principles are the better governing principles for their lives,” Tomlinson said. ”As we look at what has happened in this state over the last couple of years, over the progress we made in 2018, we … have to turn out everybody that turned out in 2018, then we need to deliver on that next chapter, and that next chapter is to shave the margins.”