APN breaks down the candidates for the 2020 election, provides some analysis and offers a suggestion on how to vote. That suggestion is based on a 5-metric analysis; the candidate who wins the most categories will earn our recommendation. In the event of a tie, one, both or neither candidate might receive the recommendation (but you’ll know they’re evenly matched).
until the 2020 election
Quick Guide (click to jump to that section)
President: Joe Biden
Senate, seat 1: Jon Ossoff
Senate, seat 2: Raphael Warnock
Public Service Commissioner, District 1: Robert Bryant
Public Service Commissioner, District 4: Daniel Blackman
US Congress, District 9: Devin Pandy
US Congress, District 10: Tabitha Johnson-Green
Georgia Senate, District 46: Zachary Perry
Georgia Senate, District 47: Dawn Johnson
Georgia House, District 117: Mokah Jasmine Johnson
Georgia House, District 119: Jonathan Wallace
District Attorney: Deborah Gonzalez
Sheriff: John Q Williams
Commissioner, District 6: Jesse Houle
Amendment 1: YES
Amendment 2: YES
Statewide Referendum: YES
Federal and State Offices
Experience: Trump and Biden
Ideology: Biden (moderate) and Jorgensen (libertarian)
Platform: Joe Biden
Strengths: no candidate is exceptionally strong
Weaknesses: Donald Trump
Final Score: Biden 3, Jorgensen 1, Trump 0
While he does have some executive experience from his business and political careers, mostly gained over the past four years, there’s not much else positive to say about President Donald Trump. Trump’s scandals are too numerous to mention, so we’ll just hit the highlights: he’s been impeached, he’s had to pay a $2 million settlement for misuse of his foundation’s funds, he has emboldened extremists, his administration has been a total mess — one of the most chaotic in history — and he completely bungled our country’s response to coronavirus, wrecking the economy and making him partially responsible for the deaths of over 198,000 Americans.
Please vote for Joe Biden, do I even need to continue?
Democrats should have no illusions about their nominee, however. Biden will not bring the transformative change our country desperately needs without massive grassroots pressure. It’s important that we do whatever we can to ensure his victory while at the same time being very aware of his major shortcomings from a progressive perspective.
But this isn’t a guide to grassroots organizing in the Biden era. This is a voter guide — so my advice is to VOTE BIDEN.
APN’s Recommendation: Joe Biden
US Senate, seat 1
Experience: David Perdue
Ideology: Jon Ossoff (center-left)
Platform: Jon Ossoff
Final Score: Ossoff 2, Perdue 1
Despite raising twice the amount of money and having the advantage of incumbency, Senator David Perdue is currently tied in the polls with his Democratic challenger, Jon Ossoff. These candidates seem very well-matched and each are running on fairly typical platforms for their respective parties. With the balance of power in the Senate possibly riding on it, this will be an interesting one to watch.
APN’s Recommendation: Jon Ossoff
US Senate, seat 2
Experience: Loeffler, Collins and Tarver
Ideology: Warnock (progressive) and Winfield (democratic socialist)
Platform: Richard Winfield
Strengths: Raphael Warnock
Weaknesses: All minor candidates
Final Score: Warnock 2; Winfield, Loeffler, Collins, Tarver 1; Lieberman 0; Other candidates -1
This one’s wild — it’s called a “jungle primary.” Every candidate is competing against every other candidate, including both those inside and those outside their own party. Since it’s unlikely that anyone will get to 50%, there will almost certainly be a runoff and it’s scheduled for January 5. The runoff will be between the top two candidates, regardless of party.
Why you should vote for one of the major candidates
While there are 21 candidates running in total, I recommend voting for one of the four pictured here. Why? To increase the chances that a member of your party will make it to the runoff. Most candidates not pictured will struggle to even win 1% of the vote, and only the top two will make it.
If you’re the kind of voter who regularly writes in obscure third-party picks or protest candidates, then by all means, vote for whoever you like. But if you want your vote to help determine the winner in this particular election for US Senate, then we’re limited to four options.
All four of these candidates desperately need your vote so they can advance to the runoff. If it were held today, the runoff would be between Loeffler and Collins. Do progressives really want to vote for a minor candidate and risk the possibility of that happening?
Why progressives should vote for Raphael Warnock
Warnock is a pastor in the tradition of Dr. King who has put himself on the line for justice on more than one occasion, being arrested for Medicaid expansion at the state capitol and for protesting Trump’s budget cuts in DC. He’s the real deal, a champion of moral leadership. He will continue fighting for change in the US Senate if we can get him there.
What about Richard Winfield?
I love Winfield’s plan to guarantee all Americans a job and health insurance with no co-pays and no deductibles. I may have some nitpicks, but in terms of raw policy strength Winfield is the best candidate on this list, in my opinion.
But let’s be honest. Winfield has not raised enough money to be a viable candidate in this race. He has only a small chance to earn even 2% of the vote. A vote for him is, unfortunately, a protest vote. It will increase the odds that the runoff is between two Republicans (and no Democrats). It’s not a good idea.
The best way to support progressive values is to vote for the most progressive candidate who has the best chance to win — and that’s Warnock.
APN’s Recommendation: Raphael Warnock
Public Service Commissioner, District 1
Experience: Jason Shaw
Ideology: Robert Bryant (center-left)
Platform: Robert Bryant
Strengths: Jason Shaw
Final Score: Bryant 1, Shaw 1
Jason Shaw is an incumbent Republican who supports the nuclear plant Vogtle and never mentions climate change even once on his website or social media (if he supported Vogtle because of climate change, well… at least that’s an argument). It’s unacceptable that someone could run for this position, which sets policy for power and other utilities, and never once bring up the most important political issue of our time.
This is a major weakness, but Robert Bryant has weaknesses of his own. Most notably, he has not been able to raise any money at all, reporting only a few hundred raised as of June 30. Unfortunately, this probably makes him non-viable as a candidate. He does have active social media accounts, so perhaps he has other ways to get the word out, and I certainly wish him the best. His policies seems fairly standard for a Democrat and include renewable energy and rural broadband.
APN’s Recommendation: Robert Bryant
Public Service Commissioner, District 4
Experience: Bubba McDonald
Ideology: Daniel Blackman (progressive)
Platform: Daniel Blackman
Strengths: Bubba McDonald
Weaknesses: Bubba McDonald
Final Score: Blackman 2, McDonald 1
This race is a repeat of 2014 when McDonald defeated Blackman 53% to 42%. As Georgia sits on the verge of turning purple, Blackman stands a much better chance this year.
Blackman’s platform includes strengthening utility assistance programs to help poor Georgians keep the lights on, expanding broadband internet access, investing in renewables and promoting technical education to help develop our green energy workforce.
McDonald is a long-time incumbent, being first appointed to this position by Governor Zell Miller back in 1998. He’s a big supporter of Plant Vogtle and in free market solutions to our energy problems. He downplays climate change, taking soft denialist positions, but believes there “may be some cause” to see it as a problem, as reported by the BBC.
With a 15 to 1 fundraising edge, McDonald wins the ‘strengths’ category, but I know who I’m voting for.
APN’s Recommendation: Daniel Blackman
US Congress, District 9
Ideology: Devin Pandy (center-left constitutionalist)
Platform: Devin Pandy
Strengths: Andrew Clyde
Weaknesses: Andrew Clyde
Final Score: Pandy 2, Clyde 0
Andrew Clyde, owner of Clyde’s Armory in Athens, is a government-hating, gun-loving lunatic who will unfortunately be our next representative from district 9 (it’s nearly impossible for a Democrat to win this district, even in a blue wave). He wants to remove all restrictions on gun sales, and eliminate the IRS, EPA and Department of Education.
Devin Pandy was a Logistics Specialist in the US Army who served five deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. His platform includes ending Trump’s tariffs, raising the minimum wage to a living wage, rejoining the Paris Agreement and amending the War Powers Act to put the power to declare war back solely in Congress’ hands.
APN’s Recommendation: Devin Pandy
US Congress, District 10
Experience: Jody Hice
Ideology: Tabitha Johnson-Green (progressive)
Platform: Tabitha Johnson-Green
Strengths: Jody Hice
Final Score: Johnson-Green 1, Hice 1
Jody Hice is a far-right fundamentalist who thinks women should have to get their husbands’ permission to run for political office. He thinks that climate change isn’t real, freedom of religion shouldn’t apply to Islam and a number of other terrible and crazy things.
Unfortunately for Democrats, district 10 would be very difficult to win even in the best of circumstances. With a nominee as weak as Tabitha Johnson-Green, it’s probably impossible. Johnson-Green would be ineffective as a legislator even if she somehow pulls off an upset. However, against someone as extreme and dangerous as Hice, she’s a no-brainer.
APN’s Recommendation: Tabitha Johnson-Green
Georgia Senate, District 46
Experience: Bill Cowsert
Ideology: Zachary Perry (progressive)
Platform: Zachary Perry
Strengths: Bill Cowsert
Final Score: Perry 2, Cowsert 2
Bill Cowsert is a powerful Republican, the former majority leader in the Georgia Senate and brother-in-law of Brian Kemp. He definitely has the edge in experience over Zachary Perry, who is a law student at UGA.
Perry’s running on a progressive platform of local control, reproductive rights, expanding broadband access and transitioning quickly to 100% clean energy. He’ll have a tough uphill battle against such a powerful and experienced opponent, but he deserves Democrats’ support.
APN’s Recommendation: Zachary Perry
Georgia Senate, District 47
Experience: Frank Ginn
Ideology: Dawn Johnson (progressive)
Platform: Dawn Johnson
Strengths: Frank Ginn
Final Score: Johnson 2, Ginn 2
This race is a repeat of 2018, when Frank Ginn defeated Dawn Johnson 67% to 34%. The outcome is likely to be the same this time, even in a blue wave. Ginn and the Republican party are too entrenched here for Johnson to make much of a dent.
Still, there’s value in stepping up to give the people of district 47 a better choice, as Johnson is doing. Every voter she gets out to the polls is one more vote for Democrats up and down ballot, even if she’s not running a traditional campaign this time around.
(Disclosure: I volunteered for her campaign in 2018 and I’m proud to support her again. She would make an excellent legislator and representative for her district.)
APN’s Recommendation: Dawn Johnson
Georgia House, District 117
Experience: Houston Gaines
Ideology: Mokah Jasmine Johnson (progressive)
Platform: Mokah Jasmine Johnson
Strengths: Mokah Jasmine Johnson
Final Score: Jasmine Johnson 3, Gaines 1
When Houston Gaines first ran for district 117 state representative back in 2017, he probably thought he would coast to victory and be assured a safe seat from which to start a long and prosperous political career.
That’s not the way it turned out. He ended up losing that race to Deborah Gonzalez (who is now running for DA, see below) and while he won the seat back in 2018, he now has another strong challenge from a woman of color just two years later. In a blue wave, he could end up losing again, this time to well-known activist and entrepreneur Mokah Jasmine Johnson.
Mokah founded the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, the Athens Hip-Hop Awards, the MLK Day Parade and co-produces the Athens in Harmony Concert. She’s an inspiring leader running on a progressive platform of ending cash bail and mass incarceration, fighting discrimination, repealing campus carry and standing up for voting rights.
To win, she needs to make up seven points from Gonzalez’s performance in 2018. This will be challenging, but if she’s able to pull it off, she could end up flipping the Georgia House.
APN’s Recommendation: Mokah Jasmine Johnson
Georgia House, District 119
Ideology: Jonathan Wallace (progressive)
Platform: Jonathan Wallace
Strengths: Jonathan Wallace
Final Score: Wallace 4, Wiedower 1
Marcus Wiedower and Jonathan Wallace are facing off for the third time in four years in a struggle that could determine which party controls the Georgia House of Representatives. They’ve each got one win under their belts so far, giving them both the needed experience.
With a blue wave gathering, Wallace likely has the edge this time around. He lost by less than six points in 2018, making this district seem tantalizingly flippable for Democrats. And Wallace is the perfect man for the job — he’s very likable and gifted with brains and technical expertise not commonly found in politicians. He’s running on a progressive platform of $15 an hour, Medicaid expansion, supporting public schools and better pay for public defenders.
APN’s Recommendation: Jonathan Wallace
Experience: Patterson and Chafin
Ideology: Deborah Gonzalez (progressive)
Platform: Deborah Gonzalez
Strengths: Deborah Gonzalez
Weaknesses: James Chafin
Final Score: Gonzalez 3; Patterson 1, Chafin 0
Criminal justice reform has been a big issue this year. In Georgia with the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, District Attorneys have been at the center of a firestorm of criticism. People want change and they want it now, particularly in our justice system. In a town with a large Democratic majority like Athens, the candidate who pushes reform the hardest seems most likely to end up the winner.
Curiously, both Patterson and Chafin are running on experience instead of reform, with Chafin even seeming to oppose change, saying he wants to be “tough” on crime. Perhaps they have no choice; both have worked in the DA’s office for years and clearly represent the status quo, not any kind of change.
Gonzalez, on the other hand, is an progressive outsider looking to overhaul the way the District Attorney’s office is run. She’d be the first Latina DA ever in the entire state of Georgia. She’s stated that she would be “smart” on prosecuting serious crime while refusing to prosecute other offenses such as low-level cannabis charges and women seeking abortions (despite the “heartbeat” bill or whatever the next attempt is to criminalize abortion).
Gonzalez’s commitment to change is perhaps why Governor Brian Kemp has tried so hard to stop her from running. Gonzalez soundly defeated Kemp at the Supreme Court, paving the way for the people of Athens and Oconee County to make their vote count in this election.
If you’re looking to make a change to our criminal justice system, the best choice is clear.
(I), caramba! A note on party affiliation: Republicans in Athens know that having an (R) next to their name will ruin their chances in this Democratic city, so they often claim to be independents. If they can stand to put a (D) next to their name, their chances are even better.
In a completely unrelated note, let’s examine each candidate in VoteBuilder, the Democratic party’s database of registered voters, shall we?
James Chafin comes up as a “strong Republican,” Brian Patterson is a “leaning Republican” and Deborah Gonzalez is a “leaning Democrat.” This analysis is not always perfect, but it’s one extra piece of information that could be valuable to you as you make your choice.
(Disclosure: I have worked for Gonzalez’s campaigns in the past, and she donates to APN. I am currently volunteering for her to assist with field strategy. I was also paid to produce a video recently for Gonzalez v Kemp’s fundraising arm, Justice Warriors PAC.)
APN’s Recommendation: Deborah Gonzalez
Experience: Robert Hare
Ideology: John Q Williams (progressive)
Platform: John Q Williams
Strengths: John Q Williams
Weaknesses: Robert Hare
Final Score: Williams 3, Hare 0
After upsetting a well-funded 20-year incumbent Sheriff in the primary, Democrat John Q Williams now has the relatively easy task of dispatching Republican Robert Hare. Williams is running on non-cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement or ICE, full transparency (which has often been lacking) and a complete overhaul of the dysfunctional Clarke County Sheriff’s Office.
Hare, by contrast, supports greater cooperation with ICE, including the 287(g) program.
APN’s Recommendation: John Q Williams
Commissioner, District 6
Experience: Jesse Houle
Ideology: Jesse Houle (democratic socialist)
Platform: Jesse Houle
Strengths: Jesse Houle
Weaknesses: Chad Lowery
Final Score: Houle 4, Lowery -1
This special election should not be happening, for three reasons.
First, Commissioner Jerry NeSmith should still be alive, in office and coasting after a solid victory against Jesse Houle in the local election last June. There should be no need for a special election to replace him at all.
Second, if a special election was needed, it should have happened months earlier. As it stands, the “winner” will get to serve for all of two months before Houle takes over in January regardless of the outcome here (also something that should not be happening without voter approval, in my view).
Third, if it had to happen in November, it should not be contested. Why is Chad Lowery spending three months of his time and energy running for a two-month seat? He says his goals are to fully fund the police and run the government “like a business,” but he’ll get to do no such thing. He’ll have no impact on the county budget whatsoever; those negotiations happen between March and June.
Is running to embarrass Houle, the Commissioner-Elect whether we agree with it or not, really a good use of his time? I’m all about changing the ridiculous law that got us to this point. I just don’t understand what Houle has to do with it. I’d recommend that Lowery discuss this with his state representatives, and if they refuse to change it, run against one of them instead?
A note on party affiliation: Lowery is strongly affiliated with the ACC Republican party, whereas Houle has recently joined the ACC Democratic party. This is a non-partisan race, but the candidates’ party affiliation may be important to some voters, which is why I have included them above.
(Disclosure: I have known Houle for years. We worked together on Tim Denson’s mayoral campaign and in Athens for Everyone. I volunteered to create their campaign website and I am currently being paid to maintain it.)
APN’s Recommendation: Jesse Houle
Amendments and Referenda
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to authorize the General Assembly to dedicate revenues derived from fees or taxes to the public purpose for which such fees or taxes were intended?”
The one comes down to whether you want to give legislators more flexibility in budgeting, or if you prefer honesty in budgeting at the cost of flexibility.
At times, legislators will create dedicated funds for certain needs, such as when they put a $1 charge on every new tire sale to go towards old tire cleanup. But apparently, they don’t have to stick to their own rules — they can move money out of these dedicated funds at will and use it for something completely unrelated. This can cause problems when old tires start piling up and we have nowhere to put them.
- Vote YES if you demand honesty in budgeting and want dedicated funds to be spent on the thing they’re dedicated for.
- Vote NO if you’d rather give legislators total flexibility.
APN’s Recommendation: YES
“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to waive sovereign immunity and allow the people of Georgia to petition the superior court for relief from governmental acts done outside the scope of lawful authority or which violate the laws of this state, the Constitution of Georgia, or the Constitution of the United States?”
The concept of sovereign immunity comes from a centuries old idea that the King can do no wrong and can’t be charged with a crime.
Georgia has always supported the concept of sovereign immunity, since it was part of English common law. But it didn’t apply in every single case. In 2017, the Georgia Supreme Court extended the idea to basically all cases with Lathrop v. Deal, in which the state declined to be sued over the “fetal pain” anti-abortion law of 2012.
Sovereign immunity means that if the state doesn’t want to be sued, they can’t be (at least in state court).
In 2019, the Georgia legislature attempted to give the people back their ability to sue the government in state court in certain cases with HB 311, but that bill was vetoed by Governor Brian Kemp. In 2020, they’re trying again with a constitutional amendment to get around the Supreme Court. Now it’s up to us.
- Vote YES if you want people to be able to sue local and state governments in state court.
- Vote NO if you don’t want the government to be sued in state court.
APN’s Recommendation: YES
“Shall the Act be approved which provides an exemption from ad valorem taxes for all real property owned by a purely public charity, if such charity is exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal Internal Revenue Code and such real property is held exclusively for the purpose of building or repairing single-family homes to be financed by such charity to individuals using loans that shall not bear interest?”
According to Spencer Frye, who was involved in sponsoring this referendum, “it allows for properties held by non-profits for cost manageable housing [to] be tax free until the title is transferred to the new homeowner.”
The amendment will benefit non-profits like Habitat for Humanity in their work providing affordable housing for Georgia.
APN’s Recommendation: YES