Democratic candidates gather at carnival in Kennesaw

Group photo of Democratic candidates at carnival in Kennesaw (photo by Haisten Willis)Democratic candidates at carnival in Kennesaw (photo by Haisten Willis)

Democratic candidates at Kennesaw event

It has been more than a decade since a Democrat won statewide office in Georgia, with the Republican party holding every title from Governor to agriculture commissioner, plus a sizable majority in both houses of the General Assembly.

“We’ve got the best shot we’ve had in a very long time to turn Georgia blue” — Fred Swann

But a fired-up host of Democratic hopefuls has sprung up across the nation in 2018, including candidates in Cobb County and the Peach State. Nineteen of them turned up at an event called the Cobb County Candidate Carnival on Sunday in Kennesaw.

“We’ve got the best shot we’ve had in a very long time to turn Georgia blue,” said Fred Swann, who is running for Georgia Agriculture Commissioner against two-term incumbent Republican Gary Black.

Carnival at Sarah Riggs Amico’s trucking firm

Child draws back hammer in test of strength at carnival in Kennesaw

Test of strength at the carnival in Kennesaw (photo by Haisten Willis)

The event was the brainchild of Sarah Riggs Amico, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, and was held at the headquarters of her trucking firm.

“Republicans own the situation as it is, so I hope they run on their record.” — Sarah Riggs Amico

“The idea is to get our candidates right in front of people,” said Amico. “These kinds of events put us right where we need to be — in front of voters.”

For her part, Amico feels Democrats are primed for a return to prominence in the state. She said Republicans have been in control for over a decade, so any issues Georgia faces regarding health care access, public school quality or rural broadband are theirs to own.

“Republicans own the situation as it is, so I hope they run on their record,” she said.

There was no shortage of options for attendees on Sunday, including inflatables, food trucks, giant jenga blocks and music. The important attractions, however, were the candidates themselves, along with a voter registration booth set up to one side of the festivities.

Candidates who were there

Candidates on hand included:

  • Sarah Riggs Amico, running for Georgia lieutenant governor.
  • Matt Southwell, running for Georgia House District 34.
  • Otha Thornton, running for Georgia state school superintendent.
  • Fred Swann, running for Georgia Agriculture Commissioner.
  • Richard Keatley, running for Georgia Labor Commissioner.
  • Essence Johnson, running for Georgia House District 45.
  • Lucy McBath, running for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District.
  • Jen Slipakoff, running for Georgia House District 36.
  • Teri Anulewicz, running for Georgia House District 42.
  • Erick Allen, running for Georgia House District 40.
  • Andy Clark, running for Georgia Senate District 37.
  • Caroline Holko, running for Cobb Board of Commissioners District 3.
  • Charisse Davis, running for Cobb School Board Post 6.
  • Dawn Randolph, running for Georgia Public Service Commission District 5.

A few of the candidates are incumbents, most are challengers and many appear to be long shots based on historic trends. At the carnival, however, there was nothing but optimism for a new era for Democrats in Georgia.

“It’s not just the top of the ticket, we have to vote Democratic all the way down,” said Keatley, to applause from the crowd. “We have to vote completely.”

“It’s not just the top of the ticket, we have to vote Democratic all the way down. We have to vote completely.” — Richard Keatley

Haisten Willis
Haisten Willis is a freelance writer who lives in Smyrna with his wife, daughter and dog. He holds a master's degree in journalism from California State University, Fresno, serves on the board of SPJ Georgia and even rides a bike when time allows.

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