Georgians played a big role in night two of the Democratic convention

The second night of the virtual Democratic National Convention was a Georgia-infused affair.

The early lineup was flush with notable Georgians, including former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn and former Acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates. Stacey Abrams, the party’s nominee for governor two years ago, and state Rep. Sam Park were featured as rising stars in the party.

“Basically tonight is GA night at the #DNC2020!” tweeted state party chair and state Sen. Nikema Williams, referring to Abrams as “our next governor.” Williams cast Georgia’s 117 votes for the party’s now-official nominee, Joe Biden, while standing in front of a mural honoring the late civil rights legend John Lewis.

Democrats also paid tribute to Lewis, the longtime Georgia congressman and Alabama native who died last month from pancreatic cancer. Alabama U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell cast the state’s votes while standing on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

Tuesday was the second night of the four-day virtual Democratic National Convention. The Republican National Convention will be held next week, but it remains to be seen how prominent of a role Georgians will have.

Abrams, who launched the voting rights advocacy group Fair Fight after narrowly losing to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp two years ago, was one of two Georgians said to be in the running for vice president. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who was the other, is set to speak Thursday night.

“In a time of voter suppression at home and authoritarians abroad, Joe Biden will be a champion for free and fair elections, for a public health system that keeps us safe, for an economy that we build back better than before and for accountability and integrity in our system of justice,” Abrams said into the camera Tuesday night.

Yates, who was fired by Trump for refusing to defend the president’s travel ban against people from Muslim countries coming to America, called the ban “shameful and unlawful.” The Georgia native said the ban was the beginning of Trump’s “relentless attacks on our democratic institutions and countless dedicated public servants.”

“But from the moment President Trump has taken office, he’s used his position to benefit himself rather than our country,” Yates said Tuesday, speaking from Atlanta.

“He’s trampled the rule of law, trying to weaponize our Justice Department to attack his enemies and protect his friends. Rather than standing up to Vladimir Putin, he fawns over a dictator who is still trying to interfere in our elections. He’s even trying to sabotage our postal service to keep people from being able to vote.”

Carter, who is the oldest living former president, called Biden “the right person for this moment in our nation’s history.”

Democrats say the focus on Georgia reflects its battleground status this year. Polls show a tight race between Trump and Biden in Georgia. Trump won Georgia by about 5 percentage points in 2016.

Georgia is also factoring into the battle for control of the U.S. Senate, with both Senate seats on the ballot this fall. The Cook Political Report has labeled at least one of them – Republican Sen. David Perdue’s seat – a “toss-up.”

But the Georgia-filled night was a nod to down-ballot races, too.

Park, a Lawrenceville Democrat who is the first openly gay man elected to the Georgia House of Representatives, flipped the Gwinnett County seat four years ago with a narrow win. Park then came back and won reelection by double digits in 2018, when Democrats gained 11 seats in the House. Georgia Democrats hope to wrest control of the chamber away from Republicans this fall.

Park, who faces a Republican opponent in the fall, has said he decided to run for public office after his late mother was diagnosed with cancer and received treatment through the Affordable Care Act – former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

In his remarks, Park highlighted the plight of both educators – who he said are being summoned back to the classroom “without a plan to keep them safe” – and parents, who are weary from “juggling full-time work and full-time childcare.”

Trump’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a target for Democratic attacks as they officially rally behind Biden this week. And Georgia now has the highest rate of new cases in the country, according to a White House Coronavirus Task Force report obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The report urged Georgia to do more to slow the spread of the virus.

“Georgia is changing and we are ready to elect leaders who will put people first by investing in their health and education so that all of us have an opportunity to thrive,” Park said in a statement Tuesday.

“I’m honored and excited to be a part of the new Georgia that is emerging, and I will continue to do all I can to elect Democrats across the state to turn Georgia blue and move us forward.”

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