Former Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler has created a Conservative voting initiative
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
Former Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler lost her seat in January in the Georgia runoff that sent two Democrats to Washington. She says she lost in part because of the massive organization of Democrats in the state, an effort led in part by Stacey Abrams. Loeffler is now launching a new Republican group in an attempt to catch up. From the WABE member station in Atlanta, reports Emma Hurt.
EMMA HURT, BYLINE: When admitting her loss in the 2018 gubernatorial race, Stacey Abrams made it clear what her next priority would be.
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STACEY ABRAMS: Today I am announcing the launch of Fair Fight Georgia, an operation that will pursue accountability in Georgia’s elections and integrity in the process of maintaining our voting lists.
HURT: Since then, Fair Fight has grown into a juggernaut of voter engagement, advocacy and litigation working in 20 states. It is one of the major backers of the Democratic Party of Georgia and spent $ 25 million in the second round of the Senate alone. A democratic organization like this is what Kelly Loeffler says she faced during her campaign for the Senate.
KELLY LOEFFLER: We had about a thousand people in the field, thousands more volunteers. But what we saw on the other side of the ballot was even more. They had thousands of additional staff, thousands of additional volunteers.
INJURED: Republicans in Georgia have been waiting for some time. They did not need a big effort to mobilize voters. Democrats, meanwhile, have built one through groups like Fair Fight. Loeffler says catching up is essential for the future of Republicans in Georgia.
LOEFFLER: If we don’t register more voters, if we don’t hire more Georgians, if we don’t bring more diversity to our party and instill more confidence in our elections, I’m not sure that’s what counts for a race in 2022 and beyond.
INJURED: So she created and funded Greater Georgia to tackle those goals.
LAUREN GROH-WARGO: They won’t be able to duplicate our efforts.
HURT: Lauren Groh-Wargo is the CEO of Fair Fight.
GROH-WARGO: Our efforts are based on what is best for the Georgian people, and voting is only one way to get there. The Republican Party does not know what it stands for.
INJURED: Jay Walker, a longtime Republican strategist, agrees his party’s message needs to be improved after recent losses.
JAY WALKER: Our message was basically that the other side is really bad. They are, but it cannot be a message.
HURT: Yes, the party needs strong voter engagement, he said. But Republicans also need to get back to talking about who they stand for.
WALKER: It would be like having a really nice sports car without gasoline. One message is fuel.
INJURED: Part of that post-2020 Republican message and one of the tenets of Loeffler’s group is improving confidence in elections. Many GOP voters do not trust the system due to false allegations of widespread fraud. As a result, Republicans in the state capital are pushing for voting restrictions. Many of these bills are under consideration today.
CAROLYN HUGLEY: There’s an old saying in the black community. I can’t hear what you are saying to watch what you are doing.
INJURED: Democratic State Representative Carolyn Hugley said these electoral rules contradicted Republicans’ other stated goal of recruiting new minority voters.
HUGLEY Now you can’t tell me you want me to be involved in what you’re doing, but at the same time try to put up barriers so that people who look like me are part of the process.
INJURED: Loeffler is not actively lobbying for any of these bills. She says she wants more voices to be heard and argues that improving confidence in elections should not be controversial. Groh-Wargo with Fair Fight isn’t worried about Loeffler’s Republican effort.
GROH-WARGO: They oppose demographic change and a truly built, sophisticated, thoughtful, well-funded, progressive and democratic ecosystem that is years ahead of them.
INJURED: Jay Walker, the Republican strategist, says, not so fast.
WALKER Republicans are ready to fight, man. They woke us up. We have realized that they can win in the state of Georgia now, and we don’t want that to happen anymore.
INJURED: He looks forward to the fight.
For NPR News, I’m Emma Hurt in Atlanta.
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