Minority coalitions that helped flip Georgia set sights on Texas, Florida

Politics

Black, Hispanic organizations coalesce around labor, immigration and COVID-19 issues; they used technology and grassroots work to mobilize voters

A woman holding a young child casts her vote in the Georgia run-off election at Dunbar Neighborhood Center on January 05, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. Polls have opened across Georgia in the two runoff elections, pitting incumbents Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) against Democratic candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – The kind of data-driven, multi-ethnic grassroots organizing that helped flip Georgia blue is already at work in border states, national activism groups say.

The change in Georgia came about as people expressed frustration with job loss, status-quo politics and what they perceived as an inadequate response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the groups say it took a coalition of black and Hispanic groups to reach younger people, displaced hotel and domestic workers as well as naturalized citizens from Africa and Latin America who usually don’t vote.

“We had an unprecedented ground game. We knocked on (millions of) doors in six weeks despite the pandemic, we reached 360,000 people, with 83% being people of color,” said Gwen Mills, secretary-treasurer of Unite Here, a group that organizes hospitality industry workers.

She said coalition volunteers listened to the voters, shared their own stories of getting laid off and struggling to provide for their families and conveyed a message of hope and the need to get involved. They also scanned voter registration rolls to target their visits and used social media to engage younger voters.

“That’s what democracy looks like, not storming the Capitol,” Mills said.

The result was 16 electoral votes for Joe Biden and upset wins for Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock in the U.S. Senate races.

Similar coalitions also helped wrestle away Arizona from Republicans and contributed to a Democratic victory in battleground state Nevada, the groups said.

The Senate seats in Georgia, which will allow Biden to effect initiatives and support legislation without an automatic block from the Republicans, “were delivered by those with the most to lose: immigrants, health workers, laid off workers, Black and brown people,” said Tania Unzueta, political director for Mijente, a pro-worker, pro-women LatinX group.

Hundreds of people wait in line for early voting on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Marietta, Georgia. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)

She said the group knocked on the door of every registered Hispanic voter in Georgia and supported the efforts of the multi-ethnic coalition in the state.

“Latino communities vote for issues, not along party lines,” Uzueta said. “Immigration was a top issue. The next phase is to talk about what needs to happen on immigration in Georgia and at a national level,” she said, meaning holding Biden accountable for promises made on immigration reform and urging him to enact a temporary halt on deportations.

Mills said Black-and-brown coalitions are active in Texas and Florida, where they’re gaining ground, and have already made a lasting impact in other states.

“It’s already been done in many places. California was a red state for a long time – then we had labor unions and immigrant groups organizing to bring change into the electoral cycle. That same investment and organizing happened in Nevada and Arizona,” she said. “Texas and Florida are on that list. Those are huge states to turn around. It’s going to take time, but it’s already in motion.”

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