Georgians Watch, React To Democratic National Debate In Atlanta
Ten candidates vying for the Democratic presidential nomination took the stage Wednesday night for a debate in southwest Atlanta.
While the nation was focused on the event at Tyler Perry Studios, GPB’s team of reporters attended watch parties across the state from Savannah to Marietta to hear from voters on both sides of the aisle. GPB’s team of reporters attended watch parties across the state from Savannah to Marietta to hear from voters on both sides of the aisle. GPB's Ross Terrell reports.
M. Peggy Quattro, who attended a watch party at the Five Spot in Savannah, said she was there to watch the debate, of course, and to support Elizabeth Warren.”
But Lynne Steinfeld was there for a different reason.
“I’d like to hear what everybody has to say and learn more about what they're thinking is and to help me make a decision,” she said.
If you travel around 250 miles north to the Georgia Beer Garden in downtown Atlanta, that same sentiment was shared by Tully Baker. He's from from New Hampshire but said he travels around supporting Andrew Yang.
“I want to see some substantive discussion and I think that’s hard when it’s really short soundbites,” Baker said.
Shorter soundbites because, well, 10 candidates. You’ve got Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Gabbard, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders, Steyer, Warren and Yang.
In fact, according to the Washington Post, Elizabeth Warren spoke the most during the debate with a total of 13.4 minutes. Andrew Yang came in last with only 6.9 minutes.
But not everyone who was at a watch party was there to support a specific candidate or even narrow down their decision. At least, not yet.
Chris Schulz attended a party at Manuel’s Tavern, which is not too far from the actual debate. He said he doesn't find the current debate especially important.
“The next couple of debates after Super Tuesday, after Iowa and New Hampshire when Steyer won’t be running anymore and Klobuchar won’t be running anymore. Then I’ll start paying strict attention," Schulz said. "So I think that’s why I’m not watching it at home. Because I don’t need to pay strict attention so I like the atmosphere is as important as the content of the debate at this point.”
It wasn’t just Democrats who tuned in to the event happening in what political experts say could be a battleground state.
Republicans and those supporting President Donald Trump took note, too. Farther north, in Cobb County, a women for Trump event was held and attended by Marc Lotter, the campaign’s strategic communications director.
Lotter said he doesn’t think Georgia will turn blue but they’re also not “taking anything for granted. That’s one of the reasons why you see the initiatives like we had today. We’re already training the folks who are going to go out and do the difficult work on the ground.”
Now that the debate in Atlanta is over, Amari Foster with Georgia Stand Up, who went to a watch party near Georgia State’s campus for people ages 18 to 35 said there’s still work that needs to be done.
“Stay engaged," Foster said. "Stay involved and, as the candidates start to scale back, we’re going to have fewer and fewer until there are only two. It’s important to just kind of know what issues and platforms people are running on.”
The next Democratic debate is scheduled for Dec. 19 on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles.
Live updates from the watch parties:
10:50 p.m.: Debate watch parties are beginning to break up as people head home early.
As the debate wound down, Christine Rodriguez and Victoria Hill headed for the door. They had watched the past two debates at Manuel’s Tavern, and said they enjoyed the enthusiasm of the crowd.
Rodriguez, a paralegal studying law at Georgia State University, said she thought the debates were becoming an echo chamber.
“Candidates are really starting to repeat themselves,” she said.
“A lot of them are digging for their talking points,” Hill added. “There were a couple instances where I was thinking, ‘They asked you to answer a question you did not actually answer.’”
10:30 p.m.: An attendee at the Georgia Beer Garden who identifies as Republican but did not want to give his name said he was impressed with Gabbard and Yang's performances so far.
When asked if he thought Georgia would actually be a swing state in 2020, he laughed and said "good luck."
Darion Reed stood nearby in front of an anti- Sen. David Perdue sign. He said he hasn't yet made up his mind on a candidate.
"I'm trying to stay neutral right now, but I think Sen. Warren and Sen. Harris have had great moments so far," Reed said.
Attention on the debate is starting to wane in Savannah. The conversation that swelled during the last commercial break was slower to die down, and the crowd is slowly dwindling. But after a few minutes, those who remain have fixed their attention back on the TV screens.
10:15 p.m.: Laura Truman works a couple days a week at Manuel’s Tavern, but tonight she’s here on one of her days off to watch the debate with a few friends. She said she likes watching events like the debate at Manuel’s because of the crowd.
“It’s very easy for all of us to be isolated behind screens and in our own seperate rooms, but, in a place like this, with this kind of energy and to be present with people who are clapping or cheering about their candidates, it's very exciting,” she said.
“The fossil fuel industry is probably criminally liable because they have lied and lied and lied” @BernieSanders #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/JpvsEneCpg— Robert Jimison (@RobertJimison) November 21, 2019
10 p.m.: When Andrew Yang brought up his freedom dividend in response to a question about the cost of childcare in Georgia, the crowd at Georgia Beer Garden erupted in applause. Moments later, as Tom Steyer begins speaking on affordable housing, someone in the crowd the yelled in jest "Bring the guillotine!"
9:30 p.m. Despite the Warren signs and t-shirts around the room, Warren is not the only candidate to draw applause and nods in Savannah. Attendees applaud Kamala Harris's comments on inequality, Bernie Sanders's on healthcare and Amy Klobuchar's call for the overturn of Citizens United as well.
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Mostly, the Savannah debate audience is rapt, listening intently to the candidates' points. But the room erupts in applause when Klobuchar says Stacey Abrams should be the governor of Georgia.
UPDATE: 9:20 p.m.: At the Beer Garden, Angel Robertson, a first-time voter who's in Atlanta for college, said she wants to get as much information as possible to make an informed decision. She said she liked Andrew Yang's views on mental health, which is important to her as a psychology major.
Across the room, Ashlynn Fenton reacted to Warren speaking in support of her wealth tax with skepticism, saying she preferred Sanders' approach to taxing the wealthiest 1% instead of Warren's focus on businesses.
As Andrew Yang gets his first opportunity to speak, supporters at Manuel’s Tavern cheer loudly. One supporter said she hoped Yang would get more much time to speak than in previous debates.
8:45 p.m.: At the Georgia Beer Garden in Atlanta, a crowd of 50 to 60 people surged to more than 100 minutes before the Democratic debate was scheduled to begin. Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta is nearing capacity and signs supporting Elizabeth Warren are propped up around the brick basement room of the Five Spot on Broughton restaurant in Savannah, where about 22 people have gathered.
Many of the Warren supporters in Savannah are wearing buttons for a party dubbed "Blue or Bust." In that spirit, attendees say they will support the Democratic nominee regardless of who it is. But there is a sign-up sheet for a bus trip to Atlanta to see Warren speak tomorrow, and several people including the organizers are wearing Warren gear.
At Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta, the place is packed with debate watchers wearing merchandise from all the candidates. But it's ground zero for Andrew Yang fans.
That's true at the Georgia Beer Garden as well, where Tully Baker tells GPB's Sarah Rose he wants to see substantive discussion.
"Andrew Yang, my candidate, he really thrives when it's longer form and there's an opportunity to really engage in ideas," Baker said. "I want the focus to be on the ideas and the best ideas."
Tully said he wants people to know that Yang's not necessarily getting the same opportunity as other candidates to introduce himself to the American people.
8:30 p.m.: In Savannah, M. Peggy Quattro, Lynne Steinfeld and Kimber Spencer have lots of issues on their minds: healthcare, climate change, equal pay and more.
"I think healthcare is number one. The economy is number two. And getting rid of Trump is on top of all of that," says Quattro.
The others agree and say they will support the eventual nominee, whoever it is. Spencer, a Warren supporter, says she is no fan of Joe Biden, but if he wins the nomination she plans to rally support for him.
Spencer also says it's significant that this debate is happening in Georgia. She points to the state's two races for U.S. Senate.
"We could flip the Senate, and that's a major situation. And we are so close," Spencer says. "I believe that based upon the suppression that happened in the midterm, without so many people being removed from the polls that couldn't vote. There were a lot of problems. The absentee ballots didn't go out properly. If those things had not happened, who's to say who would have won? And I do believe that Georgia is gonna go blue. And I am looking forward to it."
LIVE UPDATES: GPB's team of reporters includes Emily Jones in Savannah, Sarah Rose in Atlanta and Sam Bermas-Dawes in Atlanta.
ORIGINAL STORY: Several groups around the state are hosting watch parties for the Democratic debates Wednesday night.
GPB's team of reporters will report live on reactions from Georgians as the debate takes place at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta.
FROM GPB: ONGOING ELECTION 2020 COVERAGE
Some places to watch the debate:
- Pro-Choice GA and Millenials for Abrams at the Georgia Beer Garden in Atlanta, starting at 7 p.m.
- Georgia Stand Up and Black Youth Vote at 55 Park Place NE in Atlanta, starting at 7:30 p.m.
- Gainesville Latino Caucus at 501 Pulliam Street in Atlanta, starting at 8 p.m.
- Gwinnett LatinX at Mariscos Mazaltan in Duluth, starting at 8 p.m.
- 5 Spot on Broughton in Savannah, starting at 8 p.m.
We’re throwing Democratic presidential debate watch parties across Georgia! Join our county Democrats as we cheer on our 2020 Democratic presidential candidates!
Find a watch party near you: @cowetadems Watch Party