By Floyd L. Griffin
This year year, don’t forget to vote the down ballot. I’ve been in politics for a very long time, probably far longer than I want to admit. I’ve cast votes in the Georgia General Assembly that at the time seemed liked the most important vote in my lifetime and the lifetime of the good people of Milledgeville who sent me to Atlanta.
Like many of my neighbors, I’ve participated in national and local elections that were described at the time as the most important vote that we would ever cast. Certainly, one or two of the votes I cast as mayor of Milledgeville, at the time, were thought to be as grave as it gets.
Many say that this year’s midterm ballot is the most important vote we have ever made and will make for the remainder of our lifetimes. This may or may not be true. It is however, a very important vote.
The education of our children, the access to health care for our aging and moderate-income citizens, the safety and security of our precious ballot are among the life changing issues that will be decided in our state on November 6.
This week county election officials will deliver ballots to the U S Postal Service for delivery to Georgians who have requested absentee ballots. By the time my opinion reaches you, many of you may already have voted.
For those who are waiting for early voting, or those who like to weigh the possible candidates until election day, please don’t forget the down ballot when you vote in the 2018 midterms. This year, the down ballot races could be the most significant of your votes; especially if you are a moderate Republican, or an Independent voter who is seeking good non-partisan governance from your elected officials.
It is past time that we break the grid lock, not only in Washington, D. C., but under the Gold Dome in Georgia.
The up ballot presents us with the opportunity to elect a Black woman, Stacy Abrams, as the first Black female governor in the history of America. This is a big deal. If elected, Abrams will take the oath of office in 2019, 400 years after the first Africans were brought to these shores in chains.
Abrams will expand Medicare in the state, bringing much needed health care to rural Georgians and with this expansion an uptick in job creation to accommodate the expanded health care network in the state. Abrams has pledged to bring industry to South Georgia communities like Milledgeville, Roberta, Donaldsonville, McCray and Hazlehurst. These are not socialist ideas. They are people first ideas. Abrams’ candidacy offers Georgia a chance to refresh herself as we move into the “roaring twenties.”
As historic as an Abrams election will be, we cannot forget the down ballot candidates.
The race for lieutenant governor offers the state the unique opportunity to be the first state in the nation to boast of having women holding the two top constitutional offices in a state. Sarah Riggs Amico, is an unapologetic progressive who believes in the personal freedoms of every Georgian. We’ve tried restricted politics in this state the entirety of the 21st century. I believe it is time we show a little more respect for each other. Amico offers us this type of leadership.
In this age of concern about ballot security and alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 General Election, the post of secretary of state takes on critical importance. In fact, our mid-term election may be in peril because the current secretary of state does not wish to infuriate President Donald J. Trump by taking measures like going to paper ballots, which would suggest that Georgia’s election process may be vulnerable to a hack attack from foreign forces.
John Barrow, a lawyer and a former congressman, offers us the independence of thought that can make the necessary decision to protect our ballot from those who would manipulate the outcome of free elections in a strong democracy; and make voting an easier process which will encourage more citizens to participate in the sacred vote.
One thing we have learned from the one-party rule in Georgia, whether it was the Democrats for much of the 20th century or the Republican in the 21st century, and that is, crime and corruption becomes entrenched because the authorities fail to go after the friends in their party.
This year, Georgia can elect an independent attorney general. Charlie Bailey, a lawyer from Harris County, who cut his legal teeth prosecuting criminals, says he will concentrate on protecting Georgia’s families from crime, corruption and consumer fraud. Bailey seems like just what the doctor ordered.
As Georgia attracts the attention of corporations like Amazon, the education of our children takes on a heightened sense of importance. Corporations like to move into states that have good educational systems. We know that Georgia can do better, should do better and we all want Georgia to do a better job of educating our children.
Otha Thornton, a retired military officer like myself, is on the down ballot seeking to become the next State Superintendent of Schools. Thornton believes he has the passion, experience and leadership to restore hope for all the children of Georgia. Moderate Republicans and Independent voters would not go wrong in giving Thornton their vote. He will run the State School Board with a steady hand and with sound judgment.
Nor should we ignore Richard Keatley for Commissioner of Labor, Fred Swanson for Agriculture, nor Janice Laws for Commissioner of Insurance and Safety Fire, each will bring sound new perspectives to their respective posts.
As will Dawn Randolph and Lindy Miller in Public Service Commission Districts 5 and 6 respectively.
In the year of the woman in politics, Georgia is poised to be a big player in breaking up the gridlock in the District of Columbia. There are three contested congressional races featuring three fresh female voices to weigh in on health care, common sense gun control, education and a host of bread and butter issues that deserve a woman’s perspective.
In the First District, Lisa Ring, as progressive as they come, is waging a fierce fight, with limited resources, to represent the voice of our first congressional district.
Lucy McBath, mother of Jordan Davis who was killed in the loud music case in Jacksonville, Florida in 2012, wants to represent the 4th congressional district. No matter where you stand on the Second Amendment, we need her voice in the coming years to explore ways to lessen the chances of senseless mass murder with sensible gun ownership regulations.
In the 10th, my congressional district, Tabitha Johnson-Green came out of nowhere to earn a place on the midterm ballot. We could use her determination in the halls of congress.
It is my sincere desire that when you go to the polls whether by absentee ballot, early vote or a trip to the polls on election day, you will not forget the good men and women on the down ballot who can contribute to our state and nation.
Floyd L. Griffin is a retired Colonel in the United States Army, former mayor of Milledgeville, Georgia and a former State Senator representing Georgia’s 25th senatorial district. He lives in Milledgeville with his wife Nathalie.