Despite predictions of a “blue wave,” it is unlikely for Democrats to come even close to a majority in the Georgia House of Representatives, Democratic candidate Matthew Wilson acknowledged last week.
The Brookhaven Democrat, who will face incumbent House District 80 representative Meagan Hanson on Tuesday’s election, addressed a group of students and staff at Oglethorpe University in an event billed as an “open dialogue” with the candidate.
Wilson opened his remarks by giving a brief presentation on his political experience, bringing particular attention to his activism for LGBTQ+ causes, as well as his professional record in education and his law practice.
While answering a question about his position on offering the HOPE scholarship to DACA recipients, Wilson admitted that the debate around issues would still be controlled by Republican lawmakers.
“Even if I win my race, and even if the Democrats pick up 10-15 seats in the state house, we’re still not going to be even close to a 50-50 split,” said Wilson.
When asked about the potential effectiveness of a Democratic minority with more seats, Wilson implied that the strategy for passing legislation would be dependent on working with moderate Republicans.
“There are certain issues that when they come up, the Republican caucus is going to have to work with the bigger Democratic caucus in order to get enough votes,” Wilson said. “It’s about figuring out how Democrats can stand together and offer their caucus as support for bills that are on the fringe of passing.”
“We will have to give them something in order to get something in return,” Wilson said.
Wilson also cited the possibility of Stacey Abrams winning the governor’s race as a deciding factor on the legislative power of a future Democratic minority.
Daniele Stein, a student present at the event, expressed her reservations at the strategy presented by Wilson, saying that “there will most likely be a lot of restrictions with what will get passed, as far as anti-discrimination laws are concerned.” Despite this, she said she was impressed by Wilson’s commitment to civil rights protections and his life experience.
Amy Palder, Oglethorpe’s Associate Dean of Students, was in attendance for the event, and she raised concerns about voter suppression and how it affects turnout. Wilson admitted that there were limited options available to fight voter suppression legislation, which he characterized as “gotcha laws.”
Nevertheless, he offered several proposals to eliminate laws he claimed were unfair, such as instituting same-day registration and paper ballots, as well as criticized Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office for establishing restrictions that would disenfranchise voters.
“They don’t want you voting if you’re not voting every single time, because then they don’t know who you’re going to vote for,” Wilson said. “That is what they believe and that is the reason why we have all of these regulations.”
In a later interview, Palder once again voice her concerns about voter suppression, denouncing what she perceived as “not allowing all people to have equal access to voting.” She acknowledged that it was not an easy subject to answer questions about, and expressed her satisfaction at Wilson’s response.
Explaining his decision to run for office, Wilson cited President Donald Trump’s 2016 election victory as a defining factor. “His election to me was a signal that we all have to do something more,” Wilson said. “Just showing up and voting is not enough.”
During the talk, Wilson expressed his support for legislation expanding eligibility for the HOPE scholarship to DACA recipients, as well as codifying anti-discrimination measures in state law. Wilson also criticized the current legislature’s unwillingness to include LGBT protections in proposed legislation.
“Out of 236 elected representatives in the state House and Senate, only four of them are openly LGBT,” Wilson said. “We have a lot of work to do to increase our representation.”
Wilson expressed confidence about his chances in the election, characterizing HD80 as “the number one most flippable seat in the state of Georgia.” He also referenced the endorsement he received from former US President Barack Obama, crediting it for the national attention his campaign has received.
In a separate statement, Wilson emphasized the importance of the election for the Oglethorpe community, referencing the “highly contested” state and congressional seats up for election in the area.
The event, organized by Oglethorpe’s Center for Civic Engagement, reached Republican Meagan Hanson for invite but she was unable to attend.
Regarding the absence of Wilson’s opponent, Dean Palder expressed her wish for candidates from all parties to appear in such events, attributing its importance to giving voters the opportunity to make informed decisions.
Nevertheless, she acknowledged that for some candidates it might not be convenient to speak at the university.
“This is a really contentious election,” Palder said, “and candidates rea
lly need to determine where they’re going to get the biggest bang for their buck. One could make an argument that coming here might not be the most valuable use of their time.
The Stormy Petrel Newspaper unsuccessfuly reached out to the Hanson campain on two seperate occasions.