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    Sunday, November 27, 2022

    Connecticut residents get involved in Georgia election

    It may ordinarily seem unusual for Connecticut residents to get involved in U.S. Senate races in Georgia. But it's also not ordinary for control of the Senate to be determined by two races in one state, in an election occurring at a time when there aren't also local elections.

    Some are against the concept of getting involved in elections happening in other states, but Democratic and Republican voters in Connecticut are contributing their time through postcard writing, phone banking and even going down to Georgia.

    A runoff election is being held for both Senate seats on Jan. 5 because in each race, neither candidate received 50% of the vote in November. Incumbent Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue respectively face challenges from Democratic opponents Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

    If the Democratic candidates win both races, the Senate will have 50 Republicans and 50 senators who are Democrats or caucus with Democrats, meaning incoming Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris would have the tiebreaking vote.

    New London resident Emma Palzere-Rae and Groton resident Liz Duarte are among the people who got involved through the Southeastern CT Federation of Democratic Women. They're writing postcards through the Center for Common Ground's Reclaim Our Vote Campaign, launched in 2018 and described as a nonpartisan campaign that works against voter suppression, especially among voters of color.

    Ahead of the November election, FDW chapter members wrote postcards to Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Texas through Reclaim Our Vote, Duarte said — the first time the group wrote postcards to other states.

    "Because we're a state that we were pretty sure was going to go for whoever the Democrat was running," Duarte said with a laugh, there was "a tremendous amount of interest" in what could be done for other states.

    For the Georgia runoff, she said the chapter was only able to get 500 postcards, because there's such a large demand nationwide. But Duarte said within one hour, she had handed them all out, in packets of 20. She explained that she got a database of names and addresses, and a script, through Reclaim Our Vote.

    "It's a good, easy way to help," Palzere-Rae said, explaining that the postcards serve as a reminder to vote and direct people on where to get information on early voting. She added, "Voter suppression just really angers me."

    Mystic resident Carol Larson said for the November election, she was inspired to write letters and texts for out-of-state campaigns by Pod Save America, a podcast from Crooked Media, which three former Barack Obama staffers founded in 2017. After the presidential election was over, organizations started asking for help in Georgia.

    She's written letters through Vote Forward, a nonprofit with a mission to "empower grassroots volunteers to help register voters from under-represented demographics and encourage them to vote." Vote Forward guidelines are to not write anything partisan or mention candidates by name.

    Matthew Shulman of Groton said he and his wife are writing nonpartisan get-out-the-vote postcards to Georgia.

    "We're not anti-Republican; we are anti-Trump," Shulman wrote. He added that while he is a registered Democrat, he has voted for Republicans, but he can't imagine doing so for "Trump enablers" — including the incumbent Republicans in Georgia.

    Dana Semeraro of Mystic said in an email last week, "I am certainly donating to the Senate races in Georgia, because I feel our lives and the entire Biden agenda for the next four years are at stake. Otherwise I see continual (Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell obstructionism ahead, which would be a disaster for the progress we need to make and the damage we need to reverse."

    Irving Steel of East Lyme drove to Georgia over the weekend, arriving just ahead of the deadline for Georgia residents to register to vote. Steel is registered to vote in Connecticut but is in Georgia temporarily to engage with Georgia voters, and to advocate for listening to health experts to get through the pandemic.

    He's reaching out to various groups with about a dozen students from the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia, where Steel got his undergraduate degree.

    He said some people have the attitude of "hell yeah, I'm voting" whereas others are tired of this, having just gone through a big election. Coming from Connecticut, he also noted, "We have to be cognizant of the fact that it's their state, it's their representatives."

    'Connecticut has an URGENT and VITAL role'

    J.R. Romano, chairman of the Connecticut Republican Party, sent an email last week asking people to help Republicans "Save the Senate."

    He began, "You want to know what thought keeps me up at night? Dick Blumenthal as CHAIRMAN of the Senate Judiciary Committee." The email later continued, "Connecticut has an URGENT and VITAL role in keeping the Senate out of Democrat hands."

    It urged people to fund voter contacts. In a phone call Monday, Romano explained that a lot of times, donations go toward digital advertising.

    Romano said he's encouraging people to get involved in the Georgia election because he wants "to stop the federal government from going the same path as the state of Connecticut."  He said he's had maybe 100 to 150 people get engaged through donating or phone banking, and while most are interested in phone banking, he knows of a few people going to Georgia.

    Linda Blais of Bozrah said she got involved through Brandon Straka, who founded the #WalkAway movement and separately is mobilizing support to make sure Republicans vote in Georgia.

    Blais said she wants to do phone banking because these two Senate seats "are the last firewall" against "extreme initiatives the Democrats have spoken about probably putting into place," citing free college, Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. She's still waiting to hear back from the Save the Senate initiative about numbers to call so she can start phone banking.

    But Blais has already rehearsed in her head what she's going to say. Asked what that is, she began, "I live in the Constitution State; I'm very proud that our motto is that, and Connecticut's not in play, but I feel fully invested in holding the line against the Senate becoming controlled by the Democrats."

    Kat Goulart, chairwoman of the New London Republican Town Committee, said she hasn't done any phone banking yet but would like to do so, as time allows.

    She said Tuesday afternoon she was waiting to hear back from the political director of the Connecticut GOP to find out how people can get involved if they want to, and then she would send an email blast relaying that information to her members in New London.

    "This is a big one for Republicans," Goulart said of the election, adding that she believes in balance and "if we have a Democratic-controlled House, then why not have a Republican-controlled Senate?"

    e.moser@theday.com

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