Last-minute legal decisions, a racist robocall and a protester wearing a giant chicken suit holding a sign that reads “too chicken to debate.”
These are the scenes playing out amid the final furious days of the hotly contested and historic race for Georgia governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp.
A robocall apparently from a white supremacist group is injecting racism directly into the race, which has already been fraught with a race-laden debate over ballot access and voter suppression. Abrams would be the first black female governor in U.S. history. Kemp, who oversees elections as Georgia’s secretary of state, vehemently denies charges that he’s used his office to make it harder for minorities to vote.
Abrams and Kemp are both condemning an automated telephone call filled with racist and anti-Semitic statements. The call, sent to an unknown number of Georgians, impersonates Oprah Winfrey, the billionaire media titan who came to Georgia on Thursday to support Abrams.
The robocall says it was paid for by The Road to Power, a group organized by Scott Rhodes of Idaho. He has been linked to several other racist robocalls, including a recent effort in Florida, where Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum would become the first black governor in his state’s history.
Kemp issued a statement calling the tactic “vile” and “contrary to the highest ideals of our state and country,” and condemning “any person or organization that peddles this type of unbridled hate and unapologetic bigotry.”
The Abrams camp likewise blasted the move but took a shot at Kemp and his highest profile supporter, President Donald Trump, who is coming to Georgia to campaign Sunday. A top Abrams aide said both Kemp and Trump have contributed to a poisonous atmosphere, and that Kemp has been silent on previous racially loaded attacks on Abrams.
“These automated calls are being sent into homes just days before President Trump arrives, reminding voters exactly who is promoting a political climate that celebrates this kind of vile, poisonous thinking,” said Abrams’ spokeswoman Abigail Collazo.
Abrams sidestepped the issue Saturday in brief public remarks as she greeted voters at an Atlanta shopping complex along with her local congressman, civil rights icon John Lewis.
“Georgia has long been on a path of change and evolution,” Abrams said. But she also said the election is about issues like expanding Medicaid insurance and focusing state spending on public education, job training and small business startups.
“I’m the only candidate with a plan to get that done and to do that without vitriol, without vilifying people,” she added.
Lewis, the 78-year-old congressman who as a young man was severely beaten by police as he fought for voting rights in the Jim Crow South, put Georgia’s choice in the broadest context: “This young lady is playing a major role in helping liberate all of us, liberate the state of Georgia, liberate the South, liberate America.”
Kemp did not address the robocalls at his only scheduled campaign stop Saturday at a Cuban restaurant in a diverse north-Atlanta suburb.
Kemp told the packed crowd of supporters that the race for governor was a simple choice: one between continued economic prosperity under Republican leadership, or a turn to “socialism” under Democrats.
Kemp said the election was about “this generation and generations to come and the kind of state that we leave them.” He then blasted Abrams’ policy pitches on health care and education.
The Kemp event was also hit by a number of protesters. Two men protesting Kemp’s immigration policy while Kemp was onstage were forcibly removed from the restaurant.
As a TV crew from MSNBC tried to film the hecklers being removed, a Kemp supporter physically blocked their path and the view of their lens.
And someone out front was wearing a giant chicken suit holding a sign that reads “too chicken to debate,” alluding to Kemp withdrawing from a debate scheduled Sunday in favor of appearing in Macon with President Donald Trump.
Much of the final stretch of the race was consumed by a bitter battle over race and access to the polls.
Tensions grew after an Associated Press report in early October that more than 53,000 voter applications — nearly 70 percent of them from black applicants — were on hold with Kemp’s office ahead of the election.
Many of the applications were flagged for failing to pass the state’s “exact match” verification process, which requires that identification information on voter registration applications precisely match information already on file.
Kemp’s office says that eligible voters on the “pending” list can still vote if they bring a proper ID that substantially matches their registration information. He called the controversy “manufactured.”
But critics say county officials aren’t always trained to make the proper determination and the system can be particularly hard to navigate for recently naturalized citizens.
In response to a lawsuit brought by civil rights groups, a judge on Friday ruled the state unfairly burdens about 3,100 possible voters whose registration was flagged for citizenship issues.
She ruled that Georgia must immediately start allowing poll managers — not just deputy registrars — to clear flagged voters who show proof of citizenship.
In a statement, Kemp said the lawsuit forced the state “to waste time and taxpayer dollars for the judge to tell us to do something that we already do.”
In the final days in one of the nation’s hottest governor’s races, Oprah Winfrey and President Donald Trump, as well as former Presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter and Vice President Mike Pence, are trying to put their imprint on the Georgia election.
Winfrey joins Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams for two town hall-style events Thursday, the same day that Pence travels to the state for several rallies with Republican Brian Kemp.
Trump and Obama will follow with their party’s candidate over the next three days. Carter, an Abrams supporter and former Georgia governor, garnered significant attention already this week with a personal plea that Kemp resign as secretary of state, Georgia’s chief elections official, to ensure public confidence in the results of what’s expected to be a close race.
The blitz underscores the high stakes in one of the defining contests of next week’s midterms, as Abrams vies to become the first black female governor in American history, while Kemp tries to maintain the GOP’s dominance in a state Democrats believe is on the cusp of becoming a presidential battleground.
The appearance by Winfrey, among the world’s wealthiest and most famous black women, is a significant coup for Abrams, who needs to maximize her support from nonwhite voters but also from liberal white women. All of those demographics overlap with Winfrey’s fan base, and she will hit them all with events in Republican-leaning Cobb County and heavily Democratic DeKalb County, both within miles of downtown Atlanta.
Though sometimes mentioned as a 2020 presidential candidate, Winfrey has demurred on her intentions. Her most visible foray into electoral politics was as an outspoken supporter of Obama, her fellow Chicagoan, when he first won the White House in 2008.
Trump’s appearance may claim as a casualty the last debate scheduled between Kemp and Abrams.
The two campaigns had agreed weeks ago to a debate at 5 p.m. Sunday in the studios of Atlanta’s WSB-TV. But Kemp’s campaign said the president’s schedule takes precedence, and he’s coming to Macon, about 100 miles south of Atlanta, to hold a campaign rally with Kemp at 4 p.m.
Abrams’ campaign manager, Lauren Groh-Wargo, says the debate is off because Kemp backed out. Kemp adviser Ryan Mahoney says his candidate is willing to find another time slot, but Groh-Wargo says Abrams is booked through Tuesday’s election.
Multiple polls show a statistical dead heat between Kemp and Abrams, with a low percentage of undecided voters remaining. There’s a possibility of a December runoff, given that Libertarian Ted Metz also is on the ballot and Georgia’s requirement that the winner garner a majority of the votes.
That could mean that events that energize the base, like a rally with Trump or Obama, could carry more weight than a debate less than 48 hours before Election Day.
Both candidates have run consistent appeals to their respective bases. Kemp has embraced Trump and echoed the president’s hard-line policies on immigration, and he’s focused much of his campaigning in the state’s more conservative pockets beyond metro Atlanta.
Visits from Trump and Pence — and the location of those events — illustrate that strategy.
While Abrams has touted her experience working with Republicans as minority leader in the Georgia legislature, her positions on health care, education spending, criminal justice and gun regulations make her an unapologetic liberal. She’s openly courting Democratic-leaning voters who have largely sat out midterm elections in the past, arguing it’s a better path to victory than trying to coax crossover votes from older white voters who abandoned Democrats.
Obama will appear with Abrams on Friday at a cluster of historically black colleges near downtown Atlanta.
Cory Booker meets with demonstrators at a protest in Washington, D.C., on June 28, 2017. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins
Questions about religion can paralyze some politicians, but not Cory Booker.
If anything, the topic seems to relax him. Sitting in his spacious but spartan office on Capitol Hill in early October, the senator propped his sneakered feet up on his desk and waxed poetic about spiritual matters, bouncing between discussions of Jesus’ disciples, housing policy and his own religious practices.
“When I get up in the morning, I meditate,” the New Jersey Democrat said, a practice he has often linked to his spiritual health. He paused for a moment, then quickly corrected himself: “Actually, I pray on my knees, and then I meditate.”
Booker’s comfort with his faith is unusual for Democrats in Washington, but it’s standard fare for the 49-year-old former mayor of Newark and has even become a mainstay of his blossoming political persona: Even the hyperbole-averse Associated Press recently compared him to an “evangelical minister” after Booker addressed a group of Democrats in Iowa.
AP had good cause: The decidedly progressive speech, which many speculated was a warmup for a 2020 presidential run, was peppered with talk about “faithfulness” and “grace.” Booker closed by citing Amos 5:24 (“But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”) before shouting “Amen!” over the roaring crowd.
Asked about his tendency to fuse the political with the spiritual, Booker shrugged.
“I don’t know how many speeches of mine you can listen to and not have me bring up faith,” he said. He noted he had just come from a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting where he had lifted a line from his stump speech: “Before you tell me about your religion, first show it to me in how you treat other people.”
The sentiment, along with a message of unity that he brands as a “new civic gospel,” is generating buzz among Democrats. But Booker’s brand of public religiosity is especially attractive to an oft-forgotten but increasingly powerful group: the amorphous subset of religious Americans sometimes known as the religious left.
If he does run for president, as many expect, Booker may be one of the first Democratic candidates in decades to actively cultivate support from religious progressives.
A favorite of lefty faithful
Raised in an African Methodist Episcopal church and now a member of a National Baptist church in Newark, Booker has become a fixture at left-leaning religious gatherings as far back as 2014, when he showed up at a summit hosted by Sojourners, a Christian social justice organization. He “basically preached a sermon at the opening reception,” tweeted one organizer of the event.
In 2017, Booker attended a protest outside the U.S. Capitol hosted by the Rev. William Barber II, a prominent religious progressive who was there to denounce the Republican-led effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this year, Booker spoke at the Festival of Homiletics, a preaching conference attended by primarily white, liberal mainline clergy.
His appearance at these events has often resulted in standing ovations, and near endorsements.
“I don’t hope to move to New Jersey, but I do hope to vote for you someday, if you catch my drift,” the Rev. David Howell, the Presbyterian founder of the Festival of Homiletics, said while introducing Booker in May.
Booker claims that his faith is not partisan: He said religion is a way to reach across the aisle, and Republican Sen. John Thune is reportedly a member of his Bible study (along with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, another potential Democratic presidential hopeful). But if Booker is unapologetic about his faith, he’s also unapologetic about the potential political effect of his God-talk.
“I think Democrats make the mistake often of ceding that territory to Republicans of faith,” Booker said.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., in his Washington office on Oct. 17, 2018. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins
Eric Gregory, who studied with Booker at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar and at Yale, said the senator’s fascination with faith is nothing new.
“He certainly has always been religiously musical,” said Gregory, now a professor of religion and chair of the humanities council at Princeton University.
“He was always curious about diving deeply into different religious traditions and trying to understand them but also find wisdom within them,” said Gregory.
Still, Booker roots his personal faith in Christianity, particularly the black church tradition in which he was reared.
“I will talk about my faith, and I also talk about other faiths I study,” Booker told Religion News Service, sitting beneath an image of Mahatma Gandhi, one of the few adornments on his office walls. “I’ve studied Torah for years. Hinduism I’ve studied a lot. Islam, I’ve studied some, and I’ve been enriched by my study. But, for me, the values of my life are guided by my belief in the Bible and in Jesus.”
It’s an approach to religion — multifaith, LGBTQ-inclusive, liberation theology-influenced and social-justice focused — that jibes perfectly with the makeup of the liberal coalition.
“The life of Jesus is very impactful to me and very important to me,” he said. “He lived a life committed to dealing with issues of the poor and the sick. The folks that other folks disregard, disrespect or often oppress. He lived this life of radical love that is a standard that I fail to reach every single day, but that really motivates me in what I do.”
But Booker insisted his connection with religious left leaders such as Barber, who spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention, has less to do with political angling and more to do with a natural overlap of shared values.
“I find kinship with people I find inspiration from — people I would love to be more like,” he said. “Rev. Barber is powerful. To me, his charisma speaks, in an instructive way, towards my heart and my being. He is somebody who believes that being poor is not a sin or that poverty is a sin.”
Riding progressive religious power
Progressive religion, drowned out in recent decades by the well-organized religious right, has been revived by the rise of President Trump. Within weeks of the 2016 election, left-leaning religious groups saw spikes in funding. Their coalitions became a crucial part of the “resistance” to Trump’s travel ban, the repeal of the ACA and the separation of families along the U.S.-Mexico border. Leaders such as Barber and Linda Sarsour, a prominent Muslim activist and core organizer of the Women’s March, have been elevated to the national stage.
As their influence increased, so too did side-by-side appearances with potential 2020 presidential hopefuls such as Booker, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; and others.
For modern religious progressives the new attention comes with a dilemma: What does it mean not only to protest power but to influence it — or even be courted by it?
“I think faith communities, particularly the religious left, need to become even more aware of the significant, for lack of a better word, lobbying power that they have,” said the Rev. Kelly Brown Douglas, a theology professor and dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
Marie Griffith, director of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis, said the shift harks back to the era of President Carter, who ran as a Southern Baptist Democrat.
“I would absolutely see (Carter) as exemplifying this progressive Christian vision,” she said, noting that after he lost re-election the progressive religious spirit that elected him “went underground.” In a sense, the rise of Bookers and Barbers signals a return to form.
“They’ve got their boldness back, and they’re willing to speak in the name of religion and not hide their light under a bushel,” she said.
Douglas also highlighted the importance of Booker’s attachment to the black church.
“Historically, black communities have relied on the leadership and the wisdom of their faith leaders,” she said.
It’s unclear whether white Democrats of faith, whose numbers continue to dwindle, can be successfully courted along faith lines, despite numerous attempts over the years by groups such as Sojourners and others. But appealing to the faith of nonwhite Democrats, according to data unveiled earlier this year by Pew Research, suggests that may be a crucial long-term strategy for those seeking to turn red states blue. Although states with higher religious attendance and expression tend to be Republican, nonwhite populations in those states skew highly religious and deeply Democratic.
Douglas pointed out that Booker already exhibited the power of the black faith community in the 2017 Alabama senate race. As Republican Roy Moore battled accusations of child sex abuse, Democrat Doug Jones reached out to black voters, using the last days before the election to campaign at several black churches.
Two days later, analysts largely credited Jones’ victory to massive black voter turnout.
Preaching a new ‘civic gospel’
Booker is not the only potential presidential hopeful vying for the religious left’s attention. Warren, Harris and others are also winning hearts among the faithful. Booker has also faced hard questions from the left, including religious progressives, for taking large donations from Wall Street.
He’d likely also have to address the concerns of slightly less than a third of Democrats who do not claim a religious affiliation, many of whom are uneasy with politicians who cite faith as a guide.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., addresses Festival of Homiletics attendees at Metropolitan AME Church on May 22, 2018, in Washington. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins
But Booker is already working out ways to talk to them, too.
“I prefer to hang out with nice, kind atheists than mean Christians any day,” he has often said.
Meanwhile, the larger struggle may be to convert the religious left into an organized political force.
Gregory identifies “a kind of paralyzing despair or prophetic critique that disables the possibility of politics more than enabling it. In some ways, I think one of the reasons why Senator Booker often gets a lot of enthusiastic reception is because he is capable of recognizing severe challenges but also not giving in to the despair or withdrawal.”
Booker’s optimism is embodied in his concept of a “civic gospel,” a vision for a politics devoid of the “meanness” and “moral vandalism” that he sees in current political discourse, especially from Trump.
“I think God is love,” Booker said, leaning across his desk. “I think God is justice. I think that the ideals of this country are in line with my faith. I don’t need to talk about religion to talk about those ideals that all Americans hold dear.”
Perhaps Booker is something of an evangelical — or at least an evangelist — for this ecumenical sense that politics and religion are not mutually exclusive, all while reaching those outside the religious fold with a broader inclusive message. Whether the faithful, literal and figurative, will rally around that idea will likely be the question of his next two years.
“Every speech I give, I will not yield from talking about that revival of civic grace,” he said.
President Donald Trump’s loyalists here at Florida’s premier retirement community fear Andrew Gillum.
It has nothing to do with his race, they insist, when asked about the 39-year-old Democrat who could become the state’s first African-American governor. Instead, The Villages’ deeply conservative residents are convinced a Gillum victory would trigger an era of high crime, higher taxes and moral failing.
“He’ll kill everything that’s good about Florida,” says Talmadge Strickland, a 66-year-old retired firefighter wearing a “Trump 2020” baseball cap at a rally for Gillum’s opponent. “He will hurt us; he will physically hurt us with his socialist mentality.”
In an era defined by deep political partisanship, there’s perhaps no state where the divide runs deeper than Florida, which is in the grip of a fierce culture clash over guns, race, climate change and the president. Gillum sits at the center of the melee, his campaign a proxy for the larger fight between Democrats and President Donald Trump’s GOP.
Gillum’s fate is inexorably linked to fellow Democrats whose success could determine control of Congress. That’s especially true for three-term Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who could benefit from Gillum’s appeal among young voters and minorities.
As early voting begins in Florida this week, that link is tenuous.
“New voters and infrequent voters are everything to us winning,” Gillum told The Associated Press when asked about his impact on Nelson’s race. “I think they will vote for both of us, and that will be to his benefit.”
Young people and minorities are traditionally among the least reliable voters, particularly in midterm elections. Meanwhile, white voters in place like The Villages are lining up behind his opponent, former Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis.
The electorate in Florida this year is especially unpredictable due to an unusual collision of events: a massive hurricane, the nation’s deadliest high school shooting and Gillum’s historic candidacy.
DeSantis has benefited from Trump’s occasional backing on social media, including after the debate. And Gillum is scheduled to campaign this week alongside former Vice President Joe Biden and 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. In the interview, he noted he’s been in touch with former President Barack Obama, who may campaign on his behalf.
Gillum acknowledged some Florida voters might oppose him because of his race, but insisted “that voter is not the majority of the people in our state.”
During Sunday night’s CNN debate, he accused his Republican opponent of fanning racial animus ever since DeSantis first warned Florida voters not to “monkey this up” by electing Gillum.
“The ‘monkey up’ comment said it all,” Gillum charged. “He has only continued in the course of his campaign to draw all the attention he can to the color of my skin. The truth is, you know what, I’m black. I’ve been black all my life. So far as I know, I will die black.”
Meanwhile, a small, but significant portion of the state’s Republican base remains consumed by recovery efforts almost two weeks after Hurricane Michael devastated the Panhandle. The secretary of state extended early voting hours, but both sides expect a drop in turnout across the heavily-Republican region as residents struggle without electricity and lodging in many cases.
Nelson’s challenger, Gov. Rick Scott, has yet to resume any campaign activities since the storm made landfall.
The state’s other trauma — a school shooting earlier this year that left 17 students and staff dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland — looms over the races. Backed by the fortune of Democratic billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg, Florida’s young people are fighting to be heard.
Those rallying behind Gillum in recent days include 16-year-old Sari Kaufman, a Parkland survivor who spent Sunday canvassing for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.
In an interview, Kaufman suggested young people are more excited about Gillum than Nelson, particularly because of Gillum’s status as a younger candidate running statewide for the first time.
“If he is successful and other candidates are successful, it will mean that my fellow classmates didn’t die in vain,” Kaufman said.
African-American leaders are also working to reverse their community’s typical drop-off in midterm elections. NAACP President Derrick Johnson said his organization is “microfocused” on boosting black turnout this fall. A statewide canvassing effort is underway across Florida, where organizers hope to bump black turnout by at least 5 percent from four years ago.
It was easy to find evidence of Gillum’s influence among so-called low-propensity voters in recent days, as activists from more than a half dozen competing groups scoured the state to ensure they cast ballots.
Anne Fazio, a 19-year-old Jacksonville student, was among thousands of people contacted at home over the weekend by the Koch-backed Americans For Prosperity’s massive door-knocking push. Standing at her front door, she didn’t hesitate when a conservative volunteer asked whether she was going to vote.
“I’m voting for Andrew Gillum,” Fazio said, praising his support for gun control and expanding Medicaid coverage for hundreds of thousands of low-income residents.
Asked by the AP whether she would support Nelson, she said: “I think I’ll probably vote for him — he’s a Democrat, right?”
The Republican DeSantis is making little effort to expand his coalition as he embraces Trump and his policies in a state the president carried by 1 point.
DeSantis vowed during Sunday’s debate to work closely with the Trump administration, while noting that Gillum has called for Trump’s impeachment. “You’ve got to be able to work with the administration,” DeSantis declared.
He also dismissed Parkland students’ calls for stronger efforts to reduce gun violence when asked about his opposition to modest gun control measures passed by Florida’s Republican-led legislature in the wake of the Parkland shooting.
DeSantis said local law enforcement and school officials “let them down” by not acting sooner to detain the shooter and address his mental health issues sooner.
Meanwhile, a flood of money is shaping the Florida elections.
Since the beginning of September alone, each side has dumped more than $44 million into television advertising for the governor’s race. While that may be the most in the country, it’s a fraction of the spending in Florida’s Senate contest, according to political operatives tracking media spending.
Paced by the Scott campaign’s $50 million, the Republican side has invested nearly $79 million in television spending since April compared to Democrats’ $49 million behind Nelson.
Back at The Villages, the attack ads against Gillum appeared to be resonating with retirees gathered for a Saturday DeSantis appearance that drew about 400.
“He scares me, I’m sorry,” 75-year-old retiree Suzanne Zimmerman, a member of Villagers for Trump, said of Gillum.
His race has nothing to do with her fear, she said.
“Although Gillum does say that there are too many white men in government,” Zimmerman added. “So that’s unfortunate that he is actually a racist.”
Unlike the much-studied millennials, we don’t know much about Generation Z, who now make up most of the 18- to 24-year-old voting bloc.
These young people started first grade after 9/11, were born with the internet, grew up with smartphones and social media and practiced active-shooter drills in their classrooms.
In 2018, they have taken an active role in political activism on issues like gun control, Black Lives Matter and #MeToo. For example, Parkland high school students started the movement against gun violence and named voting as a way to support the movement.
Yet, many people are skeptical about Generation Z’s commitment to voting. For instance, The Economist explained, in a piece titled “Why Young People Don’t Vote,” that “young people today do not feel they have much of a stake in society.”
Will Generation Z affect the midterm elections?
The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, where we do research, has been watching young people’s civic and political behaviors for nearly 20 years. This fall, my colleagues and I are conducting two large-scale national surveys of 2,087 Americans ages 18 to 24 to document and understand what Gen Zs are thinking, feeling and doing when it comes to politics.
So far, the data point to a surge in political engagement, intention to vote and outreach between friends to encourage voting. Gen Zers may be voting for the first time, but they are certainly not new to politics.
There are a few ways we can find out how likely it is that people in Generation Z will turn out to vote.
First, we can just ask. In our survey, 34 percent of youth said they are “extremely likely” to vote in November. While a survey can’t predict exact turnout numbers, data from previous surveys we’ve done using this approach have been close to actual turnout numbers. Other evidence supports this measure of intent to vote: Voter registration among young people is up in key battleground states and overall.
Finally, we found that young people are paying attention to politics more than they were in 2016. In 2016, about 26 percent of young people said they were paying at least some attention to the November elections. This fall, the proportion of youth who report that they are paying attention to the midterm races rose to 46 percent.
It’s clear that more young people are actively engaged in politics this year than 2016.
To learn more about what might be motivating Generation Z to vote, we asked our survey participants to rate their level of agreement with three statements.
“I worry that older generations haven’t thought about young people’s future.”
“I’m more cynical about politics than I was 2 years ago.”
“The outcomes of the 2018 elections will make a significant impact to everyday issues involving the government in my community, such as schools and police.”
In this year’s survey, we found that young people who feel cynical are far more likely to say they will vote. Other research has found that cynicism about politics can suppress or drive electoral engagement depending on the contexts.
Among young people who said “yes” to all three of those questions, more than half – 52 percent – said they are extremely likely to vote. Among young people who said “no” to all three of those questions, only 22 percent were extremely likely to vote.
Our poll results suggest political involvement in this generation is far above the levels we usually see among youth, especially in midterm election cycles.
In fact, almost 3 out of 4 youth – 72 percent – said they believe that dramatic change could occur in this country if people banded together. Gen Z is certainly aware of the challenges ahead but they are hopeful and actively involving themselves and friends in politics. Beyond almost any doubt, youth are involved and feel ready to make a dramatic change in the American political landscape.
In this Sept. 17, 2018, photo, Republican U.S. Rep. Mia Love speaks during an interview in Murray, Utah. Love is battling Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams for Utah’s 4th Congressional District. In conservative Utah, the first black female Republican in Congress is trying to fend off a strong challenge from a well-known Democratic mayor in a largely suburban district where many are wary of President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
The first black female Republican in Congress is facing a tough challenge from a well-known Democratic mayor in a largely suburban Utah district where many say they are wary of President Donald Trump.
U.S. Rep. Mia Love has sought to create some distance from the president while challenger Ben McAdams criticizes her record and pitches himself as a moderate.
The tight race also has a potential down-ballot wild card: A hotly contested medical-marijuana proposal that could bring out new voters.
Love, considered a rising star in the GOP, is fighting to keep her seat in a race targeted by national Democrats hoping to regain control of the House. She contends that she stands up to Trump on issues like immigration and trade.
“I wasn’t sent to Washington to walk in lockstep behind the president, or just be there and fight everything,” she said in an interview with The Associated Press, pointing to the federal tax overhaul as a GOP accomplishment.
McAdams, meanwhile, is seeking to burnish his image as a family man planted firmly on the political middle ground who would not support California Rep. Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker if the Democrats gain control. “I don’t like President Trump, but that’s not going to stop me from working with him,” he told The AP.
In another year, a Democrat would have little chance of making serious headway against a GOP incumbent in a Utah district where Republicans hold a 3-to-1 registration margin.
This year, it’s a dead heat.
Utah voters, though generally conservative, have long been wary of Trump’s brash style and comments about women and immigrants. While Republican politicians elsewhere have fallen after running afoul of the president, Utah GOP voters picked onetime critic Mitt Romney as Senate nominee in a landslide.
Love’s district includes suburbs of blue Salt Lake City, where anti-Trump sentiment runs particularly high.
Aaron Wood of Orem, who works with people with disabilities and is concerned about possible cuts to programs like Social Security, said he’s leaning toward voting for McAdams because he feels like Love is too closely aligned with Trump.
“It’s a problem and not a good direction for Utah,” he said.
The candidates exchanged sharp words during a debate on Monday, with McAdams accusing Love of supporting cuts to Social Security and environmental regulations while failing to be available at town halls.
“I feel like you’ve changed, honestly, you went to Washington and you’ve changed,” he said.
Love says he is distorting her record. She said she supports reforms to Social Security for younger people as well as compromise environmental legislation and is available to voters in small groups or telephone town halls.
“We have to let people know honesty still means something, integrity still means something,” she said.
The race could be affected by factors that have little to do directly with either candidate.
Voters will also be deciding on a medical-marijuana ballot proposal opposed by the highly influential Mormon church. The faith now backs a compromise to legalize it with strict regulations.
The issue could bring more people to the polls, said Damon Cann, a political scientist at Utah State University. New voters can register on Election Day for the first time this year.
McAdams says he’ll vote for the medical marijuana ballot proposal, while Love said she supports the compromise but wouldn’t say if she’ll vote for it.
While that issue could be a bump for McAdams, the ballot also holds a potential lift for Love with Romney’s high-profile Senate run. The record there is mixed, though: His presidential candidacy didn’t lift her to victory over a well-known Democrat in 2012.
Love, a daughter of Haitian immigrants, became the country’s first black female Republican in the U.S. House in 2014. She was clear when asked whether her race runs counter to a national narrative about more minority women running for office, mostly Democrats: “Diversity is great for them until you actually have an independent thought.”
McAdams’ six years as mayor included going undercover as a homeless person pushing back against a tax breaks for a once-planned Facebook data center.