Democrats are counting on Leon and Gadsden counties to carry Gwen Graham to victory in her challenge of Congressman Steve Southerland. Civil Rights icon Georgia Congressman John Lewis Thursday was the third celebrity this week to join Graham at a get-out-the-vote rally in the two-county Democratic enclave.
“Each one of you must become ambassadors the next few days, and go out there and tell other people to vote . . . tell them to get off their butts and vote,” said Lewis at the Quincy rally.
Lewis spilt blood as a young man fighting to expand voting rights. It was on a bridge in Alabama in 1965 when a club struck him in the head as police broke up a Selma to Montgomery march for voting rights. Fifty years later he continues to preach that exercising the right to speak truth to power at the ballot box is a duty and necessity in a free society.
The Graham-Southerland contest is on course to be the most expensive in the district’s history. The candidates have raised more than $6 million between them and outside groups have poured an additional $7 million worth of mailings, broadcast commercials and efforts to turn out voters. The race is considered a tossup.
Lewis joins former President Bill Clinton and Jimmy Buffett to rally Graham’s get out the vote effort in the two county region which produced nearly half the votes counted two years ago and went for Democrat Al Lawson by nearly a two-to-one margin.
When nearly all of the more than 100 people at Thursday’s rally said they had already voted, Lewis said he was nearly moved to tears.
“I almost died on that bridge 50 years ago. The vote is powerful. It is precious. It is almost sacred,” said Lewis. He encouraged his listeners to find an additional 5, 10, 15 votes for Graham.
“I’ve seen people who love the world but they don’t like people, they don’t like people,” said Lewis talking about the folks he has met in a lifetime in politics. “They vote against the needs of people, against healthcare, education, refuse to support Medicare, Medicaid. They don’t look out for our children or protect the environment.
“Everybody goes to the polls and everybody gets to votes,” said Lewis.
Gadsden didn’t leave many votes on the table last election, 22,000 of its 28,000 voters participated. The Graham campaign wants to keep the 2012 voters engaged, get the additional 11,000 voters who have registered since the last election to the polls and hope former Gov. Bob Graham’s appeal to Blue Dog Democrats in the countryside is passed on to his daughter Gwen.
“When we wake up next Wednesday morning let’s makes sure we left no votes in the field,” said Rep. Alan Williams, the Democrat who represents Gadsden County at the statehouse.
In the early voting numbers as of mid-day Thursday, Democrat turnout stalled in Leon County. The Supervisor reports an increase of 36 ballots overnight while Republicans increased by 557 and others by 230.
In Southerland’s home county of Bay, the Democratic effort picked up with 612 additional ballots, Republicans 130 and 262 new ballots from voters not affiliated with either of the two major parties.
Democrats also outperformed Republican in Gadsden and Jackson counties in ballots received between mid-day Wednesday and Thursday. Bay and Jackson are Southerland’s base counties used to counter Democratic strength in Leon and Gadsden.
As of noon Thursday, reports from Supervisors of Elections in those four counties show Democrats have cast 35,912 ballots, Republicans 28,345 and 7,030 ballots from other voters.
In 2012, those 4 counties of the 2—nd District cast 264,000 of the 333,000 votes counted.