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Photos by Erik Voss

By Olivia Ewing and Ke’Aira McDowell

Olivia: I was introduced to Georgia WIN List through Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver my senior year at Druid Hills High School. Through the work based learning program, Rep. Oliver shared my time with WIN List. What started out as a few hours in the WIN List office a couple days a week addressing envelopes, stuffing donor packets and completing research projects  turned into a part time internship for the summer of 2018. I quickly developed a passion for progressive politics and knew that I wanted to keep working with WIN List. When Melita asked me to recruit a friend and come back for the 2019 summer as a full time intern, I was thrilled. 

Ke’Aira: I started to become interested in politics as a sophomore in high school (2016) and by my senior year, I was really active in my school and community. I attended a small college in a small town for my freshman year of college, but I missed Atlanta and its opportunities. I decided to move back and attend Georgia State where I could be more involved in the issues I care about. When Olivia asked if I’d be interested in an internship with WIN List, I didn’t hesitate. This summer has been quite a learning experience and I’m excited to say that my work with WIN List doesn’t end here, as I’ll continue to intern part-time while attending GSU this fall!

We had a bit of a rocky start due to our inexperience in tasks such as making assigned phone calls, conducting interviews and canvassing. But, nevertheless, we persisted. By the end of the summer we had made huge strides. We quickly learned how to make important phone calls, conduct interviews with elected representatives and we got a lot more comfortable with speaking up and being confident about what we know. From learning recipes for WIN List functions to attending press conferences and media events, we’ve learned and involved ourselves in a diverse variety of tasks. 

We were able to complete some amazing, original research on the relationship between the margin of victory for recent abortion bans in seven states and the number of women who serve in each of those state legislative bodies. Further, we looked into each state’s ratio of Democratic to Republican women to see the relationship of not just gender and voting margins, but also party and voting margins. Our research concluded that when more women are in office, it’s clearly reflected in the margin of victory for the abortion bans, with states like Georgia having closer votes.

 We also created a district assessment notebook with vital information on demographics, incumbent history and voting margins for all of the Democratic targeted 2020 seats and a few others where resignations or retirements create opportunities for WIN List recruitment of women candidates. We also got the experience of working on a campaign for the first time, canvassing for Jill Prouty in House District 71. We drove down to Newnan and went door-to-door spreading awareness about the special election coming up on Sept 3. 

By attending and working to assist with WIN Leadership Academy classes, we learned more about the functions of our government at the state and local levels which we simply weren’t taught in high school. Better understanding the Democratic process has further inspired both of us to continue fighting to defend it. 

The work we’ve completed, the people we’ve met, including some inspiring and powerful current (and future) women legislators, and the things we’ve learned will continue to be of use not just in our future jobs but also as we continue college and in life. 

This is definitely a summer neither of us will forget, (we’ll probably continue making Melita’s pimento cheese and BLT’s for years and years to come) and we’re both grateful to have been able to be a part of such an amazing and impactful organization.

 

By Jonathan Grant, @Brambleman

After State Rep. David Stover resigned in June, Republicans in Coweta and Fayette counties thought they still had Georgia’s House District 71 all to themselves. But then a moderate who was fed up with the Party of Trump plunked down her $400 and joined the race to replace Stover. Now her MAGA opponents all have to worry about coming in third in the Sept. 3 primary and missing an Oct. 1 runoff, since Jill Prouty’s upstart campaign is gaining steam.

Jill Prouty

The moderate Democrat offers a clear alternative to Republicans Nina Blackwelder, Philip Singleton, and Marcy Sakrison. Since there is little to no difference between the three GOP candidates on policy, they compete for the title of Trumpiest, and back whatever the president or Gov. Brian Kemp says.

“It’s a little alarming to me that we don’t want to engage in real thoughts and conversations,” Prouty said in a recent interview. “It’s all political talking points and how far they can push it to the right,” she added. “If you’re so shut down you’re not willing to consider new information, what kind of person are you?”

While the main GOP talking point these days involves labeling Democrats as “Socialist,” that label doesn’t apply to Prouty (or to the vast majority of Democrats, for that matter). Besides being Peachtree City’s longtime library director, the Coweta County resident is a business owner. She’s more of an enlightened capitalist. “You have to make money but you have to care about things, too,” she said.

Having served at the library for two decades, Prouty has built strong connections in Peachtree City, and she said she’s picking up support from moderate Republicans who are fed up with right-wing rhetoric: “They’re tired of the constant rhetoric from on high—Trump’s rhetoric—with no one calling it out.”

Some anectodal evidence: Prouty came in second in a straw poll at a recent Coweta County GOP forum, even picking up a vote in the after-poll (see photo above, originally posted by Singleton).

What makes Jill tackle this hill?

Prouty says she was a lifelong Republican, but as a moderate, she became disaffected with the GOP and what she referred to as a shift away from the truth. “When Trump won the primary, that was the end for me.” Trump’s infamous taped conversation about sexually assaulting women was beyond the pale. “He said it was just locker-room talk, but any woman who’s been grabbed that way feels much differently.”

Becoming active in Democratic politics, she joined the newly formed Coweta Democratic Women’s Council and attended its first meeting in April. She had never run for office before, but began considering a legislative run after learning of Stover’s resignation. After mulling it over and gauging her support, she became the last candidate to qualify, making it a four-way race.

“I’m comfortable being the underdog,” she says. Indeed, she seems to be having fun, and laughed about running while she canvassed voters. “You kinda have to with all the big lots in the district.” she said. Right now, Prouty has to avoid the Peachtree City Library, an early voting site, so she’s been squirreled away in an office at City Hall, writing the library’s annual report.

Although it’s been reliably red in recent elections, well-educated districts like HD71 have been trending away from Republicans since Trump’s election, and voters might be surprised to learn that it’s the Democrat’s views on issues that are mainstream.

Healthcare and Medicaid Expansion

Healthcare is Prouty’s big issue. Unlike her opponents, she supports the expansion of Medicaid in the state, as do more than 70 percent of Georgians. The GOP-dominated General Assembly has balked at the idea, although this year, Gov. Kemp took a small step, seeking a Medicaid waiver. That’s hit a snag, however, so he may have to go back to the drawing board.

Prouty’s opponents have spoken in support of Kemp’s plan—out of party allegiance, no doubt, since it’s unlikely any of them would push for reform on their own. While Blackwelder favors “free market solutions,” here’s the inconvenient truth: The free market system for health isn’t working in rural Georgia. Hospitals are closing. People are dying. A full-fledged Medicaid expansion would provide healthcare to hundreds of thousands of Georgia’s poorer residents in a cost-effective manner.

As a part-owner of a Jersey Mike’s sub shop, Prouty has wrestled with the problems of getting insurance for her employees. She says this experience—and being the mother of a child with health problems—have strongly influenced her thinking. “Hospitals have to write off a lot of expenses when people come in and haven’t had preventive care for many years,” she notes. “It’s much cheaper for insurance to provide preventive care than to wait for a major hospitalization for something that could have been taken care of earlier.”

And while the three Republicans claim that House Bill 481, Georgia’s recent restrictive anti-abortion legislation, doesn’t go far enough, Prouty is pro-choice, arguing that the government shouldn’t infringe on women’s reproductive rights. From Prouty’s website:

She opposes House Bill 481, Georgia’s six-week abortion ban passed in 2019 and now facing a court challenge. According to the CDC, abortion rates in the U.S. are at a historic low across all age groups. Jill believes banning abortion will not stop abortions, but will make the procedure more dangerous for women. Jill trusts women to make their own decisions, in consultation with their doctors, about their own bodies. Preserving reproductive freedom is important for all women.

Gun violence

“I’m not against gun ownership,” Prouty says. “But I want people to be educated about guns. They should know a family member is more likely to be shot than an intruder.”

Prouty is the only candidate in the race that supporting common-sense gun legislation, such as universal background checks. A recent Marist poll found that 89% of Americans (and 84% of Republicans) approve of instituting background checks for sales at gun shows and other private sales. Even in the wake of mass shootings, all three Republicans in the race stand firmly with the gun lobby. “They are completely unwilling to confront the issue,” Prouty said. They don’t want to do anything.”

Prouty also supports “red-flag” legislation to block people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from gaining access to firearms. She’d like to repeal Georgia’s “campus carry” law, because, after all, people walking around with guns unchallenged is cause for concern, especially to police. “You can walk into a public library with a gun,” Prouty notes. “We can’t do anything about it. And we can’t afford to have armed guards everywhere.”

Climate change and the environment

Noting that the Environmental Protection Agency was founded under President Nixon, a Republican, Prouty said, “now we want to reverse environmental protections under Trump.” While some Republicans have started acknowledging the science of humankind’s effects on the climate, Prouty’s opponents are silent on the issue. Not Prouty: “We have to do something about climate change.”

If all politics is local, so are environmental issues. “They’ve identified the importance of the environment in Coweta County’s community assessment—that people love its rural  character, the beautiful green space we have. I do, too. If we want to preserve what we love about Coweta County, we have to strike a balance. We shouldn’t abandon everything we’ve accomplished environmentally. I’m all for capitalism and development, but we have to protect the environment. I’ve become more concerned about this issue because of my kids and their concerns—and of course the scientific community. I’m all about knowledge, and I’d rather listen to scientists on this issue than Trump or Brian Kemp.”

The bottom line

“If we provide people with a good education and help them with healthcare, they can go so much further in life,” Prouty said. “Why wouldn’t we want that? Why wouldn’t we want everyone to prosper?”

 
Shirley Franklin: Atlanta's First Female Mayor
Video Credit: Voices of the Civil Rights Movement

By Melita Easters

WIN List Executive Director and Founding Chair

When others encourage you to run for office, they do so for good reasons: they have been impressed by your leadership ability in a professional or non-profit situation, they like your innovative ideas, or you have inspired confidence by the way you work with others or handle difficult decisions.

The rewards of public service are many and the sense of accomplishment for making your community or state a better place is highly fulfilling. Public servants DESERVE the praise and admiration they receive.

What follows is not intended to persuade anyone AGAINST running for office, but rather to give you a set of considerations to review and reflect upon before you pay a qualifying fee and sign on the dotted line to put your name on the ballot.

The first consideration when thinking about running for office is to make sure you find the right fit for your talents, interests and personal situation. For most, it is best to think of public service as a trajectory. Most, and our current POTUS is an rare exception, craft a path of public service for themselves by serving in gradually higher positions as they gain experience, connections and the confidence of voters and power brokers.

Perhaps you were an education major and ended up in a corporate setting or you decided to stay at home with school age children rather than a full time classroom job. A spot on the local school board would put your talents to great use and make the school system a better place for your own children. If you are fascinated by architecture and the growth patterns for metro areas or you have a particular “bee in your bonnet” about unfilled potholes, you might enjoy a spot on the city council or county commission. When you are fascinated by public policies for healthcare, criminal justice reform or  environmental protection, then the state house or senate may be your best place to serve.

While in the “thinking about it phase,” try to familiarize yourself with the workings of the body you are considering running for by attending meetings, public hearings and committee work sessions to be sure you have the appetite for the form of public service you seek. Not all meetings are as interesting as the one or two minutes your see on a nightly newscast or hear on the radio. Sometimes hours of tedious deliberations precede the dramatic vote or speech which ends up on the news or quoted in an article. Talk to those who hold office at the level you are thinking about running for to get an idea of the time commitment required for meetings you must attend and responding to constituent inquiries and requests.

When you are considering a run for office, make sure you are ready for the loss of privacy serving as a public official entails. Days of anonymity are over once mailboxes in your neighborhood and all the neighborhoods around you have been stuffed with two to four or more pieces of mail with your face in a prominent position. And the loss of privacy is not just for you, it is also for those in your family who are featured in campaign literature.

More than one first time candidate has been surprised when out knocking on doors to find the citizens answer in a cheery fashion as they begin to introduce themselves, “Welcome. Of course I know who YOU are!”

Elected officials are approached by constituents in the movie line, as they shop for groceries, in restaurants, at the dog park, at school events and even when on vacation at a spot where others for the district travel – think Highlands or St Simons for example. If you do not have the capacity to greet your constituents with a smile on your face as though you are thrilled to see them and happy to hear what they have to say, elected public service may not be your highest calling.

Once you have a good idea of what the job entails and believe the office you might seek is a good fit for your skill set, interests and time available, the first conversation should be with your spouse or partner and other close family members who would be affected by your decision. Public service can be difficult for relationships, particularly when the relationship was rocky to begin with. And, if your family has a health crisis requiring caregiver services for parents or children, then public service may need to be pushed to the back burner. Is your partner willing to pick up the slack on the home front when public duties require you to be elsewhere? Many potential candidates decide to find other paths for service rather than elected office after objections from a spouse or children.

An important consideration with your spouse or partner is the household financial burden which running for office and serving in office brings. Candidates are expected to contribute to their own campaigns before they begin asking others for money. Determining the range of contribution your household can afford in support of the campaign is an important conversation.

Even after a candidate wins, the professional and financial sacrifices continue. While most elected offices pay a “salary,” often quite small, those stipends rarely make up for the lost work hours (and salary) or the expenses families incur for babysitters, dog walkers and household maintenance needed when the public servant is not at home because they are at yet another meeting or community forum. While some employers are happy to have employees serve in elected office, others are not and some elected women in the past have lost jobs due to the demands of their legislative career. Discussions with an employer are an essential part of the decision tree.

Once you and your partner give your candidacy the green light, the next step is to talk with children when you have them. For many candidates, it is their children who first encourage them to seek office. For others, children have objections which must be respected, particularly when it comes to what family photographs or “stories” will be shared on the campaign trail. Setting parameters for which family details will be shared on the campaign trail is important, particularly for teenage children. They may choose not to follow your campaign on social media but could still be “mortified” to learn from friends about something you have shared in a campaign appearance.

Other family members such as siblings and parents deserve the courtesy of a frank conversation, particularly if your campaign narrative will talk about your childhood or a narrative involving extended family.  Neighbors and close friends deserve to know about your plans. Even when a campaign utilizes rented office space, the home of a candidate is often a hub of activity which can be a nuisance to neighbors. Your close friends will want to be supportive of your plans and will want to hear of them from you before public announcements are made.

Once you have made the decision to run and are in the “quiet phase” of a campaign, do whatever you must to be sure all social media settings are where you want them to be for privacy of personal accounts. Take down any photos you would not want to see you opponents use on a mailer. Political opponents have a particular knack for finding the most unflattering photos ever taken of any candidate. Make your opponent work very hard to find such photos of you.

In the search of your public record, also check for past comments and public statements which could  be twisted and used against you. Get a close and trusted friend to help you review those parts of your public profile which you can control before you make any announcements. If you once wrote for the college newspaper or sent letters to the editor you now regret, keep copies of this public record and be prepared to explain why you have changed your mind and how your current positions on the issue differ.

Speaking of opponents. Are you prepared to lose? In every political contest, somebody loses. Before you put your name in the hat, be sure you can handle the disappointment of losing a hard fought campaign. Some candidates go into a tailspin after losing. Others know sometimes it takes more than one contest to defeat an incumbent or FLIP a district. While you will go all “In it to WIN it,” be prepared for a loss in difficult districts. Consider writing yourself a letter to be opened in case you lose to remind yourself of all the great things friends told you in encouraging you to run for office. Those great things will still be true about you even if you lose.

As you begin to move closer to a public announcement of your campaign, begin to collect lists of those who might be helpful to the campaign and willing to donate to your efforts. Clean up your database and collect lists from neighborhood groups, schools, churches and organizations you have been a part of. Think about those in your circle of “friends, good friends and such good friends” who might be willing to support your campaign. Some will be willing to pledge financial support even before a campaign announcement is made.

But, before you begin to fundraise and actually collect checks, be sure you have checked all the regulatory boxes for establishment of a campaign committee and these vary by the level of office you are running for. Make sure you have a separate campaign account set up at the bank and be sure you have a trusted friend who will serve as treasurer of the campaign to take care of and properly report all contributions.

There are many on-line resources for operating your campaign and training sessions offered by WIN List and other groups. Check these out and remember to ask for help – especially from those who encouraged you to run in the first place.

Finally, if you decide running for elected office is not for you at this moment, there are plenty of other ways to serve which do not require a campaign and still offer opportunities to improve your community.

These paths to service include: appointed boards and Commissions such as zoning, airport or hospital authority, library board, industrial authority and even the county board of health.

There are also plenty of ways to be of service in the non-profit sector beyond the typical work in your child’s school. There are community foundations and every kind of organization for almost every interest. Heaven knows many progressive groups have board member burnout and could use strong responsible board members to shoulder the managerial role and raise the money to keep the progressive highway of interlocking groups and causes headed in the right direction and running smoothly.

Running for local office is a great way to begin a public service career. Senator Valencia Seay first ran for school board and then the House before moving up to the Senate. And Rep. Teri Anulewicz served on the Smyrna city council for ten years before running unopposed for the Georgia House.

In the end, public service is well worth it and the job never ends according to Mayor Franklin: “I’m the sewer mayor. I’m proud of it. I mean, infrastructure is really important. You can’t live without clean, accessible water… We all want our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren to live good lives. That means they have to have clean air, clean water, fair treatment, access to education, jobs, fair pay. We’ll only get there if we keep working… The lesson I’ve learned in my life is that even when you have accomplishments, you have to keep up the struggle. Someone is still left out, and it’s our responsibility to erase that gap for them.”

 

Jill Prouty and her family first moved to the Peachtree City area during her middle and high school years when her father, who worked for 30 years with the Federal Aviation Administration, was assigned to the Southern Regional Office adjacent to Hartsfield Airport. 

She attended Booth Jr. High School and McIntosh High School before moving with the family to North Carolina, where she graduated from high school. Her undergraduate degree in English with minors in History and Business is from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and her first job after college, which she calls a “happy accident,” lead to her career path. A just above minimum wage job cataloging for a library vendor, inspired her to obtain a master’s degree in Library Science from Clairon University of Pennsylvania. A visit to her older brother who had remained in Peachtree City lead to the romance which brought her back south and to a library job in Peachtree CIty. 

She celebrated a 20 year anniversary with the Peachtree City library last year where she is a self-proclaimed “unconventional” Library Administrator, supervising a staff of 17 and operating a facility of more than 30,000 square feet. Her husband Scott has been the stay-at-home father for their 16 and 14 year old sons. The family also operates a Jersey Mike’s sub shop.

Jill was raised in a Republican family and carried many of those traditional values with her well into her early adulthood. However, recent Republican leadership and policies prompted her shift to the Democratic party. “The GOP is going backwards in a lot of ways,” she said. “They want to hold the line and send us back to the 1950’s and that was not a good place for many of our citizens.”

Jill believes her public service experience at the library desk will translate well to representing  constituents under the Gold Dome. Her time as administrator for the library has taught her a skill set which will be helpful in the General Assembly, she says, because she has learned to set priorities, meet goals and collaborate with others. A quick learner, she looks forward to working across party lines to achieve better results for residents of the district who have recently felt abandoned by a Republican representative who had increasingly spent time away from his district and missed many votes.  

Once elected, Jill hopes to use her legislative platform as an advocate on the following issues:

MENTAL HEALTH – Jill is a determined advocate for mental health issues, particularly prevention of suicide. She knows firsthand the struggle families face when a loved one suffers from mental illness because her mother experienced numerous depressive episodes and in 2003 took her own life. Jill says Coweta and Fayette Counties desperately need in-patient mental health services because overcrowded local emergency rooms are poorly equipped to handle the needs of patients facing a mental health crisis. She pledges to work toward reforms of the Certificate of Need (CON) process which has prevented the construction of new in-patient beds for mental health services in the local area. 

ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE – As partner in a Jersey Mike’s sub franchise which employs 15, Jill understands the difficult decisions business owners make during changing economic conditions. She believes investing inemployees by providing health benefits is a key factor for employee retention in the currently saturated job market. However, some employees simply can’t afford to pay their share of this cost. “Nobody should have to choose between feeding their families and health coverage,” she said. Jill says Medicaid expansion in Georgia, long opposed by the GOP, would offset the rising costs of healthcare and reduce the cost of uncompensated care. The state projects a $27 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year and the net cost to provide coverage for the half million Georgians currently not covered would be less than $150 million. “Georgia has the money,” she said. “It’s about making people and health care a priority.”

EDUCATION – Given her role as a mother to two teenage boys and her career as a librarian, it is no surprise to hear Jill values lifetime learning. She believes a focus on high stakes standardized testing, behavior issues in the classroom, and recent safety concerns have created a stressful environment for students. She hopes to work with community leaders and the state department of education to shift the culture of school environments toward a more joyful learning experience for students. Jill believes in paying teachers and administrators more to recruit and retain the best minds for our public schools. 

INFRASTRUCTURE – Jill commutes to work each day via Fischer Road and Hwy 34 into Peachtree City. She says better traffic flow along the major corridors in Coweta County is needed. While she is excited by the current economic growth in east Coweta County, she hopes this growth will be balanced with the need to preserve the rural character which people in the district dearly love. “The air we breathe and the water we drink are affected by development,” she says. “It is possible to strike this delicate balance and I am committed to working collaboratively with local government and the Georgia DOT to identify and implement solutions.”

REPRODUCTIVE FREEDOM – Jill is dedicated to defending a woman’s right to reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy. She opposes HB 481, the state’s six-week abortion ban passed earlier in the year. According to the CDC, abortion rates in the U.S. are at historic lows across all age groups. Jill believes outlawing abortions will not stop abortions, but will make the procedure more dangerous for women. Jill trusts women to make their own decisions, in consultation with their doctors, about their own bodies.

Campaign website: JillforGeorgia.com

Campaign e-mail: voteforjill71@gmail.com

We hope you are inspired to help Jill’s campaign. To work with Jill’s campaign from your own home or in the district alongside other Georgia WIN List volunteers, complete a form to express your volunteer preferences.

Help us spread the good news about Jill’s campaign and expand our network by sharing this page with friends. 

Media Coverage:

Former Republican Jill Prouty stands out from MAGA hopefuls in Georgia special House race