THE State of Georgia held special election on January 5 to choose two senators who will decide which party controls the US Senate (currently 50-48). The Republicans need only win one, and retain control, while the Democrats need to win both for a tie that will give them control through the Vice-President who sits in the Senate as Chair and as tie-breaker. The next Vice- President is Kamala Harris, a Democrat.
The election is critical, and a lot of money is being spent by both political parties and all four candidates, since control of Washington hangs in the balance. The two Democrats have raised over $100M each over the last two months, pumping the money in the race. The Republicans have raised $68M and $64M respectively. Close to $300M will have been spent on this special election, signaling its critical importance.
There are many thousands of Guyanese settled in Georgia. Do their votes matter? How will they vote? Who will win the two Senate seats?
Guyanese (of both major races) have been moving to Georgia in small numbers since the 1990s because of lower cost of living than in the US north-east. Property costs are also much lower, and Guyanese prefer to own rather than rent. Jobs were also easily available. Many former Afro-Guyanese soldiers and police are settled in Georgia.
Former President David Granger visited and interacted with APNU supporters. (Curiously, in a speech in 2017, he reminded them how the PNC won elections during the 1960s through the 1980s, and rhetorically asked whether the Coalition should return to that method of winning an election.) Many former soldiers and police returned to Guyana to vote in the March 2 elections. There are also significant numbers of Indos; several Indos own agricultural (agricultural and fruit) and animal farms in Georgia. Guyanese are largely employed as educators, security guards, and in the health professions. There are also tens of thousands of nationals of other Caribbean and Asian countries settled in Georgia; their votes would decide the Senate outcomes.
Guyanese are divided in their preference. ‘Afros’ tilt almost exclusively for the Democrats. Black Americans (over 90 per cent) tend to vote Democrat. ‘Indos’ are heavily Democratic-oriented, but some are leaning Republican. Indian Americans (80 per cent) lean Democrat. Tens of thousands of Asians (Orientals or Mongoloids and Indians) have been settling in Georgia over the last two decades. The Asians are mostly professionals; Indians own various businesses, including in the hotel or hospitality and industry, and have stations, convenience shops, and other small businesses. Thousands of Indians are also employed as medical professionals (doctors and nurses). Media reports stated that Asian votes made a difference in the November elections, with over 80 per cent voting for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris tilting the Presidential contest in their favour. Their votes may have prevented the Republican Senate candidates from getting over 50 per cent of the votes necessary for victories.
Because the Republicans failed to cross 50 per cent of the votes last November, run-offs are held on January 5 between the two contenders of each contest. Georgia requires that a candidate wins a majority of votes; failing that, there is a run-off. There were two contests, because the six-year term for one Senator was over, and he was seeking re-election. The other Republican was filling in for another Republican Senator who resigned, and was required to seek voter approval to complete the remaining two years of that Senator’s six-year term.
Last November, the two Republican candidates received just 50 per cent of the votes; way ahead of their Democratic contenders. One led the closest democrat by some 78K votes, and the other led by 35K votes. This lead gives the Republicans the edge to retain both seats. But the outcome is a toss-up, especially which the Democrats are outspending Republicans in the media war, and analysts feel they can go either way. Biden won the state by just 14K votes, suggesting split-ticket voting.
Every vote matters! Thus, Guyanese are urged to cast their ballot, if they have not done so in early voting, or in mail-in (absentee) ballot. Over half the electorate already cast votes.
Currently, polls put the two Republican candidates slightly ahead of the Democrats, making the elections a dead heat. The polls have been a see saw, with the candidates alternating in the lead marginally. Because Georgia has been a Republican-oriented state for decades, this writer feels the Republican candidates hold the edge. But they can go any way.