A few hundred donors and elected officials attended Wednesday’s $250-per-person luncheon in downtown Atlanta. Democrats have been dealing with poor party finances in recent years and little political clout since Republicans swept every statewide office in 2010.
But new party Chairman DuBose Porter said enthusiasm is at a high since Nunn, daughter of former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, and Carter, grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, announced they’ll be running as Democrats next year. Nunn will be seeking the seat held by retiring Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, while Carter has announced plans to run for governor.
“It feels great after a long time of limited success,” said state Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta). “We’ve got two young, vibrant candidates at the top of the ticket and fundraising is turning around.”
Nunn and Carter were a big reason why Columbus attorney Paul Kilpatrick made the trip to attend the fundraiser. Both he and Joe Sports, an Atlanta-based lobbyist who served as executive director of the state Democratic Party in the late 1960s, said they could feel the energy and enthusiasm surrounding the two candidates.
“People vote for the individual, and they like the idea of supporting Sam Nunn’s daughter and Jimmy Carter’s grandson,” said Sports, adding he thinks both will be able to bring in rural, independent voters. “Democrats had a good record dealing with farm issues and agriculture, and I think they can continue to do that.”
Party officials say Democrats raised more than $150,000 during Wednesday’s fundraiser. That money will be critical to building up the party’s statewide organization ahead of next year’s elections by registering voters, establishing a broad donor network and recruiting grassroots supporters.
“I like to say, it takes coal to run a train and it takes gold to run a campaign,” said longtime state Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus). “It takes resources to be successful in this system.”
Ryan Mahoney, a spokesman for the Georgia GOP, called the fundraiser a “who’s who of liberal politicians that Georgia voters despise.”
“It’s depressing to watch so many disillusioned Democrats fawning over out-of-touch Atlanta liberals like Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn who clearly lack the experience and values needed to lead Georgia forward,” Mahoney said.
Both Nunn and Carter gave brief remarks at the event and declined to speak with reporters. Also in attendance was former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who said he was in town to meet with Ted Turner when he heard about the fundraiser. Now a Democrat, Crist is running again for governor and said there is reason for Democrats to be optimistic. The key will be talking about issues that people care about, he said.
“You talk about the values of the middle class, and why it’s important to have someone who has your back and cares about issues like public education and how your children are going to have the opportunity to get a high paying job in the future,” Crist said.