More than 50 people filed into the Cartersville Public Library Sunday for a meeting co-hosted by United Voices for Humanity and Indivisible GA-11. Guest speakers for the event included Sarah Riggs Amico, a democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor, and Flynn Broady, a democratic challenger to U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk's 11th Congressional District seat.
"My campaign slogan is 'Change the Narrative,'" Broady said. "I want to change what's coming out of Washington to make sure that we are doing what our constituents need versus filling the pockets of those who are already rich."
Broady, an attorney who has worked as a coordinator for Cobb County's Veterans Treatment and Accountability Court, had strong words for District 11's current representative.
"Barry Loudermilk, he is not responsive to the needs of the constituents," he said. "He's not trying to do what they need done, but more or less [acting] on his own self-interests."
Loudermilk responded via email.
"It is unfortunate that, instead of just disagreeing with these ideas, those on the left resort to personal attacks instead of working to fix our problems," he said. "I am continually meeting with citizens across the district, including those who disagree with me and have protested at our offices, so we can discuss the issues and my commitment to individual liberty, smaller government, less regulation and lower taxes for American families and businesses."
Broady said the biggest issues for District 11 residents heading into November's elections are living wages — "to be able to provide for their family." He said his "100 day plan" includes measures to reform, among other issues, taxes, health care, veterans affairs and criminal justice.
"Basically, I'm just going to hit the streets, I'm going to meet people, talk to people, get people involved in what they want for their representative," Broady said. "It's showing people we are there for them, that we are there to serve our constituents and make sure they are taken care of, not the self-interests of others."
Broady joins fellow challengers Harry Braun, Elizabeth Webster and Adam Wynn as democratic candidates for Georgia's 11th Congressional District. Primaries are scheduled for May 22.
Loudermilk — who previously represented District 14 in the Georgia State House and, as a Georgia State Senator, District 52 and District 14 — ran unopposed in his bid for the 11th Congressional District in 2014. He bested democratic candidate Don Wilson in 2016 by more than 100,000 ballots, ultimately garnering 67 percent of the total district vote.
"I don't know if we're necessarily going to turn Bartow blue, but we want to move the needle, and I think that's very possible," said Casey Sharp, coordinator of Indivisible GA-11. "And, I also think we can find that we have a lot of common ground with people who voted for Trump and a lot of republicans that actually, if they get down and talk to us, they'll find that we agree on a lot of things, and that's important."
Sharp, a 30-year-old sports marketer from Marietta, said his organization sprung up in 2016 as a reaction to "the Trump agenda." Since then, however, he said the group has morphed into "something that's more about a lot of different issues and basicallysupporting good candidates we can get in there and change both D.C. and local politics."
Sharp said the organization looks to flip several district seats throughout Georgiathis fall. The group, he said, recently filed for both state and federal PAC (political action committee) status.
"A PAC just gives you the leeway to spend money on something that is actually overtly partisan," he said, "which is why it's necessary."
Once the PAC designation is in, he said one of the group's first major offensives will be a series of digital billboard displays along Interstate-75 going after several republican incumbents. And one of his organization's top targets, Sharp said, is Loudermilk, whose Woodstock office was the site of a pro-gun control protest staged by the group last month.
Loudermilk said he wholeheartedly supports the First Amendment rights of those who demonstrated at his office. He said his staff even offered them food and drinks.
"The last protest was focused on gun control and, as someone who has experienced gun violence firsthand, I don’t believe gun control ever keeps guns out of the hands of those intent on violence," he said. "We must make it a priority to make our schools safe for our children, as we do for our government buildings, pro sports venues, celebrities and politicians. Unfortunately the left only wants one, unproven and substandard solution."
Like Indivisible GA-11, Bartow-based United Voices for Humanity arose from the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election. However, member Natalie Goodwin said the group isn't necessarily a politically-driven one.
"We provide a platform for people who are progressively-minded and care about progressive ideals," she said. "We are open to anybody, really."
Lori Pruitt, another member of United Voices for Humanity, says the organization is meant to address a lack of "communication and continuity" among liberal voices in Bartow County.
"There's a significant number of people who may want an opportunity to be with those who have a different political perspective or are concerned about social justice issues in a way that they don't see any other organizations in Bartow County addressing," she said.
While Bartow County remains deep red territory, she said she's seeing a political shift in the community's younger residents.
"Obviously, the youth are going to be the future in the entire country," she said, "and as we watch our youth begin to take a more and more active role, first with Black Lives Matter then with the shootings that happened in Parkland, we begin to see young people who are getting their voice."
Goodwin said that many times she's felt uncomfortable — and sometimes afraid — to voice her political views.
"I think a lot of people are fearful to voice their opinion because it's not the majority in this county," she said. "I hear a lot of nationalistic tones with white supremacy. I don't want that voice to grow in our community, so I feel like what we provide is a positive voice and we're trying to grow that ... we just want to make sure our viewpoints of humanistic reverence, or taking care of each other, is represented in the people who are going to represent us."
Sharp said his political cause might be an uphill battle, but it's still one he believes is winnable in the long haul.
"You get used to losing, but I'm fine with that. I'm fine with being behind enemy lines," he said. "I think there's an authenticity to being liberal or progressive around here because you really have to defend your views. But I also think, too, that people around here who are liberal/progressive, they're more sympathetic than maybe people in Vermont or Southern California, because we have [a] community with people who have very different views from us. And we've learned to be more accommodating."
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