Voter voices: Georgians weigh in on crucial Senate runoffs

AP US News

Helen Thomason marks her ballot at the Lawrenceville Road United Methodist Church in Tucker, Ga. during the Senate runoff election Tuesday morning, Jan. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)

ATLANTA (AP) — Voters across Georgia cast their ballots Tuesday to decide which party will control the U.S. Senate. The election has dominated the airwaves in the state for weeks and both sides have launched intense operations to turn out the vote.

What some Georgia voters are saying:

KARI CALLAGHAN, 37

Callaghan said she voted “all Democrat,” an experience that was new for her.

“I’ve always been Republican but I’ve been pretty disgusted by Trump and just the way the Republicans are working and especially the news this weekend,” she said, referring to the president’s recently recorded efforts to “find” enough votes to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Georgia. “I feel like for the Republican candidates to still stand there with Trump and campaign with Trump feels pretty rotten. This isn’t the conservative values that I grew up with. This is more cronyism.”

The stay-at-home Atlanta mother, who voted for Biden in November, said she wasn’t bothered with the allegations from Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler that her Democratic opponent, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, does not adequately support the military and police. But she said she became concerned when her 8-year-old daughter started parroting the claims.

“We were teaching her about all the attack ads we’re getting and one day she said, ‘Raphael Warnock is evil,’ then the ad came on and she was speaking it word for word,” Callaghan said. “She’s our oldest one so (we’re) helping her learn what it means when people say things — that it doesn’t necessarily mean things are true.”

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JOHN BABISH, 50

Babish voted for the Republican candidates because he said he is eager to maintain a balance of power in Washington.

“I really hope the Republicans win at least one seat so there’s a split,” said Babish, who cast his ballot in Cobb County, just north of Atlanta. “I think it’s better when neither party controls all three branches and can do whatever they want without any kind of check from the other side.”

Politics have become far more partisan and divided in recent years, he said.

“I was a kid in the Reagan years, and the story back then was that (Republican President Ronald) Reagan and (then-Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill) could fight politically about stuff, but still go out and have a beer at the end of the day and be friends. I think we’re far from that now with the leadership on both sides, and I think that’s a loss — a real loss for the country.”

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CORLISS BONNER, 57

Bonner, a chef, got up at the crack of dawn Tuesday and stood in line at an Atlanta church to cast a ballot for her pastor, the Rev. Raphael Warnock. Bonner’s been a longtime member of the church he leads, Ebenezer Baptist Church.

“He’s always trying to do the right thing,” Bonner said. “He’s not radical crazy like they’re saying.”

Loeffler has run attack ads against Warnock that use clips of his sermons to back up her allegation that he is not supportive of police or the military.

Bonner said those clips of Warnock have been taken out of context.

“We need somebody in there that’s going to care for the people and not for themselves,” she said. “And I know for a fact that Pastor Warnock does that.”

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WILL JAMES, 56

James voted “straight GOP” Tuesday morning in northwest Fulton County.

Still, he added that he was concerned by Republican David Perdue’s and Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s recent support of President Donald Trump’s challenges of the presidential election results in Georgia.

“I thought it was a bad tack,” said James, who works in real estate. “But it didn’t really change the reasons I voted. It was as much a vote against universal power as it was for either of the candidates.

James said he was worried about losing a balance of power in Washington if Democrats win control of the Senate.

“Basically a lock on power is my concern, lock on Supreme Court, ending filibuster. I think everyone is more power-hungry than they are concerned about the country at this point.”

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CHRIS QUIGG, 45

“I just want a Congress that’s going to able to get something done,” said Quigg, who voted at a church in Marietta, one of Atlanta’s northwest suburbs.

“I would prefer to have a balance of power, but I think the last decade has showed that having a Congress that is overwhelmingly opposite of the president is counterproductive,” said Quigg, who declined to say how he voted.

Quigg is a paramedic, and said he thinks more could be done to fight the coronavirus.

“I think we need a much better plan than what we’ve got right now because frankly, it’s a disaster,” he said.

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ANGELA TRAN, 27

Tran voted for Warnock and Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff at a church in downtown Atlanta. The two candidates represented the “lesser of the two evils,” the progressive art director said.

Tran said the attack ads against Warnock actually swayed her to vote for him and Ossoff.

The ads are “making them seem more radical than they actually are by saying that they actually want to defund the white supremacist police system,” Tran said. Neither Ossoff nor Warnock proposes “defunding the police.”

Now that Tran has cast her vote, she is excited to put the contentious election behind her. “I’m done with these commercials,” she said.

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Associated Press journalists Haleluya Hadero, Jeff Martin and Sophia Tulp contributed to this report.

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