Ex-Obama adviser: Democrats have a ‘dead’ strategy in Georgia

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at the third U.S. presidential debate. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at the third U.S. presidential debate. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A top Georgia Democratic strategist called for an emergency meeting of party leaders, arguing that a lack of vision has effectively killed Democrats chances to make gains in the 2018 election. His comments drew a pointed rebuke from the state party.

Tharon Johnson, who was an adviser to Barack Obama and Kasim Reed, is among the Democratic leaders struggling to chart a course after Donald Trump’s 5-point victory. He said he’s worried Democrats hadn’t learned the lessons of the 2014 election, when Republicans swept every statewide seat and consolidated their control of the Legislature.

“Here we are two years later, and there’s still no public autopsy with data to determine the cause of death,” said Johnson. “But what’s most troubling is that we as Georgia Democrats haven’t realized that the old strategy, tactics and methodology to elect Democrats in Georgia is dead as evidenced by the lack of urgency to do an autopsy.”

Tharon Johnson. AJC file

Tharon Johnson. AJC file

More: Georgia Democrats struggle for a path forward after election

Johnson, now a lobbyist with Greenberg Traurig, has long been a critic of the state party organization. He publicly mulled a challenge to Democratic Party of Georgia chair DuBose Porter in 2015 before pulling out of the race. And he’s not alone in calling for the airing of an “autopsy” – state Sen. Vincent Fort has long advocated for a release of an analysis of the 2014 defeat. But Johnson’s push for an all-hands-on-deck meeting after Donald Trump’s 5-point victory in Georgia kicks his criticism up a notch.

“That meeting needs to happen before the year ends,” he said. “Elected officials, civic leaders, Democratic organizations and donors who want to discuss a path forward should be given an opportunity to do.”

Party leaders saw silver linings in last month’s loss. Hillary Clinton swept the core metro Atlanta counties, winning Cobb and Gwinnett for the first time in decades. And the margin in Georgia was closer than in Ohio and Iowa, where Clinton devoted considerable resources. The state party’s leaders are set to gather in January and February to analyze the results.

Democratic Party of Georgia spokesman Michael Smith said the party used data from the 2014 defeats to make “huge strides” in 2016.

“Whether elected officials, party leaders, or quiet yet dedicated grassroots activists willing to roll up their sleeves and work without any fanfare—this coalition got things done,” he said. “Because they were doers, not talkers. Grandstanding and posturing are counterproductive — and just plain nonsensical — in this journey to turn the tide in Georgia.”

More: Democrats try to find a leader – and a vision – after 2016 defeat


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