The Road to 60...Runs Through Georgia

12/24/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Stewart Acuff Utility Workers Union of America, Chief of Staff & Assistant to President

A recent Washington Post quote says: "the Democrats' pursuit of a filibuster- proof majority in the Senate... is now back on course. The road to 60 will now go through [...] the Minnesota State courts, and a runoff in Georgia on Dec. 2."

But the race that is really exciting is the Jim Martin - Saxby Chambliss Senate race in Georgia because this one will be decided by voters. The Libertarian candidate denied either candidate a 50% plurality so there will be a runoff on Dec. 2.

The big news here is that the Democratic 60 seat Senate majority - the filibuster proof Senate majority - is now back in play, a real possibility.

The Georgia race will be very close and will be decided by who turns out the larger share of their base. We are heartened by the fear we see in the Chambliss campaign and the depression of their base and persistent questions about Chambliss.

Chambliss won the seat six years ago by running an extremely dirty campaign against then incumbent, Max Cleland. Cleland a real war hero - left two legs and an arm in Vietnam. Never mind that Chambliss like Dick Cheney took five deferments to avoid going to Vietnam, the week before the election, six years ago, Chambliss relentlessly ran a TV ad against Max morphing his face into an image of Osama Bin Laden. At the time, John McCain said it was reprehensible.

Jim Martin, on the other hand, did his service in Vietnam. Then he came home to continue to serve his country as a legal aid attorney, a long time progressive state legislator from Atlanta, an attorney, Democratic Party activist, and Commissioner of Human Resources.

I've known Jim Martin since 1985 where I came to Georgia to start the Georgia State Employees Union Local 1985 of SEIU. Because of Martin's consistent support of progressive causes and good government, we've become good friends. He sponsored, carried, and passed our 1987 State Employees Hazardous Chemical Right to Know, our first successful piece of legislation.

I think so highly of Jim Martin that I once introduced him to a union audience as the one real life person who reminded me most of my favorite fictional characters, Atticus Finch, the hero of To Kill a Mockingbird.

So now this decent, moral, progressive man is in the race of his life against one of the most cynical Senators from the incredibly cynical and corrupt Republican Party.

We all watch the counts in Alaska and Minnesota, but we can act in Georgia. It is still up to the voters and to those advocates who are most determined, who work the hardest, raise the most money, to those who want it the most.

I believe those who want it the most are us - unions and union activists, Democratic Party activists, civil rights and women's rights and LGBT activists, human rights activists, progressive of all stripes and veterans.

Georgia is a place we can all play, where we can all make a difference - a huge difference, where we can all contribute.

Jim ran with Obama in the general election. He is running even closer to Obama in the runoff. His first ad of the runoff says he wants to help Barack Obama bring the change to Washington and to our nation that we are all so hungry for. He wants to help us win healthcare for all, good jobs, responsible trade agreements, government accountability, responsible regulation, and to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

Because of the makeup of the next Senate is so critical, and because of his runoff, Jim Martin is the one person besides Barack Obama best positioned right now to help us bring the change America so desperately needs.

Help him win.

I have the privilege of spending the next few weeks traveling Georgia, passing out leaflets about Jim at paper mills and commercial bakeries and on the docks in Savannah and at union workplaces all over the state, speaking about him at local union meetings and asking good Democrats all over the state to go back to the polls to vote on Dec. 2. It is a privilege many don't have.

But find a way to do your part. Contribute. It is Change We Can Believe In. Yes We Can.