Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

A new Georgia state senator returns from Alabama with hard-won lessons

Just after Nikema Williams won a runoff to represent an Atlanta-based Senate district, she got a phone call from Doug Jones operatives. They wanted her in Alabama to help with his U.S. Senate campaign. Immediately.

And thus Williams, two days removed from her victory, hit the road to head Jones’ get-out-the-vote efforts. Until shortly after she arrived and was asked instead to run the Jones campaign’s final-push political operations.

Armed with a spreadsheet full of names and her deep roots in Alabama – the Democrat grew up just across the river from Columbus – Williams spearheaded the “Vote With Me” program. The initiative involved linking up voters with their legislators so they could vote together on Election Day.

“We had an unbelievable response from voters who wanted to go with their elected officials to the polls to cast a ballot,” said Williams, a state Democratic Party vice-chair and Planned Parenthood executive. “We have not used that program in Georgia – but I guarantee we will now.”

She was one of several operatives on Jones’ campaign with deep ties to Georgia. Richard McDaniel, who was Georgia political director for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, headed Jones’ field operations. Tracey Lewis and Michael Tyler, veterans of Michelle Nunn’s 2014 Senate run, played key roles in Jones’ organization. And several other veteran Democratic strategists quietly crossed the state line to help his campaign.

Williams said Jones’ upset victory over Republican Roy Moore reinforced the hard-earned campaign lesson that there’s “no replacement for direct voter contact – we have to get on the ground early and start early.”

Her biggest takeaway from the race, she said Wednesday, has little to do with tactical campaign maneuvering.

“I shout this until people are sick of hearing it: Black women continue to hold up the Democratic Party,” she said. “And I’m going to make sure we keep on getting elevated, lifted up and represented in my party.”

More: Georgia Democrats see hope in Jones’ Senate win in Alabama

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.