Donors From Deep Blue Mass. Are Trying To Help Georgia Democrats Flip The Senate

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Georgia Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate Raphael Warnock, left, and Jon Ossoff, right, campaigned together in Marietta, Ga., on Nov. 15. (Brynn Anderson/AP)
Georgia Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate Raphael Warnock, left, and Jon Ossoff, right, campaigned together in Marietta, Ga., on Nov. 15. (Brynn Anderson/AP)

Voters in Georgia go back to the polls Tuesday for runoff elections to settle both of that state's U.S. Senate races. Those contests may be far from Massachusetts, but they have generated a lot of interest here and across the country because wins by the two Democrats would flip control of the Senate.

Some Massachusetts residents have donated time and money to that effort.

Among them is Ariel Segall of Waltham, a self-described "committed liberal" who badly wants to turn the Senate blue. But she wrestled with whether it was her place to try to influence elections in another state.

"I'll admit it was a bit of a conscience troubler for a while there," she said.

Then Segall thought back a few years — to when more than 100,000 people were purged from the voter roll in Georgia because they hadn't cast ballots recently. Many Democrats saw that as a voter suppression tactic by Republican Brian Kemp, who was Georgia's secretary of state at the time, and is now the governor.

So, Segall decided to make maximum donations to Democratic Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, while also contributing to voter registration drives.

"Even though I'm not entirely comfortable saying that money from Massachusetts should really affect how Georgians vote, to the extent that I can say my money can be used to give Georgians more of a voice, who would otherwise not have one, that feels very pro-democracy," she said.

Segall is hardly alone in her giving. The Federal Election Commission is still processing the candidates' latest financial reports, but when FiveThirtyEight analyzed a slice of donation data, it found Massachusetts was the biggest fundraising source for Warnock and Ossoff, on a per capita basis.

Much less money is flowing from this Democratic stronghold to Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

The Georgia Democrats' donors include Glenda Fishman of Newton, who says her distaste for President Trump prompted her to increase her political contributions and expand the borders of her giving.

"The main motivation being to dump Trump," she explained, "but understanding that it was important to try to flip the Senate, and there was a reasonable possibility that that could happen."

Fishman says she and her husband donated to Democrats in about a half dozen states in 2020.

Thomas Tarpey of Concord also gave to candidates in several states, including Georgia. And in the runoffs there, he and his wife wanted to do more. They thought about phone banking, but "we're not making any telephone calls," he said, "because I think we've been wisely counseled that hearing a Yankee voice on the other end of the phone down in Georgia is not the most welcome experience."

Tarpey says he is taking the advice of Democrats on the ground in Georgia and, instead, writing letters to voters, encouraging them to vote for Warnock and Ossoff.

"Letters, although they identify the sender, as to origin, they don't have an accent," he said.

Money doesn't have an accent, either. In the final accounting, the Georgia runoffs may be among the most expensive Senate races ever — with some help from Massachusetts.

This segment aired on January 4, 2021.


Headshot of Callum Borchers

Callum Borchers Reporter
Callum covered the Greater Boston business community for Bostonomix.



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