BY MICHAEL S. JOHNSON | JAN 4, 2021
“I am sorry. I must have the wrong number,” a hesitant and polite voice offered.
“Well, you do and you don’t,” I replied. “You have the number you were supposed to dial, but you’ve got the wrong person. My name isn’t Kendelyn and I don’t live in Georgia. I have been getting calls and texts from you folks for months and would appreciate it if you would take me off the call list.”
“Yes, of course,” the polite voice responded.
She did not have to tell me why she was calling. I knew. Her call was one of a barrage of incoming missiles from both sides in the January 5 special elections in Georgia. I have received nearly 200 text messages, phone calls, and emails, many of them for Kendelyn.
On one of those calls, I asked to be taken off the call list. The nice woman said she would, but also let me know that it wouldn’t change anything. A lot of organizations are calling.
I’ve been dutiful about “stopping” the messages and insisting that I’m not Kendelyn, I don’t know anyone named Kendelyn, don’t live anywhere near Fulton County or the State of Georgia, and have no intention of mailing in an absentee ballot or heading to Atlanta to vote in person (Jack with John Ossoff’s campaign even texted me where I should vote at 10th Street NE and Charles Allen.
But the calls and text messages just keep coming.
I’ve—or I should say Kendelyn—has heard from Chris and Dani with “GA Dems,” Rebekah with “United for Respect,” Fay with “Black 2 the Future Action Fund,” and Davis with “Care in Action.” She has also heard from Alka and Betsy with “New Georgia Project Action Fund.” Dani wrote that “Loeffler and Purdue fought to cut struggling families stimulus checks in half while getting rich off the pandemic. Kendelyn, let’s vote for leaders who will fight for Georgians, not do the bare minimum.” Lisa also with GA Dems was pretty firm: “Millions of Americans have lost health insurance during the pandemic and our Senators are playing politics instead of helping. It’s gone too far, Kendelyn.”
There’s been more from Ruth with Stand Up America and Don from Future Action Fund and Jean from People’s Action. I liked Jean’s text. She introduced herself as “a real human here.” Andy with Latinos for Democracy asked: “Necesita informacion on Espanol?” And from Casandra with BlackPAC: Happy Kwanzaa Kendelyn! Today is the first day of Kwanzaa, is guided by Umoja—Unity. Last month voters like you practiced Umoja and sent a unified message that you are ready for leaders with integrity who will stand up for our communities…. Can we count on you to vote on or before Jan 5?”
The messages to Kendelyn were nicer and fewer in number than those I got from the other side. Texters and emailers from the Loeffler and Perdue campaigns were the big guns, and they knew my name. I got a video GOP alert from Rep. Dan Crenshaw with an urgent message: You’ve been selected to participate in a GOP focus group…we’re begging you …new polls have us falling further behind the Dems…don’t you want to sign President Trump’s Christmas card? You’re one of 50 top supporters (I’ve never contributed to a Trump campaign) missing and its going in the mail tonight.”
Similar messages kept coming:
“It’s Marco Rubio.“
“It’s George P.”
“Kevin McCarthy, here.”
“Rick Scott” and
They had a “free” Trump flag shirt, a coffee mug, and Christmas ornaments ready to mail if I would just respond, just write a check.
Late last month, they started to get a little testy. “First we asked and then we asked again. Now we’re begging. Georgia is the last stand for the pro-Trump majority. Help, Mike!”
“We’ve texted you nine times, Mike. Nothing!”
It was fun while it lasted. Maybe not fun, but a curious distraction while we are waiting to be called up for a vaccination shot.
The deluge and intensity of the messages raised a lot of serious questions about the conduct of the special election. It takes money to conduct campaigns as aggressive as these. The people of Georgia deserve to know who is footing the entire bill. Not all contributions are made public. Nick Carasaniti reported in the New York Times and updated on January 2 that “The ad wars in Georgia’s two Senate races, which have soared past the $450 million mark and saturated the airwaves at previously unheard-of levels, reflect the stakes of one of the most unusual special elections in American history…”
And that is just ad spending. The final tally will be more than troublesome. A half a billion dollars divided by the number of voters who cast their ballots in 2020 in Georgia—7,233,000—amounts to $69,000 per voter. Hard to fathom.
That means a lot of money poured into Georgia from a lot of bank accounts outside the state. The people of Georgia were not in control of their own political environment and those who were pulling the strings probably did not have the same agenda as Georgia citizens. It was all about who will control the US Senate and not about who will serve the people of the state.
After the dust settles on this strange, debilitating, and badly scarred election season, there is much about our electoral process that needs to be revisited and the impact of campaign finance on citizen sovereignty should be at the top of the list.
I wonder if Kendelyn ever made it to the polling place.
Editor’s Note: Mike Johnson is a former journalist, who worked on the Ford White House staff and served as press secretary and chief of staff to House Republican Leader Bob Michel, prior to entering the private sector. He is co-author of a book, Surviving Congress, a guide for congressional staff, co-founder and member of the Board of the Congressional Institute, and a participant in the Congress of Tomorrow congressional reform project. Johnson is retired. He is married to Thalia Assuras and has five children and three grandchildren.