“She’s Our Future”: A rising Democratic star seeks to make history in Georgia’s career as secretary of state

But Nguyen, a state lawmaker who has helped lead the fight against Republican efforts to restrict voting on this presidential battlefield, framed the mission in harsh terms.

“This race is about defending freedom of vote,” Nguyen said, standing in front of a picnic table covered in glittering campaign leaflets. “It’s about protecting the future of our democracy.”

The battle to become Georgia’s next secretary of state and preside over the 2024 presidential election here has become one of the most contested fights for this year’s election leaders. The work has taken on new weight after repeated attempts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to reverse their 2020 loss to the state. Following those elections, the Republican-controlled legislature passed drastic changes to the voting rules, which critics say are aimed at reducing record turnout from 2020 that helped President Joe Biden convert. became the first candidate for the Democratic presidency in almost 30 years to win. the State of the Peach.

For Nguyen to face the eventual Republican candidate in the fall, he will first have to win on Tuesday night. If she catches the Democratic nomination and then wins over the GOP candidate, she would become the first Asian American to be elected to a state political office in Georgia. And that victory could indicate that the demographic changes that helped drive Biden to victory here almost two years ago had become a lasting path to power for Democrats in this deep southern state.

“We’re fighting for the soul of the nation right here in Georgia,” said Georgia’s Democrat veteran Hank Johnson and the congressional Black Caucus whip.

He has backed Nguyen, 40, without ignoring four Democratic contenders. “She is our future,” he said.

The rising star

Nguyen, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, has risen rapidly in the state’s democratic politics. The founder of a youth-focused nonprofit was first elected in late 2017 to take the seat of the then-state of Atlanta State House, which was then occupied by Stacey Abrams, who was looking for the governance. Abrams, the 2018 Democratic nominee for governor, is running for office for the second time in a row this year.

Nguyen’s victory in a second round made her the first Asian American woman in the Georgia General Assembly. But Nguyen (pronounced “win”) gained national prominence in December 2020 when a video of his methodical and public elimination of Trump allies’ allegations of electoral fraud went viral.

Nguyen had spent time before a closed legislative hearing in his office, examining voter lists that the Trump campaign alleged could have committed electoral fraud in Georgia. In one case, he drove to see a voter who, according to the campaign, had voted in both Georgia and Virginia.

The voter and her husband “have lived in Georgia all their lives” and “have lived in the same house since 1985,” Nguyen said during a questioning session with an analyst whose research was cited in the lawsuits. presented by Trump and his allies. “They’ve never even been to the state where they’re supposed to vote twice.”

Since announcing her candidacy last year, Nguyen has amassed national endorsements, including support from the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State and the List of EMILY, the influential Democratic political committee that supports women. candidates for abortion rights.

This month, EMILY’s List presented her with the Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award, named after the former Arizona Democratic congresswoman and gun security advocate. Previous tributes include Abrams.

And just days before the primary, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, who noted unrest in last year’s election, added his support.

Field full of people

Four more Democrats are in Tuesday’s vote: John Eaves, a former chairman of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners; former Cobb County Democratic Party President Georgia Owens Michael Owens; former state Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler; and former state Senator Floyd Griffin.

Georgia’s election rules require candidates to win more than 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff. Thus, in the final sprint to the primaries, Nguyen rushed through the Atlanta metropolitan area, looking for last-minute face-to-face time with voters.

Complicating matters further for negative-vote Democratic candidates like Nguyen, early data suggests that thousands of early-voting Democrats crossed party lines to vote in high-profile Republican primaries. Therefore, Nguyen supporters are trying to urge reliable Democrats to run on Tuesday, grab Democratic ballots and support her.

On Friday, he played bingo at a senior center. On Saturday morning, he met with the scrutiny teams, before leaving to attend a family baptism, where he says he disturbed guests about his voting plans for Tuesday.

On Saturday evening, she and her team made a presentation to vote and campaign money at a party in the backyard attended by a group of business owners, other Democratic politicians and some of their employees and volunteers.

In an interview with CNN, he spoke nostalgically about the half marathons he no longer has time to run. His skateboard, a pandemic gift from his partner and also Democratic State Representative David Dreyer, is sitting unused in the trunk of his car these days. (The couple met while knocking on the door a few years ago for Democrat MP Sam Park, the first Asian-American Democrat elected to the Georgia General Assembly. Nguyen would become Park’s campaign manager. and her head of the legislative cabinet before running for office.)

His nomination rivals have risen to national attention over Nguyen.

“I am the only candidate, especially compared to Bee Nguyen, who has direct experience with the election,” said Eaves, 60, who served for 11 years on the Fulton County Commission. Fulton County, which includes areas of Atlanta, is the most populous in the state.

And supporters of Nguyen, he said, are misinterpreting Georgia’s Democratic electorate, which remains strongly African-American and needs in its attempt to become the first black-elected secretary of state in Georgia.

In the interview, Nguyen said he has defied expectations since he started running for office. “I was told, ‘You’re not the right candidate. “Wait for your turn,” he said. “

His team hopes that the tireless campaign of Nguyen and his volunteers, along with his fundraiser, will yield an absolute victory on Tuesday. His donations have surpassed $ 1.2 million for this low-profile seat, according to records, giving him the budget to pay for TV commercials to run for Democratic voters.

“I’ve seen his face on television,” Dexter Green, a 71-year-old retiree, said while listening to music at a festival in Hapeville, Georgia on Saturday afternoon. He said he had cast his ballot during the Georgia early voting window and had voted for Nguyen.

“Looks like he might be fine,” he said. “I’m willing to give it a try.”

A few meters away, Nguyen’s campaign manager Maria Banjo handed Nguyen’s pamphlet to an African-American woman, who politely chatted with Banjo about having a Vietnamese student with the same last name.

But after Banjo left, the woman told a reporter that “if there’s another black person running, I’ll vote for her.”

“We don’t see enough of us in these positions,” he added, declining to give his name.

In the wake of Georgia’s emergence as a political battlefield and Nguyen’s national profile, volunteers from places as far away as Washington State joined the latest campaign to get out of the vote over the weekend. brought together by Common Power, an organization that helps Blue State Progressives volunteer in swing states.

Diane Douglas, a foundation and nonprofit consultant in the Seattle area, was among the out-of-state volunteers. He had taken a red-eyed flight that landed in Atlanta at 7 a.m. Saturday, and in the early hours of that afternoon he was knocking on doors.

Georgia’s swing toward Biden, and Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in the 2020 election, has made the state central to Democrats’ future hopes, Douglas said.

And taking to the streets to help Georgia Democrats like Nguyen, he said, is “my duty as a citizen.”

Daughter of refugees

When Nguyen is in Georgia, he often talks about how his family’s refugee experience shapes his views.

After the fall of Saigon in 1975, Nguyen said that his father, a pharmacist and lieutenant who served as a medical officer in the South Vietnamese army aligned with the Americans, was imprisoned for three years in a re-education field. Once released, the family fled, a gruesome voyage that included a rescue at sea by a Thai fisherman.

The family relocated to Iowa in the late 1970’s, where Nguyen was born in 1981. They moved to Augusta, Georgia, when she was young.

Nguyen said his parents are not particularly political, and encouraged his children to “keep their heads down”, study hard and build professional lives. But Nguyen said she and her four sisters also taught her not to take her civil liberties for granted.

“My parents used to say,‘ We never thought we would lose our country, but the signs were there. The writing was on the wall. “

“I make a comparison with what we are seeing in terms of the fragility of our democracy,” he said. “Republicans have told us they don’t believe in the legitimacy of the 2020 election.”

In her speeches, she warns that the United States is only “one or two cycles away from a constitutional crisis,” the moment when some election official decides to avoid the will of the voters.

Nguyen and other critics of Georgia’s 2021 election law, known as SB 202, say it lays the groundwork for electoral subversion. Among other things, the law gives the state election board the power to order reviews of the performance of county election operations and appoint a temporary administrator.

The board has already done so for Fulton County, a very Democratic party, in …

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