- The Washington Times - Monday, November 30, 2020

A year after threatening to boycott the Peach State, Hollywood bigwigs have Georgia on their minds as they put their cash, connections and clout behind the Democratic Senate candidates in hopes of scripting a happy ending for Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.

Those whipping up support for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock include Mark Hamill, John Legend, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Kerry Washington, while Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato are promoting voter registration efforts through the pro-Democrat Vote Save America’s Georgia Project.

“Let’s Give to Georgia, Let’s Take the Senate! We can do this!” liberal filmmaker Michael Moore said in a Saturday tweet.

Even Alyssa Milano, who led the calls last year to boycott Georgia after the state legislature passed a pro-life “heartbeat bill,” has sought to sway the electorate. “We need you, Georgia” and “it’s so important to elect Ossoff & Warnock,” she tweeted.

While the state increasingly has become a go-to destination for Hollywood production companies, thanks to its generous tax breaks, the level of celebrity interest in a Georgia Senate race may be unprecedented, driven by political stakes that could hardly be higher.

Republicans need a victory in the Jan. 5 runoff elections by one of their incumbents — Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler — to retain control of the Senate. If they both lose, then the Senate will be split 50-50 and any tie will be broken by presumptive Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris.

“Right now, it’s the only game in town for politically active celebrities,” said John Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College. “The upside is that they can help raise money. The downside is that Republicans can easily paint them as left-wing Hollywood elites telling Georgians how to vote. Expect [President] Trump to make that point.”

Indeed, having the stars come out on the campaign trail comes as a double-edged sword for Democrats, who benefit from the industry’s fundraising and exposure but risk appearing out of touch if they hobnob too closely with the Hollywood glitterati.

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Paige Lindgren made the point Monday, saying the celebrity support demonstrates that the Democratic candidates have more in common politically with California than Georgia.

“Hollywood liberals are going all-in on the Democratic ticket in Georgia because they know Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock will push their most radical ideas — no questions asked,” Ms. Lindgren said. “Ossoff and Warnock may be the chosen ticket for California and New York radicals, but they are too liberal for Georgia.”

Flipping Georgia

Even so, interest in Hollywood has risen to the point where the Democratic celebrity fundraisers are starting to overlap.

Supporters had to choose Monday between a Warnock for Victory virtual event featuring director Spike Lee, or a Democratic Club of West Orange County online reception for both Democrats hosted by “Seinfeld” star Jason Alexander and sponsored by a bevy of industry executives, according to the Orange County Progressive.

On Thursday, Swing Left hosts a “Flip the Senate” virtual fundraiser featuring Samuel L. Jackson, a live performance by “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr. and a host committee that includes Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick and Billy Eichner, as well as industry insiders, as shown on ActBlue.

Two weeks ago, media titans Jeffrey Katzenberg and Byron Allen served as co-hosts for a virtual fundraiser for the Georgia Senate Victory Fund, a joint committee for the two Democratic candidates, according to CNBC.

Leading the push for liberal celebrity involvement is Fair Fight founder Stacey Abrams, former Democratic gubernatorial candidate turned Georgia power player, who began Friday holding regular calls with Hollywood executives, agents and publicists on “how they can best help in the races,” as reported by The Hollywood Reporter.

“I believe very much in the power of celebrity to cut through the noise of politics,” Ms. Abrams said during a Nov. 18 Amazon-hosted Q&A for her documentary “All In: The Fight for Democracy.”

It was Ms. Abrams who urged celebrities to get involved in Georgia politics last year rather than boycott after the legislature approved pro-life House Bill 481, and her advice appears to have paid off.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden was declared the winner of the presidential race on Nov. 20 after a manual recount, although the Trump campaign requested again Monday a ballot signature recount.

Meanwhile, HB 481, which bans most abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, has yet to take effect pending a legal battle. The Georgia attorney general’s office filed an appeal after a federal judge struck down the law in July.

The bill’s passage posed a dilemma for pro-choice filmmakers producing movies and TV shows in Georgia, which hosted 455 productions in 2018, according to IndieWire. Most apparently ended up staying despite the boycott calls as the legal battle plays out.

Georgia Republican Party spokeswoman Abigail Sigler said voters can appreciate the film industry’s investment while disagreeing with the filmmakers’ politics.

“I think Georgians really care about electing someone who’s going to represent them and their values rather than the liberal coastal elite values,” Ms. Sigler said.

Conservative activist Bishop Aubrey Shines, who runs a ministry in Tampa, Florida, said he doubted most Georgia voters would be influenced by the celebrity onslaught.

“I never fail to get a good laugh out of the entertainment industry’s belief that it is somehow an arbiter of what’s right and good in this country,” Mr. Shines said in an email. “I wonder how millions of Georgia voters feel about caravans of celebrities riding in and telling them how to think. Last I checked, the voters could think for themselves.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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