In every election, there are wild cards- things both welcome and unwelcome that candidates neither plan nor control. Someone filing a bombshell of an ethics complaint that you really, really had nothing to do with but get blamed for anyway. A bad moment caught on video. The weather. The list is endless.
If Democrats pull an upset on Tuesday-and I think we just might, one of the wild cards the pundits will point to is the growing opposition of women to Nathan Deal during the closing phase of the campaign as evidenced by this Facebook group, Women.Against. Deal. The page popped up about a week ago, and over the weekend, went viral, now attracting 30,330 fans and still growing by the hour. The page focuses on Deal’s poor track record on a range of issues that particularly impact women. Despite the claims of the Deal team, the people who have fanned the page are real, and the stories they share are poignant. The only thing I have ever seen like this in politics is what teachers did to Barnes in 2002. Emails by the hundreds burned through teacher’s in-boxes during the two weeks before the election, and teachers deciding to vote “against” Barnes was one of the reasons he lost in 2002. If they’d had Facebook then, there no doubt would have been a page. This year, particularly the issues related to Deal’s votes on family violence and his position on rape shield have struck a similar cord, with an even broader group. If the women on this page vote, and if they share their opinions with their friends and family, they can impact the election just as teachers did in 2002.
The people posting on Women.Against.Deal. ask many good questions, and several have asked for links to the actual legislation on rape shield and the four domestic violence bills Deal couldn’t manage to support. I think that’s a reasonable, thoughtful question, so I dug around in the Secretary of State archives, and found the four bills that became law despite Deal’s opposition. He voted “No” on each of these, initially citing the “sanctity of the family” as his excuse:
- 1981: Procedures for Prevention of Family Violence Senate Bill #79 (sponsored by Barnes)
- 1986: Criminal Procedure…Arrests, Family Violence, House Bill 1447
- 1988: Family Violence…Definitions, Arrests, House Bill 1407
- 1988: Domestic Relations…Family Violence Petitions, House Bill 1399 (Deal’s was the only “No” vote in the entire legislature)
Including his 1991 attempt to change Georgia’s rape shield law, what is clear is that these votes were not random but instead stretched across his entire career in the Georgia senate. Once in congress, his track record continued with votes against equal pay for women, family medical leave and again against measure to protect victims of domestic violence. Will this matter on Tuesday? It’s looking more and more like it will, but it all depends on whether women get the facts and then get out to vote.