Voters in Georgia & South Carolina Should Toe Party Line, but Look for Pro-Animal Challengers

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Across the United States there are elections with important animal issues at stake. Read on to find out more!

Voters Should Support Ossoff in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District

Georgians who live in the sixth congressional district and care about animals should support Democrat Jon Ossoff in the June 20 special election for an open House seat. Neither he nor his Republican opponent, Karen Handel, seem to have addressed animal welfare in any meaningful way. If only because of the candidates’ political associations, progressives must vote for Ossoff. But that shouldn’t stop animal activists from recruiting more compassionate prospects to challenge the winner in 2018.

As of the time of writing, Ossoff’s campaign hasn’t responded to a request for the former documentarian’s positions on animal welfare, and his website makes no mention of the issue. This doesn’t bode well. Since he’s a first-time candidate, Ossoff has no voting record we can look over to assess his views. What we do know, however, is that he’s a Democrat. While some Democrats are more committed to animal welfare than others, and some Republicans more committed than some Democrats, the average Democrat is much more committed than the average Republican. That’s why, absent any other information, animal activists should support Democrats.

Handel’s campaign website doesn’t discuss animal welfare either. While she has held elected office, I haven’t found much in her record or public statements which might indicate her perspective on nonhumans. She has, however, been endorsed by Donald Trump, whose presidency the Humane Society Legislative Fund called a “threat to animals everywhere.” Similarly, Georgia’s two Republican senators, David Perdue and Johnny Isakson, endorsed Handel. Both have 0-percent ratings from HSLF. Animals can’t afford to have a similar representative in the House.

Hopefully, Ossoff wins on June 20. But regardless, progressives should begin to look for a more pro-animal Democrat to contest the seat come 2018. Such a person could be a protest candidate, in that their entire purpose for being in the race is merely to inject animal rights concerns into the political discussion through interviews and debates. But I’d argue that a well-rounded prospect with a plausible chance to win better serves animals’ interests. Even if one’s goal is just to raise consciousness, a plausible candidate functions as a superior vehicle for doing so, as they have more access to interviews and debates. More importantly, though, we need to win in order to effect concrete change.

Organizations on the ground, such as Georgia Animal Rights and Protection, are in the best position to identify and recruit potential candidates. I hope they will do this. If a good prospect can’t be found amongst local, established politicians, I encourage animal activists to put themselves forward. Obviously, becoming a candidate isn’t for everybody. Speaking personally, I’m terrified of public speaking and would hate the intense media focus. But if those are pressures which you think you could handle — and perhaps thrive in — consider running! There’s lots of behind-the-scenes work that people like me could do to support you.

We need to get political for animals. In Georgia, that starts with electing Jon Ossoff — a candidate who’s demonstrated no commitment to animal welfare, but is undoubtedly more compassionate than his opponent. However, it doesn’t end there. Activists should support a more pro-animal choice in the district’s 2018 Democratic primary, whether the seat is won by Ossoff or Handel.

Parnell is Best Choice for Animals in South Carolina’s Fifth Congressional District

South Carolinians who care about animals should vote for Democrat Archie Parnell in the fifth congressional district’s special election on June 20, despite the fact that like Jon Ossof, he has so far demonstrated no commitment to nonhuman welfare. Parnell’s chief opponent, Republican Ralph Norman, doesn’t have a clear record on the issue either, but has been endorsed by a rogues gallery of animal haters. Meanwhile, Green Party selection David Kulma, who represents an organization with comparatively progressive views on nonhumans, doesn’t have a chance to win. Of course, supporting Parnell shouldn’t preclude activists from recruiting more pro-animal candidates for 2018.

The Democratic nominee is a former tax attorney from Goldman Sachs — a resume unlikely to endear him to economic progressives — and has no history in elected office which we can examine for clues about his perspective on animal welfare. So far as I can tell, he’s made no public statements on the matter and at the time of writing his campaign hasn’t responded to a request for clarification on his views. All that being said, because Parnell is a Democrat, we must presume he is more progressive on nonhuman issues than his conservative rival. For animal activists, this is a sad state of affairs. But I believe politicians will more directly address our priorities when we organize and make them clear.

Norman, the Republican candidate, previously served in the South Carolina House of Representatives. A cursory search didn’t reveal much about his positions. In 2006, according to VoteSmart.org, he supported a bill increasing animal-fighting penalties — but this is hardly a controversial stand. More tellingly, Norman is running on the Republican ticket, which, by and large, signals extreme hostility to animal welfare. His campaign website prominently touts an endorsement from Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who earned a 0-percent rating from the Humane Society Legislative Fund in 2016. If Norman’s views on nonhumans are anything like Cruz’s, it would be disastrous for animals.

Kulma, the Green nominee, doesn’t mention animal welfare amongst the long list of issues he highlights on his campaign website. But just like we should assume Democrats are generally more progressive on nonhuman policy than Republicans, so we should assume Greens are generally more forward-thinking than Democrats. After all, the third party boasts a platform which calls for banning puppy mills, phasing out animal testing of consumer products, and a good amount more — though much of it seems overly vague. Sadly, Kulma doesn’t have a credible shot at winning this election, as is often the case of Green Party candidates.

Going forward, I hope animal activists in South Carolina, and across the country, use the Democratic Party as a vehicle to advance their views. Those in the fifth district, who care about nonhumans, should recruit a more progressive candidate to run in 2018 — no matter who wins this year’s special election. Of course, in-state groups are in the best position to identify future prospects. I encourage voters to shoot for the moon during the primary process. Campaign fiercely for someone who wants to prohibit fur sales, end animal circuses, and invest in cultured-meat research. But be ready to fall in line during the general election if your choice isn’t nominated.


Featured image credit Yelp Inc., CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


This article was originally published on June 5th, 2017 with the title “Georgia State Voters Should Support Ossoff, While Looking for Pro-Animal Challenger.” It has been updated to include information on South Carolina candidate Archie Parnell as well.

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Jon Hochschartner is author of The Animals’ Freedom Fighter: A Biography of Ronnie Lee, Founder of the Animal Liberation Front. Visit his website at Hochschartner.com. Click to see author's profile.

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