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Local Democratic supporters attend the viewing party for the first night of the Democratic debate at Little Italy on June 26, 2019, in Athens, Georgia. Due to the amount of candidates, the debate was split into two nights. (Photo/Foster Steinbeck)

As Georgia situates itself as a state on the cusp of turning purple, it’s become a venue of political activity for the upcoming 2020 election.

Atlanta will host the fifth Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at Tyler Perry Studios, bringing the top 10 candidates to the stage for a two-hour showdown on who will become the nominee.

For Athens Democrats, the debate’s location shows their party may take the state come next November.

“I think it speaks volumes about how far we’ve come in transforming the political landscape for Georgia,” said Gabriel Shippy, the vice chair of community engagement for the Athens-Clarke County Democratic Party. “We’re clearly a battleground state, and Clarke County has a big role to play in that.”

Shippy scouts out locations for debate watch parties, which the ACC Democrats have hosted for every debate. He chooses different venues to encourage different people to come, which he said has been successful so far.

The debate is hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post. An all-female panel, including MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, NBC foreign correspondent Andrea Mitchell, NBC White House correspondent Kristen Welker and The Washington Post White House reporter Ashley Parker, will moderate the event.

The upcoming debate watch party will be at downtown pizzeria Little Italy.

“We’re proud to support everyone exercising their rights and democracy,” said Little Italy employee Richard Hallmark, who often discusses politics with his co-workers and broadcasted parts of the impeachment hearing at the restaurant.

On Wednesday, top polling favorites Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren will share the stage with Cory Booker, Tulsi Gabbard, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang.

Shippy said there is no one candidate who is more popular with the county party right now, which prompts good discussions at the watch parties and other events. He has noticed climate change and worker rights are hot issues with many of the members.

Executive director for Young Democrats of UGA Jack Henry Decker said the campus organization also has an interest in climate change, though he hasn’t noticed much discussion about the issue at the other debates.

“They haven’t been talking about the climate at all, which is obviously disheartening, because that’s such an important issue to so many of us. You have people who are going to have to clean up the mess that the boomers left,” Decker said.

Decker expects the debate to center around the impeachment hearing, though he hopes they also talk about healthcare, taxing the 1% and the environment.

In addition to these topics, students said they were interested in hearing policy plans about gun control, abortion and student loan debt.

But Yang supporter Patrick Nercessian said these big-ticket topics are overdone, especially now that we’re on the fifth debate.

“At this point, what more is there to say about healthcare?” the junior computer science major said. “Everyone else is talking about the exact same stuff that the media is covering, but Yang is talking about things that people aren’t as aware of that are still problems.”

To discuss these differences in platform points, campus organizations are hosting watch parties as well.

Decker will be watching the debate at the Young Democrats of UGA watch party, co-hosted by the Undocumented Student Alliance and the Athens chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America, in Caldwell Hall starting at 7:30 p.m.

“The reason it’s important to have stuff like this is because we want to make sure that we don’t just have a bunch of pockets of progressive students around campus, but we actually kind of start to connect the dots a little bit,” Decker said.

Students in the public affairs communications certificate program through the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication will meet at the Globe to eat and watch the debate.

“We wanted to give our students a place to watch the debate and discuss the implications for the primary, especially from a communications perspective,” PAC media relations fellow Carter Chapman said. “We also want to foster a greater sense of community among our students and give them an outlet to discuss the tactics and events of the primary.”

Check back with The Red & Black for live coverage of the Democratic debate from Atlanta.

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