Candidates set to face Buddy Carter in November
Ideologically speaking, the Democratic candidates for US House District 1 are similar.
Wade Herring, Joyce Griggs and Michelle Munroe take many of the same political positions on the campaign trail, from protecting and expanding voters’ rights to making health care more affordable. All three also agree that the incumbent, Republican Representative Buddy Carter, went against the will of the people when he voted against certification of the 2020 presidential election on January 6.
The differentiator between the three as the May 24 primary elections approach is not what they say, but how they say it.
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Herring is the well-funded newcomer who leads a polished and professional campaign, the successful lawyer with no previous political aspirations who was called to run due to his displeasure with the incumbent.
Griggs is the self-proclaimed “popular” firebrand who upset a former party darling in a previous primary and is running another low-key campaign, confident that her name recognition and passion for change will carry her through again.
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Munroe is the unknown quantity, a U.S. Army veteran and medical professional who entered the race late after retiring from the military.
All three, to varying degrees, have put up campaign signs, run ads, knocked on doors, and spoken at events and forums —the political “ground game.”
And with such similar positions on the issues, the winner of the May 24 primary can be determined solely by his campaign strategy.
Joyce Marie Griggs
Griggs speaks with emphasis and passion, and this is not his first political foray.
She has run for Congress twice before, the last in 2020, when she beat Democratic rival Lisa Ring in a runoff. She still lost to Carter in November, getting only 41.7% of the vote.
However, she is still underfunded, having raised just $2,264 this campaign cycle as of March 31. She relies on a dozen campaign staff and “hundreds” of volunteers to catch up on the ground game.
She also has a campaign bus, a shortened school bus with Griggs’ face on the side. Not the huge RVs used in big races, but a bus nonetheless.
Griggs says she is in a unique position to represent First District workers. She describes herself as a people’s candidate, someone who has lived in poverty and understands the stress that brings. She says that when knocking on doors, she often asks people if other candidates have gone to see them.
“I get you. I was poor and had to get help, and I worked my way up to where I am today,” Griggs said. “So I understand what’s going on. I understand. I feel people’s pulse. I hear people’s heartbeats.”
Candidate website:Joyce Marie Griggs
Herring is measured and stoic, an upstart candidate driven to run by Carter’s vote to void the 2021 election, as well as the congressman’s actions on Jan. 6, 2021.
Herring also proves to be a prolific source of funding.
He has already raised more money than any Democratic 1st District challenger in recent years — more than $560,000 as of March 31, all from individual donors.
Herring says his goal from the start was to build a well-funded pro campaign with one goal in mind: to beat Carter in November. But he says he “doesn’t take the primary for granted”.
It employs a work crew of 75 to 100 people, including volunteers, and it has garnered several endorsements from local Savannah elected officials, including those from former mayors Otis Johnson and Edna Jackson.
“We work hard, a lot of long days,” Herring said. “But at the same time, I feel, in a way that I’ve never felt before in my life, that this is absolutely what I’m supposed to be doing right now.”
Candidate website:Wade Herring
Munroe considers herself a “trusted leader for change,” drawing on her experience as a pioneering health care executive in the U.S. military. Prior to her military retirement, she was the first-ever female commanding officer of Winn Army Community Hospital, located at Fort Stewart.
She joined the race in January and raised $81,000 in the first three months, leading a campaign centered on Georgia’s maternal mortality rate, an issue she is passionate about as a midwife. She thinks Rep. Carter isn’t doing enough to rein him in, and if elected, she hopes to expand health care access and affordability.
Health issues are important to Munroe, and she has looked into her work history since launching her campaign. She hopes the media coverage of her time as head of Fort Stewart Hospital will translate into name recognition with voters.
She has a campaign staff of eight and a network of family, friends and volunteers to help her get noticed. She says she has traveled the district, knocked on doors and spoken to constituents. As the primary gets closer, she seeks to knock on the door with the help of college volunteers.
“I see myself as someone who will fight for people and connect with people and really be that advocate. And as a nurse, that’s what I’ve been, I’ve been an advocate for patients,” Munroe said. “And so I really feel like in that role you’re an advocate for the people. And so I have that experience, and I have the federal experience.”
Candidate website:michelle munroe
How will they beat Buddy Carter?
The most important question for all Democrats in this race is: how will they beat Buddy Carter?
Griggs believes practice makes perfect. In a few forums, Griggs said that every time she ran for office, she did better than the last time. Griggs has yet to win an election, but she says she’s on track this year.
“Each time, I gained 10 points. From 30% against Jack Kingston [in 2000] almost 42% in 2020. Look at the trend,” Griggs said. “Another 10%, guess what? It’s more than 50%.
Herring said his campaign is designed to “get him to Buddy Carter,” citing his more than 1,500 individual contributions to the campaign. Although he often laments the role of money in politics, he recognizes its necessity.
“That’s what it will take to beat Buddy Carter, and that’s what I want people to remember when they vote in May,” Herring said.
Munroe touts his history of implementing change in a short time, a nod to the two- or three-year postings of his military career. She called the election an “elected mission”.
“Do you want to change in this district? Because I know that. And I have the experience to make that change in the district,” she said.
Will Peebles is the corporate reporter for Savannah Morning News. He can be reached at [email protected] and @willpeeblessmn on Twitter.