Former United States President Barack Obama made his first appearance of the midterm election season in College Park, Friday, October 28, 2022. Photo by Julia Beverly/The Atlanta Voice

College Park, Ga.- The 44th President of the United States took the stage to applause and screams of “We love you.” Barack Hussein Obama was in College Park to show support for the Stacey Abrams, Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and other Democrats running for various offices this election season. “It’s good to be back,” Obama said once the thunderous applause died down. “I’m here to ask you to vote….You don’t have to wait till November 8 to cast your vote.”

Obama made his first campaign appearance of the midterms Friday night at Gateway Center Arena, the home of the NBA G-League College Park Skyhawks and WNBA Atlanta Dream. Neither team has experienced a crowd similar to the one that was in the building on this night. People waited hours in order to get searched by Secret Service before entering the arena. Obama remains a big draw. Upon entering the arena they spent a majority of the time dancing to music being played by local morning radio host Frank Ski.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama hasn’t had to campaign in Georgia for a while. “It’s good to be back,” he said Friday night. Photo by Julia Beverly/The Atlanta Voice

Don’t boo, vote

The theme of the night was voting and voting early. As of Friday, more than 1.2 million Georgians have voted during the early period, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Obama seized on that fact during his nearly 25 minutes on stage. “Don’t boo, vote,” he said after the crowd started booing after hearing Warnock opponent Herschel Walker’s name. 

“The basic question, the fundamental question you should be asking yourself right now is who cares for you, who will fight for your right now?” He then proceeded to answer his own question: “Is it somebody that carries around a phony badge and says he’s in law enforcement?” 

Obama was referring to Walker and the prop he pulled out of his jacket during the one and only debate he had with Warnock in Savannah two weeks ago. The two will not debate again, while Abrams and Governor Brian Kemp will have the last of their two televised debates. The final debate will be Sunday, October 30, a week before Election Day, November 8.

What’s at stake

Obama talked about how things were different when he was in office and even before that when he was running for citywide and statewide offices in Illinois. The divisions between the parties were always there but there was a chance to discuss issues and maybe even convince each other to support an opinion.

These days, not so much. “I get why people are anxious, I get why you might be worried, I understand why it might be tempting sometimes to tune out, but I’m here to tell you that tuning out is not an option,” he said. “The only way to make this economy fair is if we, all of us, fight for it.” 

The crowd seemed to hang onto every one of Obama’s words Friday night at the Gateway Center Arena. Photo by Julia Beverly/The Atlanta Voice

Abrams, Warnock, Senator Jon Ossoff, State Senator Jen Jordan, Bee Nguyen, and others were in attendance and making their respective cases either for themselves or for the featured candidates of the evening. “Georgia, you proved the power of the vote,” said Ossoff while referencing the results of the 2021 runoff election that made him the first Jew to represent the state of Georgia in the Senate. 

Stacey Abrams is trailing Governor Brian Kemp in most polls, but she remains passionate about becoming the first Black and female governor in the state’s history. “It’s time to fire the governor and hire someone new,” she said. Photo by Julia Beverly/The Atlanta Voice

While on stage Abrams stuck to familiar themes of ‘One Georgia’ and ‘Time to try something new’. She said, “We’ve got a diverse ticket that looks more like Georgia,” and “It’s time to fire the governor and hire someone new.”

Warnock took yet another opportunity to talk about voting early when it was his turn to address the crowd. “We need everybody to vote,” he said. “The good news is that Georgia is turning out early and turning out often in record numbers.”

Self-effacing and jovial, Obama spoke of his wife, the former First Lady Michelle Obama, being a “glass half empty person” and he being the more positive of the couple, being a “glass half full guy.” The former president believes there’s something good that can come from the devision taking place in this country and it all starts with the democratic process of voting.

“If enough of us make our voices heard, I promise you things will get better,” he said.

The early voting period ends Friday, November 4.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...