When Stacey Skinner accepted the Trump Veterans Organization’s endorsement, she talked about how she entered politics as Democrats “started to filter down to the local level.”

former president Donald Trump Republicans in and outside the country often warn of a takeover by China or those across the U.S.-Mexico border. Skinner is running for reelection as a city council member in Johns Creek, an Atlanta suburb of about 85,000 people.

Yet the 44-year-old has not publicly promoted her Trump association, telling curious voters in the Republican-leaning enclave that she is a “conservative.” Meanwhile, Skinner’s opponent, Devon Dabney, faces questions about being a Democrat.

Enter 2024 presidential electionThe dynamics in Johns Creek and other suburbs near Atlanta reflect how partisan and cultural divides that have intensified since Trump’s 2016 campaign are affecting local campaigns. Some activists and voters now see these nominally nonpartisan contests as critical fronts in shaping the national identity.

“People have a right to know who they’re voting for,” said Betsy Kramer, a Republican volunteer supporting Skinner in Johns Creek, about 30 miles north of downtown Atlanta in Fulton County. “I’m not going to vote for a Democrat,” Cramer said. “I’m concerned that if Democrats start taking over North Fulton, the entire area will change dramatically.”

The suburbs of Georgia’s largest city were once the backbone of the state’s Republican establishment. Today, they play a major role in determining the outcome of statewide races. They play key role in Democrats in 2020 Joe Biden narrowly wins Defeat Republican incumbent President Trump in the presidential election.

The metro area has become more demographically and politically diverse in recent decades, with growth in the Asian American, black and Hispanic populations helping boost Democratic vote totals.Share of Georgia residents who are white and non-Hispanic dropped in the most recent census to 50.1%, the lowest level on record.

Moreover, some Republicans who still make up the electoral majority in North Fulton County have never been in lockstep with Trump and the Tea Party, a movement that opposes the Washington political establishment and embraces conservative and libertarian philosophies. In 2020, Trump trailed the Republican Party’s historic margin in the region, losing Georgia by fewer than 12,000 votes out of 5 million voters. The district elected Brad Raffensperger as Georgia Secretary of State. Running counter to Trump’s efforts He failed to overturn it before the state Senate.

Raffensperger Gov. Brian Kemp’s comments find strong support here comfortable re-election Trump’s victory last year came despite fierce criticism for not supporting his efforts to overturn the election.Trump’s efforts now take center stage racketeering indictment in Fulton County.

The national undercurrent doesn’t mean a change from the usual list of hot topics at town halls. Still mostly zoning and other development rules; sales and property mileage rates; and how to best provide services like public safety, fire protection and garbage collection. But as partisan influence rises, candidates and voters are talking about old, familiar debates in different ways.

“We see this nationalization everywhere, especially in school board elections, but also extending into cities,” said Sarah Reckhow, a professor at Michigan State University who tracks trends in U.S. campaigns.

Reichau points to several variables: The decline of local journalism means voters hear mostly about national politics; Voter demands revolve more around cultural hot spots rather than traditional local policies; Low turnout increases participation and the power of partisan citizens.

“It creates a cycle,” she said, in which voter preferences, media narratives and politicians’ rhetoric become “sort of reinforced.”

The new circumstances may help explain why Skinner is wary of Trump and how carefully she and Dabney navigate their partisan preferences.

“President Trump is clearly divisive,” Skinner said in an interview, insisting the support “is for veterans” and not Trump himself. “Everything became more divisive than I thought.”

Still, Dabney, a black woman, sees herself as a target. She lamented what she called a “whisper movement” that viewed her as a threat to Johns Creek’s identity because of her voting history.

She acknowledged that grassroots progressive groups in Johns Creek and Democratic activists elsewhere came to her door to offer help, but said it came after she came under attack from Republicans.

“My parents were involved Civil Rights Movement,” she says. “It’s no secret that most black people have voted Democratic since then.”

But “this is a nonpartisan election,” she said. “It should be okay.”

The new intensity is particularly evident in discussions about development, which often revolve around “high-density” construction of apartments and apartments.

Zoning has long been controversial in America’s suburbs, which flourished after World War II and during the civil rights movement as a place for middle- and upper-middle-class whites to build self-sufficient communities amid the economic challenges and racial discrimination of rural America, including Atlanta. Ethnic diversity in large cities.

Now, these zoning issues have become a flashpoint in partisan politics.They are reflected in national rhetoric, such as Trump’s call for a US-Mexico border walldebate “sanctuary city” run by liberals and tighter federal Limitations on Legal Immigration.

“I don’t want our city to become a hellhole. I don’t want to be Atlanta,” said Cramer, a Johns Creek Republican.She associated Georgia’s capital with “crime” and “ruffians,” similar to what Trump once said disparaging atalanta “Crime-ridden” and “collapsed.”

Atlanta’s population is 48% black and 41% white. Johns Creek is approximately 52% non-Hispanic white. Asians make up about a quarter of the population and black residents about one in 10, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Some of them are very good friends of mine,” Kramer said of Johns Creek’s many nonwhite residents. But the Boston-area white man, who moved to Georgia decades ago, believes getting more Democrats into local offices will ensure housing policy “changes the demographics.”

“I want anyone who can afford it to be able to live in our city,” she said. “We live in a high-rent area and I want to keep it that way. I’m not trying to keep anyone out.”

In nearby Roswell, City Council candidate Jason Miller said the “high density” of the debate had created an apparent battle between “two slates.”

Miller, who moved to Roswell from Atlanta with her husband, is one of the candidates who doesn’t want to give developers the freedom to develop residential high-density projects. He wants to focus on business development first.

“I hope we are intentional about… so we give more Roswell residents the opportunity to work closer to home, rather than becoming a bedroom community that feeds Atlanta and other suburbs,” he said. “I’m passionate about that. to increase density, as long as we do it wisely.”

Other candidates in Roswell, however, talk about development in the context of partisan control.

“The other side is attracting new voters,” self-described conservative candidate Allen Sells said at a recent event for several congressional candidates. “That’s what they’re all about.”

Miller, who describes himself as a left-leaning independent, said the climate has left him miscast, with some voters associating him with “far-right-minded people” and some conservatives thinking he is a “socialist.”

He described his voting history as “mostly Democratic, but also a lot of Republican,” but said some voters wanted to know his specific candidate choices and asked him to comment on few, if any, submissions. Give city government perspective on issues.

“I’ve received emails and questions from constituents asking about my stance on abortion,” he said. “It’s weird,” Miller lamented, how partisan thinking “bleeds all the way into local elections.”

In fact, at the gathering where Miller and Sellers spoke, the loudest cheers of the night came from introductions by other local elected officials. The crowd cheered at the mention of Fulton County Commissioner Bridget Thorne, an outspoken conservative who won her seat after spreading lies about “widespread voter fraud that damaged Georgia’s 2020 elections.”

At Johns Creek, the only event where Dabney and Skinner shared the stage, they proposed essentially the same approach to development that they said would adhere to the city’s existing master plan. Skinner calls it “responsible development” that promotes residential and commercial growth. Dabney later lamented that her actual stance on issues had taken a backseat.

“I’ve always been popular in the community,” she said. But once she launched her campaign, “it was, ‘Okay, she’s a Democrat. She’s going to bring density and affordable housing. … It should be about what’s right for our community.'”

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