Change in the Old South: Gwinnett County Gets First Black Woman Democratic Party Chair - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

The South will rise again—but this time in a definite shade of blue rather than Confederate grey. At least that is the goal of newly-elected Democrats in Georgia. The midterm election was an exclamation point, underscoring a process of change that has been quietly underway for some time. Nationally, eyes are on Georgia, particularly Gwinnett County and the first black woman to chair the county’s Democratic party.

With a Bachelor of Political Science from Spelman College, Bianca Keaton has earned her spot at the political table. Upon graduation, she went to Washington, D.C., and served as an aide and adviser to U.S. Congressmen Robert Brady and Cedric Richmond for a combined six years. Keaton is well-versed in legislative policy, administration, and strategic planning. Her most recent political position before being voted in as Gwinnett County Democratic Chair has been assistant to Cobb County Commissioner Lisa Cupid where she served for nearly three years.

Keaton’s position is significant for a number of reasons. Gwinnett County has been a Republican stronghold for at least the last 30 years. It’s the second-most populous county in Georgia, and prior to 2016, had not voted for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter.

However, this all began to change in 2016, when Hillary Clinton won a majority of the county’s votes. Last year, two Democrats were elected to the County Commission and the county’s legislative delegation in the state capitol shifted from being majority Republican to majority Democratic.

Gwinnett County is located in the northeast quadrant of the greater Atlanta area. With population just shy of 1 million people, it is often hailed as one of the most diverse counties in the southeast.

The most common foreign languages in Gwinnett County are Spanish (144,073 speakers), Korean (19,938 speakers), and Vietnamese (15,614 speakers), compared to other places, Gwinnett has a relatively high number of Korean (19,938 speakers), Serbo-Croatian (3,767 speakers), and Gujarati (4,802 speakers). – DataUSA.com

However, this diversity was not reflected in the county’s political leadership — prior to 2018, the  Gwinnett County Commission was all white and all Republican. Keaton, at 35-years-old, is set to play a critical role as the county’s politics shift.

Change is not a scary word to Keaton. Growing up in Chicago, she struggled against poverty and uncertainty on a daily basis. She once went to 10 different schools in one year. Now, she is on a path to move Gwinnett from red to completely blue by the time of the 2020 elections.

Some of the key issues she is focused on include:

  • Fair elections – It’s no secret Gwinnett County had issues on election night with their precincts and ballot access. These issues could have been avoided with better planning and oversight. Absentee Ballots were thrown out and not enough voting machines were made available for the high voter turnout. This is a priority to fix for Keaton.

 

  • Making room for new voices and creating an expanded Democratic footprint throughout Gwinnett – At one time, the Democratic Party in Gwinnett was all but defunct. Keaton and her executive team are taking the reins and moving things forward, especially for groups that have been historically marginalized in the county.

 

  • Modernized operations – Keaton says it’s time to bring party operations into the 21st century. She has a clear idea on how she wants to achieve this. It’s more than just building a new website she says–it’s about brand and messaging as well as policy and procedures. She embraces technology and wants to utilize it to streamline the functions and work of the party.

 

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Wendy Pace

Wendy Pace is the founder of Pace Setting Media, a social media strategy agency. Pace holds a B.A. in Communications and Marketing from Hunter College. She credits her husband and children as motivation for getting up every day to face the world of social media.


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