Zan Fort has been involved in political campaigns for most of his life. He grew up watching his father run for Georgia’s 39th District Senate seat. Now, he is running for the same seat after State Sen. Nikema Williams vacated the seat to run for U.S. House of Representatives.
Fort is running a campaign unlike any other he has experienced. The COVID-19 pandemic restricted his ability to host in-person campaign events.
“The most effective way to get somebody to vote for you is to meet them in person,” he said. Fort learned that lesson from his father, who made an effort to meet people in the district face-to-face. As an adult, Fort managed his father’s mayoral campaign, but he eventually lost to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Fort has scheduled socially distant canvassing events in several midtown neighborhoods, including home park.
“We’re really trying our best to reach people where they are,” he continued, “As long as we give people their distance they are more than happy to have a conversation with you.”
Groups of no more than two go door-to-door, and keep six feet between the group and the resident to minimize potential COVID-19 exposure.
Fort said it is important to get as much face-to-face interaction with voters as possible for his campaign, even if it has to be socially distant.
“You can run as many commercials as you want but there’s no substitute for that person-to-person interaction,” he said.
Fort’s campaign is running targeted ads to appeal to different populations. He said that Facebook ads are more successful at reaching older voters, and younger voters tend to respond more to Instagram ads.
Despite restrictions on in-person events, Fort said there is a silver lining to his unusual campaign.
“It’s great now because it is a presidential election year,” he said. Special elections on the same day as general elections tend to get higher turnout.
Fort is planning on continuing digital and socially distant campaigning. He is not planning an in-person election night watch party, but he said he will most likely have a zoom watch party with some of his supporters.
Fort will be on the ballot on November 3rd to fill the 39th district state senate seat. He is running against 3 other Democrats: Sonya Halpern, JoAnna Potts, and Linda Pritchett. 3484 Magazine reached out to the other candidates to ask about their campaign approaches during the pandemic, but did not receive a response.