Politicians seek to leverage celebrities to reach voters

Oct 21, 2022, 2:54 PM | Updated: 10:12 pm

ATLANTA (AP) — A beer garden near downtown Atlanta filled for a recent event hosted by Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock aimed at Latino voters.

Some said they came to seek Warnock, who is seeking reelection in the midterm elections on Nov. 8 against Republican challenger Herschel Walker. But others came to see a particularly high-profile Latino who would be speaking on Warnock’s behalf — composer, actor and filmmaker Lin-Manuel Miranda.

“Who I’m really here to see is Lin-Manuel Miranda, because I’m a really big fan of his,” said Camilla Estrada, of Atlanta, who described herself as liberal and said she plans to vote for Warnock.

Celebrity endorsements in politics are nothing new, and it’s unclear how much influence they have, said Mark Harvey, a management professor at the University of St. Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas. And some of the biggest fans at Miranda’s appearance Wednesday night, like 7-year-old Sophie Hinsbi, clutching a book from the animated Disney musical “Encanto,” were too young to vote. But that hasn’t stopped politicians from showcasing celebrities, hoping to reach voters who may be on the fence.

Georgia Democrats spent the first week of the state’s 19-day early voting period in frantic activity, as they implore supporters to vote in advance. Warnock and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams each held multiple events a day. Miranda also appeared with Abrams at a restaurant in suburban Lawrenceville on Wednesday, while the Abrams campaign later rolled out a recorded chat with Oprah Winfrey on Thursday night.

Almost 575,000 people had voted in Georgia by the end of Thursday, roughly on pace with the 2020 presidential election when 5 million votes were cast in the state, buoying Democratic hopes that a big turnout might help them.

Celebrities have also gone directly into politics in 2022, including Walker, a University of Georgia football star. When Walker interacts with voters, fans line up to implore him to sign jerseys and even commemorative soda bottles from the Bulldogs’ 1980 national championship. There’s also Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, a doctor who made a fortune as a TV show host.

They’re following the footsteps of others, including former President Donald Trump. Harvey said his research showed Trump was particularly effective at dominating news coverage in 2016, and noted that he had heard a lot about Walker despite living far from Georgia.

“When you get a celebrity in there, you’re probably going to get a whole lot more free coverage,” Harvey said.

In Atlanta, Miranda noted that he had a history of supporting Warnock, mentioning an online fundraiser that the original cast of “Hamilton” held for Warnock and fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff in 2020, as the two were pushing toward January 2021 runoff victories that gave Democrats control of the Senate. Both he and Warnock argued that the stakes are just as high this year.

“You hate to be the guy who quotes the lyrics from the band, but history has its eyes on you,” Miranda told the crowd, recycling the title of one “Hamilton’s” many popular songs.

Harvey, who wrote a 2017 book about celebrity influence in politics, said there’s strong evidence that celebrities can draw media attention to issues. Less clear is whether a celebrity can spur a disengaged voter to cast a ballot.

“Whether or not it goes from somebody’s brain having read it to ‘Now I care about the race,” that’s something that I think is very difficult to document,” Harvey said.

The professor said research on celebrities who endorse and market products shows such advertising is “not nearly effective as you might think.” Harvey said that it might be reasonable to assume that celebrity endorsements of candidates might be similarly hit-or-miss.

Still, famous people continue to wade into politics. Democrat Cisco Aguilar, running for secretary of state in Nevada, rolled out an endorsement video from Miranda on Friday. Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman hosted a fundraiser with “Ant Man” star Paul Rudd this week, and musician Dave Matthews will play at a Fetterman rally in Pittsburgh next week.

Mixed martial artists, including several who have publicly supported Trump are the celebrities of choice for some Republicans. In Arizona, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake has been making appearances with former Ultimate Fighting Championship champion and Olympic wrestling gold medalist Henry Cejudo, calling them fight nights, and appearing on a stage adorned with an American flag and punching bags.

“They never back down from a fight,” Lake’s campaign wrote in an email to supporters. “Join these two champions for a knock out night fighting for Arizona.”

In Nevada, Republican candidate for governor Joe Lombardo was endorsed Thursday by Dana White, the president of UFC, hailing Lombardo’s law enforcement credentials.

“Sheriff Lombardo kept law and order here in Vegas,” White said in a video. “He protected our businesses and our families and kept our streets and schools safe.”

In Georgia, Kemp has attacked Abrams as “Celebrity Stacey,” saying last month that Abrams is “running her campaign to cater to liberal elites” and not to Georgians, and mocking Abrams, a Star Trek fan, for her cameo appearance earlier this year as president of Earth in “Star Trek: Discovery.”

“While Stacey Abrams continues to solicit the help of out-of-state billionaires,” Kemp spokesperson Tate Mitchell said after Thursday’s Oprah Winfrey event, “Gov. Kemp will continue to talk to hardworking Georgians about his record of economic success and plan to build a safer, stronger Georgia.”

Abrams, though, told reporters after her appearance with Miranda that she’s not worried about her celebrity appearances backfiring, noting Georgia’s burgeoning film and television industry, which is financed by state tax credits.

“Am I concerned that famous people who pour $4.4 billion into our economy know where Georgia is?” she said. “No I’m not.”


Follow Jeff Amy at http://twitter.com/jeffamy

Follow AP’s coverage of the elections at: h ttps://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections

Check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the 2022 midterm elections.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

              Composer Lin-Manuel Miranda, left, introduces Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock at a Latino voter rally in Atlanta on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2021. Miranda is one of a number of celebrities trying to sway voters, although it's unclear how much influence they have. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy)
              Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker signs a soda bottle commemorating the University of Georgia's 1980 national football championship on Saturday, May 21, 2022 in Columbus, Ga. Walker's football fame has drawn voters to his events throughout his campaign against Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy)
              Wanda Davila, holding a Puerto Rican flag, watches as composer Lin-Manuel Miranda addresses a Latino voter rally for Georgia Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Atlanta on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2021. Miranda is one of a number of celebrities trying to sway voters, although it's unclear how much influence they have. (AP Photo/Jeff Amy)


Associated Press

Germany hopes to get ‘green hydrogen’ from Australia by 2030

BERLIN (AP) — A senior German official said Friday that she hopes her country will receive hydrogen made with renewable energy from Australia by 2030. The two countries have stepped up plans for cooperation on clean energy as Germany tries to find replacements for Russian gas supplies while pursuing an ambitious policy of reducing its […]
4 hours ago
Associated Press

Low-cost fashion chain H&M reports 4th-quarter loss

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Low-cost fashion brand H&M said Friday that shutting down its business in Russia and Belarus had a significant negative impact on its results, while increases in the costs of raw materials and freight and a strong U.S. dollar made purchases more expensive. The Sweden-based group said its net profit for the year […]
4 hours ago
FILE- Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani attends the 'Invest Karnataka 2016 - Global Investors Meet'...
Associated Press

Adani mulls suing US short-seller as shares sink up to 20%

NEW DELHI (AP) — India’s Adani Group launched a share offering for retail investors Friday as it mulled taking legal action against U.S.-based short-selling firm Hindenburg Research over a report that led investors to dump its shares, with some stocks in the group falling up to 20% on Friday. The market value of Adani’s companies […]
4 hours ago
A currency trader passes by the screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI), left...
Associated Press

Global shares edge higher, tracking Wall Street rally

TOKYO (AP) — Global shares advanced Friday, tracking a rally on Wall Street following reports suggesting the economy and corporate profits may be doing better than feared. France’s CAC 40 gained 0.2% to 7,107.44. Germany’s DAX was unchanged at 15,134.04, while Britain’s FTSE 100 rose nearly 0.2% to 7,773.10. The future for the Dow Jones […]
4 hours ago
Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, left, and Senate Approp...
Associated Press

5 women, immense power: Can they keep US from fiscal brink?

WASHINGTON (AP) — They are now among the most powerful women in Congress. But when they were first elected in the 1990s, they were often overlooked, or even talked down to. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, remembers that men would avoid asking her questions, addressing other men in the room instead. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., says […]
1 day ago
FILE - An employee adds drops of water-soluble CBD, or cannabidiol, an essential component of medic...
Associated Press

Hong Kong to ban CBD, label it a ‘dangerous drug’

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong will ban CBD starting Wednesday, categorizing it as a “dangerous drug” and mandating harsh penalties for its smuggling, production and possession, customs authorities announced Friday. Supporters say CBD can treat a range of ailments including anxiety and that, unlike its more famous cousin THC — which is already illegal […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Politicians seek to leverage celebrities to reach voters