>> thank you. tonight with the midterm election just six days away, we're traveling across the country, meeting the candidates in their final dash and voters who want to make their voices count. first we head to georgia, a state's historic race for governor is tighter than anyone imagined. >> we have a fight on our hands. are you with me? >> reporter: the democrat vying to be the nation's first african-american female governor squaring off against the hard-charging republican. >> i got a big truck in case i need to round up criminal illegals and take them home myself. >> despite allegations of voter suppression, could the deeply red state in the deep south go blue. next stop. >> nice job, lady.
>> the dairy capital of the country. the wisconsin farmers turn the blue state red, but the looming milk prices and high tariffs putting the state in crisis mode? >> it feels hopeless right now. >> what the farmers want trump to know this special edition of "night line, countdown to vote" will be right back.
"nightline, countdown to vote" continues. here now byron pitts. >> good evening. thank you for joining us. this is shaping up at one of the most important elections of our lifetime. across america candidates are making closing arguments and voters will render their verdict. deborah roberts travels to her home state of georgia where the historic battle for governor could break the pattern of a consistently red state. >> we are driving along i-85. it might be a race for the governor's mansion in georgia but it is one the entire country is watching. in the red state of georgia where the fish is fried and the tea is sweet the politics are as bare knuckled as it comes. >> this is a battle for the soul of our state, y'all. >> we have an opponent who is an architect of voter suppression. >> reporter: an historic race in a dead heat. >> we are georgia! >> reporter: partly because of stacey abrams, the 44-year-old
democratic leader in the georgia house. >> i'm stacey abrams and i'm running for governor. >> reporter: who if elected would become the first black female governor of any state in u.s. history. >> we want all of georgia to see themselves reflect in my leadership. yes, i will be the first black woman to be a governor in the history of the united states, but what that means is i'm opening the door for the next person and the person after that. >> reporter: president trump captured the state by a little over five points, so here it seems the prize is much more than a government title. it just may be for the soul of the south, even as longstanding allegations of voter suppression swirl. the candidates themselves, polar opposites. for the republicans, trump-backed ryan kemp, georgia's current secretary of state. >> i got a big truck just in case i need to round up criminal illegals and take 'em home myself. yep, i just said that. >> reporter: he's unapologetically conservative, a staunch supporter of the second amendment, religious liberty
legislation and stricter immigration laws. >> we are building a red wall right here in the state of georgia. >> reporter: abrams is running unabashedly as a progressive, advocating for lgbtq equality, stricter gun control and expansion of medicaid. there hasn't been a democratic governor here in more than 15 years. >> yes. >> reporter: but you, a black woman, progressive, can change that? >> absolutely because georgia has changed over the past 20 years. >> reporter: for her supporters, abrams' candidacy is bigger than her. >> i think georgia is ready for a progressive democrat. this is the birthplace of civil rights. >> reporter: abrams attracted major star power. >> we need to vote for stacey abrams. >> reporter: with celebrity endorsements from john legend and will ferrell. even oprah is campaigning with her on thursday, and former president obama joining her later this week. her opponent has used that to his advantage. >> that is not georgia values. that is values of california or
new york. >> reporter: you have had a lot of funding from outside sources. are you running a state campaign or a national campaign? >> we are running a locally-grounded campaign that is nationally known. we have more than five time of the number of individual donors giving to us. >> reporter: ryan kemp has gotten maybe the only endorsement he needs, from the commander in chief himself, president trump tweeting himself that kemp will be a great governor and will campaign for him right before the election. that resonated with ted and his daughter gianna at a kemp campaign event here in jessup, georgia. >> why did you bring your daughter today? >> we love trump and i have listened to some of the things i heard him say, and it is along in line with my conservative values. >> i really think -- >> reporter: hey, how are you? good to see you, too. his campaign declined our request for a formal interview so we caught up with him at one of his events. a conservative state, how could
it be so tight when you are facing an admitted progressive? >> the race right now, there's been a lot of momentum on the democratic side around the country. the republican base was not real motivated. that changed a couple of weeks ago. >> reporter: at the heart of this battle for georgia's future, what critics say is a blatant attempt by republicans to intimidate voters of color. emmet bondran, a long-time civil rights lawyer, says he has watched it happen for decades. >> there is a history of voter suppression, not only here but naonwide. >> reporter: in fact, an ap report found 53,000 voter registration applications are on hold thanks to a so-called exact match law requiring applicant's information to exactly match other government records. so a misplaced hyphen or middle initial can stall an application and a vote. as secretary of state, kemp is the architect of that law, saying he's trying to prevent voter fraud. >> reporter: you talked about
voter suppression. >> that is a myth. that is a myth that the democrats bring out every two years. we have a record number of people on our voting roles. >> reporter: but there's this detail. the majority of those 53,000 voter applications are overwhelmingly minority voters, voters that often choose democrats. most of those voters can cast a ballot as long as they bring a photo id to the polls. what do you say to those who say you are trying to suppress the votes? >> i'm not trying to suppress. the numbers don't lie about the fact. minority participation is up 23% in georgia, 23%. that's what you should report and not believe this bs about voter suppression. >> whether it is 5,000, 50,000 people, his job is to guarantee that every georgian who is eligible is ready to vote. instead he purged them. >> reporter: exact match doesn't just apply to renl stragss. there's also a signatures requirement allowing officials
to toss absentee ballots and applications if a signature doesn't match the one on file. the aclu and other groups filed lawsuits claiming hundreds of absentee ballots were tossed. a judge halted the practice last week and kemp appealed calling absentee voting a privilege and convenience. a college student was eager to cast her absentee ballot, especially as a latina voter. >> it is exciting to have a stay in big decisions for the state. >> reporter: her class and work schedule wouldn't allow her to make the hour drive to fill it out in person. >> i made sure to fill it in correctly and send it in. tw weeks after i sent it in i got notice that it had been rejected. votes like me are ones that scare secretary kemp. >> reporter: she was told her signatures didn't match. >> i wasn't given a process to, you know, fix my ballot or have it reinstated prior to the rejection. >> reporter: under the voting rights act, states which had a history of voter
disenfranchisement were monitored by the federal government, but a 2013 supreme court ruling undid that requirement. you've been on this case for a long time. do you feel like we're going backwards? >> i am both surprised and disappointed that we are going in the opposite direction of making it harder for people to vote. >> reporter: a federal study looked at those southern states and examined five kinds of voter suppression tactics. georgia, the study says, was the only state to have adopted all five. >> mr. kemp created an atmosphere of fear around the right to vote in the state of georgia. >> reporter: abrams calling on her opponent to step down, but kemp is standing firm. >> i took an oath of office to serve as secretary of state and that's exactly what i'm going to continue to do. i am doing the exact same thing that democrat cathie cox was doing when she was running for governor. >> reporter: their fate is now in the hands of voters. >> he believes in the same values that i do. he's conservative, believes in the second amendment, lower
taxes, and just believes in the same type of conservative things that i do. >> sissy abrams represents the future of georgia as i want to see it. it is time for women and people of color to be in power. >> reporter: it is clear georgians are eager to decide the future of their state as long as that unalienable right, the right to vote, is not taken away. for "nightline" i'm deborah roberts in noonan, georgia next, it is not all milk and honey in america's heartland. the deepening crisis for wisconsin's dairy farmers and wisconsin's dairy farmers and their message for the president. captions paid for by abc, inc. but does psoriasis ever get in the way? embrace the chance of 100% clear skin with taltz, the first and only treatment of its kind offering people with moderate to severe psoriasis a chance at 100% clear skin. with taltz, up to 90% of people quickly saw a significant improvement of their psoriasis plaques.
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> thip this special "nightline"nightline", > thip this special "nightline"nightline" countdow continues. >r pthe farmers the farmerd the scrip now these farmers and their families are struggling and they have a message for the president. here is abc's gloria riviera. >> there we go. >> reporter: for dairy farms, these verdan field and the cows she tends provide life and livelihood. >> nice job, lady. >> reporter: her roots are tied to this wisconsin land. her husband's family has been farming here over 100 years but now their future is uncertain. >> we can't get a price that's going to cover our cost of production. >> reporter: their industry so deeply woven into the fabric of this state, threatened. >> it feels pretty hopeless right now. >> reporter: describe for me, what is it like to live with the stress -- >> you start looking at all of
the things you need to pay and you're like, how am i going to choose. that just either at you. >> when you don't have enough to pay your bills, you can't even take your kids to the hospital or the doctor, this is when the stress gets to be almost unbearable. >> reporter: wisconsin is the picture of the american heartland and is home to the most dairy farms in the country. but historically low milk prices coupled with a milk surplus has wisconsin dairy farmers teetering on the edge. the state is losing 1.5 dairy farms a day. >> western wisconsin is leading the nation in chapter 13, which is agricultural bankruptcy. >> reporter: this economic uncertainty is what drove many to vote for president trump in the election. they were a key voting block, flipping the state from blue to red for the first time in 32 years and securing trump's electoral victory. this summer trump's trade war made a bad situation worse. trump imposed steel and aluminum
tariffs on china, and china retaliated and as a result the american dairy industry lost $1 billion in income since may. those farmers who helped put him in the white house, now paying the price. >> i mean everyone is hearing about, you know, the trade war and the sabre rattling that's been going on with china, with canada, with mexico, and that doesn't help our price at all. >> reporter: it is a group of voters republicans cannot afford to lose in the upcoming mid terms. polling shows democrats back on firm footing, making for a competitive election season. last week in northwest wisconsin president trump in town with this message for wisconsin's farmers. >> we have a lot of great farmers in this country, but i give wisconsin a lot of credit for. >> reporter: it is a message many in this area are desperate to hear including dairy farmer keith crager. you guys have put blood, sweat, tears and a whole lot more. >> everything. cows come first, we eat second. >> reporter: cows come first, you eat second. >> yes.
>> reporter: wow. his 70-cow dairy sits on 380 acres down the road from where trump's rally was held. he is still hopeful about the president's message. we met up with keith and neighboring dairy farmers to talk about how hard it is to survive these days. here in marathon county 29 dairy farms have gone under in the past year. >> reporter: you are watching people get out of dairy farming. >> yes. >> reporter: big time. so what is that like when you see one of your friends, your community decide to throw in the towel? what takes a person at that point? >> it is like getting hit in the stomach. >> you don't want to see them leave because you don't know if you will be next. >> reporter: stress level is high. >> suicide rates are high. >> reporter: as soon as i said that, everyone was nodding. >> i see some farmers getting suicide numbers in their milk checks. >> reporter: here is your help, here is your aid. >> here is your check, and if you are thinking about doing something scary, call this
number. >> if i have insurance on myself, i go out and commit suicide and the family gets the insurance money. some of the guys are planning to kill themselves so the family gets insurance money to keep the farms running. >> reporter: the president has strived to help. this summer as the tariff battle with china became clear, trump announced his $12 million farm bill to alleviate the strain. but for many farmers it is too little, too late. >> our farm here, 350 cows, we think we would get a one-time payment of $6,570 and we're losing like $30,000 a month. >> our farm, doing the calculation, it was less than $500. that $500 does not go very far. >> reporter: and then after months of stalled negotiations with canada and mexico, president trump introduced a new trade deal with both countries called usmca. >> it is a giant victory for wisconsin farmers, manufacturers and dairy producers. >> reporter: under this new
policy, canada increasing the amount of u.s. dairy products it imports. how do you guys feel about these tariffs? >> i think they're good intentions, i really do, because i think we've been screwed for so long by other countries and we're trying to make up for some of this, but contingency plan. >> reporter: how much will the new deal help you? >> in my opinion, it is not going to make a hill of difference. >> reporter: keith's wife julie like many spouses has an off-farm job to help pay the bills and give the family insurance. >> if there was enough income here, i wouldn't have to do it. i would prefer to stay home and tend to everything that needs to be done here, but instead this all is pushed aside so i can go make money somewhere else. >> reporter: sarah lloyd knows this life well. part of hur off-farm job is being a full-time advocate for wisconsin dairy farmers, like here at the annual farm aid benefit concert, an event that raises millions of dollars for farmers in need. >> the people that produce the best food should be able to
produce it without being afraid of going hungry themselves because they can't make ends meet. >> reporter: sarah supports this idea. she says she doesn't want a handout, just a hand up. we were there when sarah, keith and a group of dairy farmers from across the country took the message to capitol hill. >> the federal government is really involved with the dairy pricing and so we have to come here to d.c. to ask for some assistance. we are asking for supply management. >> reporter: some dairy farmers argue the overproduction of milk creates a surplus that has caused milk prices to plummet, they say decreasing or managing the milk supply would help correct the cycle. >> i literally jumped off the tractor to come down here. i know president trump, he's got to do his thing was hoping it was going to help the farmers. the farmers helped him get into the office. it is pretty disappointing right
now. >> reporter: they meet with wisconsin senator tammy baldwin, up for reelection this year, and others. >> i do feel like my voice was heard today and that's why i came to d.c., so that was good. >> they had an ear to listen to us, so it is a good feeling to go back home and tell the rest of the farmers what the experience was. >> reporter: back home for these families, it is impossible to imagine living any other way of life. >> our son -- >> telling us don't give up. >> telling us don't give up, keep going. >> don't give up. you did a good job. >> you want a good future for your kids. >> reporter: yeah, the landscape for dairy farmers gets better. >> yes. >> reporter: so there is a future for yourself. >> yes. and we will be right back. this special edition of "nightline" is sponsored by geico. i can't believe it. that grandpa's nose is performing "flight of the bumblebee?"
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streaming services on all of your devices and abcnews.com. plus, with the races changing hour-by-hour, check in with the numbers gurus at fivethirtyeight.com to get the changing forecast. it was f.d.r. who said the ultimate rulers of our democracy are not presidents, senators, congressmen and government officials but the voters of this country. thank you for watching "nightline" and thanks for the company, america. company, america. good night. captions by vitac
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