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Trump supporters in Georgia eye Biden presidency with anxiety, fear

Trump supporters in Georgia say they're skeptical of U.S. president-elect Joe Biden's progressive policies on the environment, the economy and abortion. They also fear a Biden administration might raise taxes and the economy could suffer.

Some supporters of the U.S. president still skeptical of election results

Trump supporters in Georgia say they're skeptical of U.S. president-elect Joe Biden's progressive policies on the environment, the economy and abortion. They also fear a Biden administration might raise taxes and the economy could suffer. (Mike Stewart/The Associated Press)

Inside the large auditorium of the Free Chapel megachurch in Gainesville, Ga., pastor Jentezen Franklin, an evangelical adviser to Donald Trump, delivered a message that seemed tailored to supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump still smarting from the election results.

Speaking from on top of a wide stage to about 800 churchgoers a day after Democrat Joe Biden defeated Trump, Franklin hedged on whether the former vice-president was actually the winner. Although he referred to Biden as the president-elect and insisted that whoever becomes the president "will be my president," he also declared he wants "a good honest and certified count from every state."

And there was one other point he wanted to make clear.

"Regardless of who becomes president," he said, his voice slowly rising, "Free Chapel will always be a pro-life church, a pro-Israel church, a pro-religious freedom church, a pro-equality and justice church!"

Franklin, who was met with loud applause, certainly knows his audience and knows many Trump supporters fear these issues will not be supported by a Biden administration.

Trump's record on economy resonates

Nearly a week after the election, results in Georgia are still extremely close, with Biden leading by about 10,000 votes. While state officials have announced a recount, it appears Georgia is on the verge of tipping blue if Biden's lead holds out.

Free Chapel Pastor Jentezen Franklin delivers a sermon to about 800 churchgoers in Gainesville, Georgia. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

But Trump supporters say they're skeptical of Biden's progressive policies on the environment, the economy and abortion. They also fear a Biden administration might raise taxes and the economy could suffer.

Terry Olongo is a 54 year old manager of an IT company, a married father of three and a strong Trump supporter who believes the president and his pro-business deregulation policies have boosted the U.S. economy.

Olongo, who attended Franklin's Sunday service, said he's nervous a Biden administration will bring in new business regulations and phase out fossil fuels.

WATCH | In Georgia, Democrats' attention turns to Senate races:

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The Democrats are looking to two run-off votes in Georgia to break the Republican domination of the U.S. Senate. If they're successful in January, the chamber would be evenly matched, leaving the vice-president in the role of tie breaker. 2:01

'Absolutely worried'

"I'm absolutely worried from the standpoint [of how it's going to affect our personal lives and our freedom in business and so forth," said Olongo, standing outside the chapel with his wife, daughter and soon to be son-in-law.

"It's going to be an overreaching policy type of an agenda on his part."

Olongo lives in Gainesville, a town of about 45,000 about an hour northeast of Atlanta, which is right in the heart of the politically Republican district of Hall.

Terry Olongo is a strong Trump supporter who believes the president and his pro-business deregulation policies have boosted the U.S. economy. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

It's also home to Jaemer Farms, which offers everything from fresh produce to fresh kernel corn. On Sunday afternoon, Robert Seraphie and his wife dropped in from their home in Snellville, about 50 kilometres east of Atlanta.

"We just wanted to take a drive," Seraphie said. "And we like farms. We like the farm stuff. We like the fresh vegetables."

Seraphie, 61, is a retired police officer and Trump supporter and will be watching the results of the runoff elections for Georgia's two Senate seats in January very closely. None of the four candidates met the threshold of a majority in last Tuesday's vote so are headed for a rematch Jan. 5, 2021.

With the Democrats and Republicans tied in the U.S. Senate after Tuesday's results, Seraphie hopes the runoff elections will lead to two Republican victories and control of the upper chamber.  

That could stymie some of Biden's plans, which Seraphie believes include trying to claw back gun rights, and placing limits on freedom of speech.

"I don't like restricting people's personal rights, the rights under our Constitution. I don't like the Second Amendment being infringed upon," Seraphie said.

Robert Seraphie, a retired police officer, is worried that Biden will limit gun rights and push the country too far to the left. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

He also is worried that both Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris will implement an economic policy that is too far left. 

"One of  the main concerns with him and Kamala Harris was the socialism and Marxist type agenda they been putting across." 

Seraphie also believes Biden, for all his years in politics, had little to show for it.

"He's been in politics for 47 years now, and I can't think of anything," he said.

"Now all of a sudden, the 48th year, everybody thinks he's going to cure everything, and he's going to do everything that he couldn't do the last 47 years?"

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'Democrats are not what they used to be'

In the nearby small town of Flowery Branch, also located in Hall County, Trump supporter Lori Whitfield was also disappointed by Biden's win.

Whitfield sat on a wooden chair of the front porch of her bungalow where she's lived since 1981. Her husband died about 10 years ago. From her porch, she can see the home of her 88-year-old father, a widower, and also a Trump supporter.

"In my younger days, I was a Democrat, but I've changed as I got older," says Whitfield, a retired saleswoman.

From left to right: Bob and Sandi Ferguson, Brad and Kathy Fairbairn are all Trump supporters. But they said they will all back Joe Biden as their president once he's confirmed. (Mark Gollom/CBC)

She, too, is worried that once Biden is in office, the Democrats would ensure there are no restrictions on abortion. 

"I'm a devout Christian, but I see the Democrats are not what they used to be."

Whitfield said she was also worried about what a Biden presidency will do to the economy, which she believes has thrived under Trump.

"I think he believes in handing out the money to the people that's able to work that just won't work. I think our economy will take a [hit]."

WATCH | Biden transition team gets to work:

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Senate still in play

Cornelia, a town about a 30-minute drive northwest is in Habersham County, which has traditionally voted even more Republican than Hall County. Results show that more than 80 per cent of the county went to Trump, meaning, if you meet someone here of voting age, they are likely a Trump supporter.

Outside the home of Bob Ferguson, a pilot, he and his wife, Sandi, and friends Brad and Kathy Fairbairn sat around a fire pit, happy to discuss their views on Trump, Biden and their fears of the future. 

Sandi Ferguson and Kathy Fairbairn said they're still skeptical of the election results. They fear Biden will raise taxes, which will raise interest rates, and he will raise the minimum wage, all of which will negatively impact the economy.

Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff, left, and Raphael Warnock, who are running in a runoff election in Georgia inJanuary (Dustin Chambers/Reuters; Jessica McGowan/Reuters)

All are Christians, and members of the Free Chapel church in Gainsville. They're putting some of that faith into a Republican victory in the Georgia Senate runoff races.

"Joe Biden and Kamala Harris need a babysitter, and that would be the Senate," Sandi Ferguson said. 

Fairburn agreed. "That's going to be a very much-needed balance," she said.

But Sandi Ferguson said if Biden is confirmed, while they may not agree with his policies, they all agree with a sentiment pastor Franklin expressed earlier that morning at church: "He's our president. We shall hold him up for four years."

Incumbents Kelly Loeffler, left, and David Perdue are defending their seats and the Republican's majority in the U.S. Senate. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

About the Author

Mark Gollom

Reporter

Mark Gollom is a Toronto-based reporter with CBC News. He covers Canadian and U.S. politics and current affairs.

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