In the middle of the last century, Ringgold, Ga., was the town that expedited the formation of an institution that built the country in that era. Namely, early marriage.

At the time, you could get married at the age of 15 — providing you had the consent of your parents or guardians — and you could get married quickly, thanks to Ringgold's 45-minute blood test.

The word got out rapidly and Ringgold became known as the marriage mecca of the Southeast and the mid-Atlantic. A tiny little town, just over the Tennessee state line, that fulfilled the youthful hasty heart expediently and enabled the young serviceman and his bride to get married before he shipped off to war.

Even the town's name — Ringgold — sounded full of marital promise, notwithstanding that it was named after a celebrated general rather than a wedding band.

Seventy years later, Stacey Evans, a Democratic state representative from that town, hopes to ride today's trend in family life — single parenting — into the Georgia governor's mansion.

Evans is doing so by chronicling her life story with photos and video clips of the 16 homes of her childhood, living with a single mom, without a father, and trying to avoid bill collectors or her mother's unsavory boyfriends.

"Once when I was 12 and we lived here," Evans narrates, as a video clip of the home darts across the screen, "I called the police while one of them was beating her.

The police said that they knew him and that he wouldn't do such a thing, so they didn't come, and so he kept beating her.

"Always one step ahead of a bill collector: Living like that affects a child. You end up looking for something you can hold onto."

Welcome to the political race in Georgia that America is not paying attention to – but should be.


Because the primary contest between Evans and a fellow Democrat, state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, will have the biggest impact on the future of the national party. The contest between these two Democrats reflects the battle within the national party's ranks over where it goes from here.

"Here," in this case, is the slinking-around of America's minority party with no message, no firepower, no aspirational missive, and no plan for how to get out from under all of that.

Abrams comes from the party's urban school of thought, which is that campaigning is all about manpower.

Evans, in contrast, is running a campaign based on a story — an important economic story that appeals to the blue-collar white voters that Georgia Democrats lost to Donald Trump.

The question is, will that story work? Or do Democrats merely need to turn out more of their urban and ethnic base?

Democrats have been saying forever and a day that Georgia is the next state they intend to flip in their favor. They promised to do just that during last November's presidential election, and again in last week's special election in the 6th Congressional District for an open House seat.

But it wasn't even close, either time.

Not that Democrats haven't tried hard in Georgia. They tried, with celebrated former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn's daughter, to win the Senate race in 2014, and she lost. They just tried with John Ossoff in the 6th District race, and he lost.

Eventually, they have to start winning elections in Georgia for Georgia to be a true battleground.

And so there will be a big question as to what's the best way to win in Georgia. Is it merely to maximize turnout among African-Americans and transplants in the Atlanta area, or is it try to claw back the rural blue-collar voters that Democrats ancestrally had when they used to win in Georgia?

That is a serious, existential question for Democrat operatives as they look at winning back anything in the Trump Belt.

Both of these women are very strong candidates for governor.

Evans' campaign is about the Hope Scholarship. Her powerful life story, portrayed so well in her campaign video, shows she was in a family cycle of poverty until the Hope Scholarship — Georgia's lottery scholarship — came along.

Back during former governor Zell Miller's days in the state capitol, he made Georgia the first state in the South to pass the lottery specifically for scholarships for college. Anybody with a "B" average got one. And everybody else in the South since emulated that.

Evans is literally running right at the trailer park of rural Georgia, as a Democrat. One issue in which such people still identify with the Democrats, for the most part, is public schools.

Abrams is a Yale Law grad who is known for her fiery speeches, her national profile, a passion for mobilizing and energize minority voters, and her prolificacy in penning numerous romance novels; unfortunately for Abrams, she voted to reduce Hope Scholarship funding.

In short, Evans has a message designed to appeal to rural, independent and conservative voters, and Abrams stands for a future in Georgia that is centered in urban Atlanta.

The truth is, most Democrats in Washington think that the urban Atlanta model is the one that is most likely to succeed for Democrats because where the numbers are — which makes Republicans strategists in Washington and Georgia happy.

Why? Because there was an audible gasp among every Republican who has watched Stacey Evans' video, of "Oh my gosh, how are we going to beat that?"

It is the race that nobody is talking about that everyone should be talking about when it comes to the future of both parties; when you have an exiting Republican governor who is not that popular and a Republican field that is really lackluster in the state — facing either an energized progressive or an energized blue-collar moderate, Democrats might finally catch that windmill they've been chasing in the Peach State.

Salena Zito is a columnist for the Washington Examiner.