Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 23, 2021


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for April 23, 2021

William Shakespeare was born April 23, 1564 and died April 23, 1616.

James Oglethorpe won reelection to the British Parliament while in America on April 25, 1734.

The Library of Congress was founded on April 24, 1800 and is the largest library in the world today.

Lucius D. Clay was born in Marietta, Georgia on April 23, 1898, the son of Georgia U.S. Senator Alexander Stephens Clay, who served in the Senate from 1896 until his death in 1910. Clay graduated West Point in 1915 and eventually rose to serve as Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Deputy for Military Government. During the Berlin Airlift, Clay helped keep Allied-occupied West Berlin supplied with food for almost a year after Soviet forces blockaded all land routes into the city.

The United States declared war on Spain on April 25, 1898.

Hank Aaron his his first home run in major league baseball on April 23, 1954, playing for the Milwaukee Braves against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Jack Kingston was born on April 24, 1955. He was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1984 and served four terms and in 1992 was elected to the United States Congress.

On April 23, 1971, former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower visited Augusta to attend the groundbreaking for the Dwight D. Eisenhower U.S. Army Hospital at Fort Gordon, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

“Ike would have been proud,” a tearful Mamie Eisenhower said after the ceremony.

“My heart is filled with gratefulness,” said Eisenhower, who was surprised at plans for the 760-bed, $31 million facility. “You know, I’m proud. And I know this would have meant a great deal to him.”

“Georgia On My Mind” became the official state song on April 24, 1979, when Governor George Busbee signed legislation designating it.

IBM introduced the Personal Computer Model 5150 on April 24, 1981, though some authorities date the introduction to April 12. It sported an Intel 8088 processor at 4.77 Mhz, a whopping 16k of RAM, which was expandable to 256k, and a clicky keyboard. The initial price tag was $1565, equivalent to more than $4000 today.

New Coke was announced on April 23, 1985.

On April 25, 1996, Georgia Governor Zell Miller signed Senate Bill 519 designating English the official language of Georgia. Click here for the text of the bill.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

State Rep. Bert Reeves (R-Marietta) will once again don the yellow jacket mascot costume be a cheerleader for Georgia Tech. From the AJC:

State Rep. Bert Reeves, an attorney, will leave the House seat he’s held for seven years to become Georgia Tech’s new vice president for institute relations, where he says he will lead the school’s team on government relations and economic development. His last day in the General Assembly will be April 30, and he plans to shut down his law practice.

“This is a complete ‘pivot’ for me,” Reeves said. “I have been so blessed by the support of this community, especially in the political arena. I’ve worked hard and am very proud of the work I did, especially in child welfare, adoption and foster care reform.”

Gov. Brian Kemp will have to call for a special election to fill Reeves’ seat for the remainder of his term — through next year.

Known in the Legislature for his school spirit — Reeves served as Georgia Tech mascot “Buzz” while he was in college —he also shepherded legislation through the General Assembly that aimed to make adoption and foster care easier and more accessible.

CNN ranks Georgia’s Senate seat held by Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Atlanta) the second most-likely to flip in 2022. From the Gwinnett Daily Post:

Months after twin Senate runoffs here flipped control of the Senate to Democrats, Georgia continues to be the center of the political universe, this time with a controversial election law that has led major corporations to boycott the state and the President to condemn it as “Jim Crow in the 21st century.”

While voting rights advocates say the law makes it harder to vote for Black Georgians — a key part of Democrats’ winning constituency in this longtime red state — it may also embolden minority voters to turn out, which has traditionally been a problem for Democrats in midterms. It could also inspire liberal donors to keep Georgia in their checkbooks, despite the state not being a presidential battleground this cycle. That would all be good news for Sen. Raphael Warnock, who won this seat by just 2 points in the January special runoff election and is running for a full six-year term.

He’s already well-positioned financially, heading into the second quarter with $5.6 million in the bank. But Republicans argue that Warnock and voting rights activist Stacey Abrams — who may also be on the ballot next year if she runs for governor again — will be punished for the economic hit to the state from corporations siding with their opposition to the law and boycotting Georgia.

The GOP field is still taking shape, but this is one place Republicans are on offense where they feel good about a deep bench of potential candidates. Warnock’s opponents from last fall, former Sen. Kelly Loeffler and former Rep. Doug Collins, are eyeing the race, and GOP Rep. Drew Ferguson – a member of House GOP leadership – may also be a contender. The big question is how Trump will get involved in this race given his penchant for meddling in Georgia politics. As CNN reported last month, he’s pitched former NFL running back Herschel Walker, who lives in Texas, to run here.

Rural Republican voters stayed home at a higher level in January’s Runoff Elections for United States Senate, according to Georgia Public Broadcasting.

A new analysis of demographic data from Georgia’s November and January elections confirms a larger decline in white rural turnout led to Democrats flipping both U.S. Senate seats, one of the biggest challenges the GOP must tackle ahead of 2022.

Precinct-level data analyzed by GPB News show the narrow margins of victory for Sen. Jon Ossoff (about 55,000 votes) and Sen. Raphael Warnock (about 94,000 votes) were the result of stronger Black turnout — particularly in metro Atlanta and southwest Georgia — coupled with a precipitous decline in white rural Republican areas across north Georgia.

In 1,387 precincts that former President Trump won in November, turnout dropped by about 310,000 voters, including a 9% drop in white turnout, or about 227,000 white voters. Black turnout in those precincts fell only 6.7%.

By comparison, the 1,261 precincts President Biden won in Georgia saw a drop-off of just 220,000 voters, white turnout dropped by about 7% and Black turnout fell only 6.4%.

Of the 25 precincts that saw the largest raw decrease in voters from November to January, all of them went for Trump. Nine of them are in the 9th Congressional District in northeast Georgia and four of them are in Forsyth County, a fast-growing exurb that sits in both the 7th and 9th districts.

The turnout disparity is more pronounced at the county level, where 17 of 159 counties saw a turnout drop of at least 10% or more. They are concentrated in GOP strongholds across northwest Georgia, like Chattooga, Walker, Murray, Bartow and Gordon counties, and northeast Georgia in places like Jackson, Barrow, Stephens and Banks counties.

Counties with the smallest drops include larger metro Atlanta counties such as Fulton, Clayton and DeKalb and counties across Georgia’s Black Belt including Randolph, Terrell, Warren, Calhoun and Dougherty — all with a 5% and under turnout decline.

Part of Senate Bill 202, the new election law, reduces the role of the elected Secretary of State and may reduce the roles of local election officials, according to the Center Square via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Section 5 of the law demotes the secretary of state to a nonvoting member of the State Election Board and authorizes the General Assembly to elect a new chairperson of the board through a joint resolution. Section 6 authorizes the State Election Board to suspend a county or municipal election superintendent and appoint a temporary replacement.

Some also argue that the provisions limit the power of Georgia voters. The secretary of state is an elected official. About 30 of the 159 county election superintendents are elected probate judges serving in the positions, according to the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG).

“I’ve never been a real believer and supporter of unelected boards and commissions because, at the end of the day, you end up with a lot of finger-pointing and no accountability of who’s actually making the decision, particularly if the decision doesn’t work out too well,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said. “You’re now putting an incredible amount of power on the State Election Board, far more than it had before, with now an unelected board chairman. It is unaccountable to no one other than the General Assembly.”

“So if a voter is not happy with the decisions that are made, who do they hold accountable? Do they call all 180 state representatives. Do they call all 56 state senators?” Raffensperger said.

The new law follows Georgia’s education system model, which gives the state authority to take control of chronically failing schools. No more than four county or municipal superintendents can be suspended at the same time under the law.

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) approved Georgia’s plan to increase the number of new mothers eligible for Medicaid, according to the Center Square via the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Georgia submitted a Medicaid waiver to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in December to allow postpartum women with incomes up to 220% of the federal poverty level to receive the government-funded health insurance for six months after giving birth instead of 60 days. Kemp signed a measure into law in 2020 that made the extension law.

“We recognize that maternal deaths are a serious public health concern, and the approval of the Georgia Postpartum Extension waiver underscores Georgia’s commitment to continually enhance the level of care for new mothers in the Peach State,” Kemp said in a statement.

Georgia is now one of three states to lengthen coverage of Medicaid benefits to new mothers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Georgia’s maternal death rate reached 66.3 deaths per 100,000 live births from 2013 to 2017. The national maternal death rate was 29.6 during the same time.

CMS also approved funding for mothers who were initially approved for the Medicaid postpartum program but no longer are financially qualified to remain enrolled in the programs. The federal government also will support state outreach services and suspending redeterminations until the new postpartum cover period ends.

Augusta University Health System has lost $20 million dollars in the current fiscal year due to COVID, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Battling the COVID-19 pandemic and taking on many patients who could not pay led to a $20 million loss for AU Health System in the first nine months of its fiscal year, with more than $180 million in charity care provided so far, officials said. But the health system has seen good revenue growth and has a plan to get expenses under control, CEO Katrina Keefer said.

At a meeting Thursday of its Board of Directors, chairman Jim Hull said AU Health “leads the fight as we live with COVID-19.” But that war has come at a heavy cost. The health system saw a $38.7 million operating loss through the first nine months of its fiscal year, according to its financial statement.

The largest portion of that was an extra $29 million in salary and wages, over $7 million more in benefits, $7.4 million in supplies and nearly $5.6 million extra from drugs and pharmaceutical supplies. The loss would be tempered by $18.7 million in non-operating revenue and investment gains but the health system still ended with a $20 million loss.

The health system did see about a $26 million growth in revenue compared to the prior year, or about a 3.5% increase, Keefer said.

But it also saw charity care increase to $183 million in the first nine months of its fiscal year, as the health system has taken in patients from all over the state, Keefer said.

Piedmont Columbus Regional and AFLAC are partnering to vaccinate homeless people, according to WTVM.

“We’ve been trying to reach out to some of the communities that haven’t been served as closely as other communities the past few months to reach the vulnerable,” said Dr. Gregory Foster with Piedmont Columbus Regional.

“There has been some hesitancy so some education takes place and folks get reassured that way,” said Dr. Foster. “Plus, seeing their friends and family members and perhaps other people get vaccinated and be okay with it has encouraged them to come out. In this community it’s more of an access issue than it is a hesitancy issue.”

AFLAC donated thousands of dollars to help get the bus rolling again.

Fulton County public schools are relaxing some COVID-prevention measures, according to the AJC.

Beginning in May, Fulton County students will no longer be required to wear masks during outdoor activities such as recess.

The state’s fourth largest district on Thursday announced it will relax several coronavirus safety measures, citing the growing number of vaccinated individuals and the governor’s decision to ease state restrictions.

Starting May 3, masks will be optional for employees and students in high schools during outdoor activities. Spectators at sporting events will not be required to wear a mask.

The district also will no longer limit the size of crowds who attend events in its outdoor venues. Football stadiums used in the spring by lacrosse, track and soccer teams have been at 30% capacity.

As of May 17, schools can host outdoor end-of-year celebrations without restricting the group size.

That’s also when masks will be recommended but no longer required for students and employees at elementary and middle schools during outside activities. It will be up to parents to tell their children if they want them to remain masked or not.

Habersham County Commissioner Tim Stamey announced his retirement from office for health reasons, according to AccessWDUN.

Stamey has served as the District 5 commissioner for a little over 16 months. He was elected to fill the unexpired term of former District 5 Commissioner Ed Nichols in December 2019.

He said that the most important thing he learned during his service is that “nothing is as it first appears, you must research.”

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