Peach State Politics (April 23, 2021)

Georgia reacts to Chauvin verdict, Walker freezes GOP Senate field, Carr steps down from GOP AG group, this week in Washington, and more

This has been a very turbulent week, both here in our great state in across the country, as everyone reacts to the guilty verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who strangled the life out of George Floyd by placing his knee on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes. The incident, which was all caught on cell phone video, sparked a national conversation about racial injustice and policing in America. This morning, we will look at how some of our state’s top leaders have reacted to the verdict.

Plus, the Republican field to challenge Sen. Raphael Warnock remains frozen until Herschel Walker makes a decision. Attorney General Chris Carr has stepped down from an organization that has connections to the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. And as usual, we will go over the latest news out of Washington and other big stories in Georgia politics. Let’s get started!

Georgia reacts to Chauvin verdict

This week, a Minneapolis jury convicted former police officer Derek Chauvin on all three counts in the murder of George Floyd. The officer faces up to 40 years in prison and is set to be sentenced in eight weeks.

Politicians across the country have reacted to the groundbreaking verdict. But let’s zero in on how some of Georgia’s politicians have responded:

  • Gov. Brian Kemp hopes the verdict can “begin to heal our communities”

  • U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff says racial bias will persist “until we enact reform”

  • U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock hopes the verdict is a beginning “of a turning point in our country”

  • Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said people in Washington stayed in their homes on the night of the verdict because “of fear of riots

  • AG Chris Carr praised the jury for providing “accountability” for the death of George Floyd

  • Former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams: “The evidence of our eyes met at last by accountability in the eyes of justice.”

  • Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says there is “no verdict or punishment that will bring George Floyd back to his family”

Walker freezes GOP Senate field

The Republican field to take on Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is largely frozen until football legend and Texas resident Herschel Walker decides whether or not he will enter the race.

Though some candidates have already entered the race, others are waiting to see what the Heisman Trophy winner and staunch Trump ally will do. U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) is encouraging Walker to run and told CNN that he would only run for the seat if Walker doesn’t.

If Walker does enter the race, he would very likely do so with Trump’s blessing. The two have known each other for many years and the former President is on the record encouraging him to run for the seat.

Walker would no doubt be a great fundraiser if he were to run, but questions about his residency would likely be a chain around his neck. He maintains an active voter registration in Tarrant County, Texas.

Carr steps down from GOP AG group

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (R) has stepped down from a group that works to elect Republican state attorneys general as the group faces questions about its connections to the deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol in January.

In a letter, Carr announced that he would be stepping down as chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), citing what he calls a “significant difference of opinion” in the group’s direction.

It was revealed that a nonprofit associated with the RAGA helped fund a robocall urging supporters of President Trump to march to the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Carr’s office said that he had no knowledge of the call.

The resignation comes as Carr weighs a challenge to Sen. Raphael Warnock (D). But even if he runs for re-election as AG, he’s in for a tough challenge next year.

There was a lot of news in Washington this week. President Biden spoke with the family of George Floyd following the guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin. The President also announced plans to drastically cut carbon emissions by 2030.

Bourdeaux returns donation from AOC, joins Blue Dogs

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Suwanee) was one of a handful of vulnerable House Democrats to quietly return a campaign donation from a SuperPAC associated with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat who has become a prominent figure in the party’s left flank. Dozens of other swing district House Democrats received donations from the PAC, but Bourdeaux was one of just four to return her donation, according to campaign filings from the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

That’s not the only news Bourdeaux made this week: the freshman Democrat announced that she will be joining the Blue Dog Coaltion, a group of moderate House Democrats that advocate for fiscal responsibility and working across the aisle. She is now one of three Georgia Democrats in the group, joining Reps. David Scott (D-Atlanta) and Sanford Bishop (D-Albany).

The Georgia State University professor, who was the only Democrat to flip a swing district last year, is set to face a competitive race for re-election in 2022. She announced this month that she has nearly $700,000 in her campaign warchest, but she must first wait and see how state lawmakers redraw the district boundaries before she can begin campaigning for a second term. Her 2020 opponent, Republican Rich McCormick, is widely expected to run for the seat again. Other Republicans could join the race, especially if the district takes in more Republican-friendly turf after redistricting.

Kemp appoints first African-American to lead Stone Mountain committee

For the first time ever, a Black man will be in charge of the committee that oversees the country’s largest Confederate monument.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced this week that he would appoint Athens pastor Abraham Mosley as chairman of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association’s board of directors.

In his first on-camera remarks since being sworn in, Mosley said that he is well aware of the challenges ahead of him. He said that he is prepared to help the board deal with the park’s confederate symbols. Aside from the carving of Confederate generals on the mountain itself, quite a few streets, roads and buildings around the park bear the names of prominent Confederate figures. Several Confederate flags are also still flying around the park.

Mosley has lead the congregation at Athens’ Mount Pleasant Baptist Church since 1974.

Census numbers to be released soon, kicking off redistricting

We will soon find out how many U.S. House seats Georgia will have for the next ten years.

By the end of the month, the US. Census Bureau will release official statewide population numbers that will determine whether Georgia and other states will gain or lose House seats heading into the next decade. But it is widely expected that Georgia will remain at 14 seats for the next 10 years, according to analysts and observers.

Despite recent Democratic victories in the presidential and U.S. Senate races, Republicans still maintain full control of state government, and will therefore have the final say on what the maps will look like.

The once-in-a-decade process, which has been delayed until the fall to the pandemic’s impact on census numbers, is usually very partisan. That is not expected to change this year, especially with the U.S. House majority up for grabs.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Maya Prabhu has an early look at how the process will play out, which can be read here.

Dem field for LG grows

We learned this week that State Rep. Derrick Jackson (D-Tyrone) is entering the race for Lieutenant Governor. He joins a fast-growing field that already includes State Rep. Erick Allen (D-Smyrna).

Other candidates are sure to join them, as incumbent LG Geoff Duncan (R) is not expected to seek a second term after criticizing the leadership of his party. So far, no well-known Republican has entered the race.

Search for next USG leader paused

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents abruptly announced on Thursday that they will pause the search for a new chancellor. The USG Board, which oversees all of the state’s public colleges and universities, said in a statement that they are pausing the search because they “value the input received from faculty, staff, students, and community leaders throughout this process.”

The pause comes as opposition grows to rumors that former Gov. Sonny Perdue, who most served as President Trump’s Agriculture Secretary, would be appointed to the post. A petition called “Students Against Sonny” says that the Republican is unqualified for the position and that he has a history of doing things that make college less accessible, such as withholding funding from HBCUs and financial aid programs such as the popular HOPE Scholarship.

"His record says it all,” the petition says of Perdue.

It is unclear when the search for a new chancellor will resume, but petition organizers, who have gathered over 1,100 signatures, believe that they have “successfully won a delay” in the appointment process.

Hartsfield-Jackson dethroned as “world’s busiest airport”

There’s always next year: Atlanta’s Hartfield-Jackson International Airport has lost its status as the "world’s busiest airport” for the first time in over 20 years.

The top spot went to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in China, which recorded 43 million passengers in 2020. Atlanta’s airport recorded 42.9 million, a sharp decrease from previous years due to the decline in air travel during the pandemic.

But Atlanta, which has long prided itself on being the home of the world’s busiest airport, is optimistic that Hartsfield-Jackson will regain the coveted title next year. “While we have been proud of our title as busiest in the world, 2020 was an unprecedented year, with unprecedented challenges, impacting travel across the United States and the globe,” said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who said that the airport took drastic steps to protect passengers from COVID-19. “Those steps are allowing Hartsfield-Jackson and its partner airlines to return to normal, with a renewed push to reclaim our title as the world’s busiest airport,” she continued.

It’s worth noting that of the 10 busiest airports in the world, 7 of them are in China and the other 3 are in the United States.

Jovita Moore to be released from hospital, enter rehab

Last week, Atlanta news anchor Jovita Moore underwent surgery to remove two small tumors from her brain.

I am happy to share this week that Moore will be released from the hospital on Friday and is set to begin her recovery in rehab. I continue to send Jovita, her family and the WSB-TV news team my thoughts and prayers as she begins the recovery process, and I think I speak for everyone in Atlanta when I say I look forward to seeing her back at the anchor desk very soon!

If you would like to send Jovita your well wishes, click here.

Atlanta native Brooke Baldwin bids farewell to CNN

Lastly, I would like to send my best wishes to Brooke Baldwin, who recently departed CNN after over 10 years at the network.

Baldwin, a native of Atlanta and the author of a new book, gave an emotional on-air goodbye to viewers last Friday, encouraging them to “get a little uncomfortable, speak up and keep pushing.” She also highlighted the importance of diversity in the field of journalism.

I wish Brooke the best of luck on any and all of her future endeavors. I know she will do great at whatever she decides to do next. Thank you for making Atlanta proud, Brooke.