Peach State Politics (April 30, 2021)

Biden spends 100th day as President in Georgia, Matthew Wilson running for Insurance commish, Collins rules out running for office in 2022, This Week in Washington, and more

We have reached the end of yet another busy week in Georgia politics. Our state was once again front and center on the political stage, with President Joe Biden celebrating his 100th day as President in the state that helped send him to the White House.

Plus, another Democratic state lawmaker announced this week that he will be running statewide in 2022, and former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins will not be running for office next year. And as usual, your weekly rundown of the biggest stories in our nation’s capital. Let’s get started!

Biden visits Georgia on 100th day in office

100 days after inheriting a country facing crisis after crisis, President Joe Biden traveled to Georgia on Thursday to tout his agenda since taking office. The visit came the day after his first address to a joint session of Congress, which we will discuss momentarily.

This was Biden’s second trip to Georgia — a state that helped send him to the White House, since officially becoming President. His first was last month, when he met with local Asian leaders following the horrific mass shootings at Atlanta-area spas.

Before holding his Thursday evening rally, Biden visited with former President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter in their hometown of Plains. No cameras or reporters were present inside the meeting, but some residents of the small southwest Georgia town lined the streets with lawn chairs and signs to watch the President’s motorcade drive by.

He then returned to the campaign trail to celebrate his 100th day in office. He held a rally in Gwinnett County, a county that is seen as the epicenter of the demographic and political changes happening in the state. At his rally, he started off by thanking Georgia voters for sending Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock to the U.S. Senate to help make his agenda a reality. As his remarks began, though, he was heckled by protesters for his stances on private prisons.

He used the drive-in rally to outline the next phase of his presidency, saying that he would like to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure and raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans. He also continued his criticism of the state’s new election law. Republican demonstrators held a small counter protest outside of the rally, blaming him for pushing the MLB All-Star game out of Georgia following the passage of the controversial new law. One protester was holding a sign that read $100 million LOST in Biden’s 1st 100 Days.”

State Rep. Matthew Wilson running for Insurance commish

A state lawmaker from North DeKalb County is the latest Democrat to launch a campaign for statewide office.

State Rep. Matthew Wilson, an attorney from Brookhaven, announced this week that he will run for Insurance & Safety Fire Commissioner. It may not be the most recognizable office on the ballot, but it’s exactly what it sounds like: the ISF Commissioner is in charge of regulating insurance companies and inspecting buildings for fire hazards. If elected, Wilson would be the first openly LGBTQ statewide officeholder in Georgia history. “I'm running for Insurance Commissioner to fight for all Georgians no matter who they are or where they come from,” Wilson said on Twitter. “We can choose lower monthly bills and better coverage, if we choose leaders who work for us.”

Wilson is challenging Republican incumbent John King, a Major General in the National Guard and a former police chief who has no experience in the insurance field. He was appointed to the job in 2019 after the incumbent, Jim Beck, was indicted in a multimillion-dollar fraud case. He made history himself when he was appointed, becoming the first Hispanic person to ever hold a statewide office in Georgia. His campaign for a full term in 2022 will be his first run for elected office, and his team has already come out swinging against Wilson: “In her quest for a radical takeover of Georgia, it's really no surprise that Stacey Abrams recruited an out of touch, leftist trial lawyer to run against General King.”

Collins won’t run run for office in 2022

Former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins announced this week that he will not run for any office in 2022. The Gainesville Republican, who recently became a partner at a North Georgia law firm, said in a statement that he plans to remain active in Republican politics, but not as a candidate himself. “This is goodbye for now but probably not forever,” he teased.

Collins was one of President Donald Trump’s most visible defenders in Congress during impeachment investigations, and Trump himself personally lobbied Gov. Brian Kemp to appoint Collins to Johnny Isakson’s Senate seat. Kemp of course ended up appointing Kelly Loeffler, though that didn’t deter Collins from campaigning for the seat anyway. But he finished third place in the jungle primary, failing to earn a spot in the runoff.

The former Congressman is one of many prominent Georgia Republicans who are sitting on the sidelines as the 2022 elections approach. As noted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week: “While competitive U.S. Senate races are already taking shape in other states, the slow-to-develop race to face Warnock is more notable for who is staying on the sidelines.”

This Week in Washington

In this special installment of This Week in Washington, we will go over the highlights of President Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress. The President attempted to strike an optimistic tone 100 days after inheriting a nation in crisis.

  • The normally-packed House chamber was reduced to a crowd of 200 due to COVID precautions

  • Biden notes historic nature of greeting a female Vice President

  • He called the January 6 insurrection the worst attack on American democracy since the civil war

  • He took a victory lap for meeting his administration’s COVID-19 vaccine goal

  • He proposed a tax increase on the wealthy to help pay for his American Families Plan

  • He renewed his push for gun control, infrastructure overhaul, voting rights legislation and police reform

  • Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the only Black Republican Senator, said that America is not a racist country in the Republican response

  • Scott criticized Biden for pulling America “further apart”

  • Click here to watch Biden’s address in its entirety

  • Sen. Scott’s response can be viewed here

AG 2022: Cobb DA pulls endorsement; former Senate candidate endorses Bailey

In the race for Georgia Attorney General, Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady has pulled his endorsement in the Democratic primary. Broady, who was elected DA in 2020, had initially endorsed 2018 nominee Charlie Bailey. But Broady told the AJC last week that he will now remain neutral in the contest that features Bailey and State Sen. Jen Jordan. “That was a little premature,” Broady said of his endorsement.

Bailey also earned an endorsement this week from a former U.S. Senate candidate. Teresa Tomlinson, the former Mayor of Columbus, said that Bailey’s experience as a prosecutor is “badly needed” in the Attorney General’s office. “Georgians deserve an AG like Charlie who will tirelessly fight for justice,” Tomlinson said.

Loeffler escalates feud with Raffensperger

Former Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) poured more gasoline on the internal Republican feud with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, calling for an investigation into whether the Republican election chief misused his office in the 2020 election. “This request is not about the outcome of an election, but about the loss of confidence in our elections and the importance of holding elected officials accountable for upholding the law and carrying out their constitutional duties,” Loeffler said in a statement.

Raffensperger responded with harsh words for the former Senator: “I think that what the [Republican] base wants is someone that’s a true blue Trump supporter, and she’s a fake Trumper,” he said when asked in an interview about a potential Loeffler comeback in 2022.

Kemp appoints special counsel to represent SOS in Trump probe

NEW THIS MORNING: Gov. Brian Kemp this week quietly signed an executive order appointing a special counsel to represent the Secretary of State’s office in the Fulton County District Attorney’s investigation into Trump’s attempts to overturn the Georgia election results. The Governor is appointing Jack Sherman, a partner at a law firm in Birmingham, Alabama.

The appointment comes amid growing tension between the Fulton DA and the SOS. CNN reported last week that investigators in the Fulton DA’s office have grown increasingly frustrated by the lack of cooperation they have been receiving from the SOS during the investigation. “The recent lack of cooperation has prompted the office to consider whether it rises to obstruction and to use subpoenas to force Secretary of State staff members to testify and share information.”

Census Bureau: Georgia to Maintain 14 U.S. House seats

The U.S. Census Bureau announced this week that Georgia will not be gaining or losing any seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. For the next decade, Georgia will continue to send 14 Representatives to Congress.

Every 10 years, census numbers determine if a state will gain or lose the number of Representatives it sends to Congress. But just because Georgia isn’t gaining any seats in Congress doesn’t necessarily mean the state has not grown in the last decade. After all, the state did gain over 1 million residents in the last 10 years!

The news could also have huge implications for redistricting, when state lawmakers meet to redraw congressional, state legislative and other political boundaries. Dave Wasserman, who analyzes House races at the Cook Political Report, explains how things might play out in Georgia redistricting. Click here to take a look at what he shared with me.

Who will be the next Atlanta U.S. Attorney?

This week, I looked at the top three contenders to lead the Atlanta U.S. Attorney’s office. The contenders include a District Attorney, a former State Senator and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney

The next U.S. Attorney will take over several federal investigations, including the ongoing investigation at Atlanta city hall, where several close allies of former Mayor Kasim Reed have been charged with bribery. Reed has not been formally charged in the investigation.

Former Mayor Kasim Reed weighs in on rise in crime, discusses his future

Speaking of Kasim Reed, the former Mayor had harsh words for the recent increase in violent crime.

In an interview on a popular radio show, Reed said that the increase that the increase in crime has reached “unacceptable levels” and that it’s fracturing the city “in a way that I haven’t seen in my lifetime.”

He also dismissed claims that the crime increase has been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who Reed enthusiastically supported in 2017, has repeatedly called the crime increase the “COVID crime wave.”

In terms of his own political future, Reed said that he has no plans to challenge his hand-picked successor in the 2021 election. But he also said that he will not be endorsing any candidate any time soon.

Changes to Stone Mountain Park proposed

Last week, Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Athens pastor Abraham Mosley to lead the committee that oversees Stone Mountain Park, home of the largest Confederate monument in the world.

This week, we learned that several changes are in the works to erase some of the DeKalb County park’s Confederate imagery. Confederate flags on the mountain trail could soon be moved to a location where they will be less visible to park visitors. Several buildings with Confederate namesakes could also be renamed. Mosley, the first Black person to lead the committee, said he supports the proposed changes.

However, there is no plan to get rid of the Confederate carving on the front of the mountain itself, because doing so would require a change in state law.

Clayton Sheriff indicted on civil rights charges

Controversial Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill is facing federal charges for depriving detainees of federally protected rights.

"The indictment alleges specifically, that without justification, Hill ordered his employees to strap his detainees into a restraint chair and keep them there for hours in violation of their constitutional rights," said acting Atlanta U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine.

Hill remains defiant and calls the charges politically motivated. “As we go through this process,  I will continue to focus on the mission of fighting crime in Clayton County for continued success,” Hill responded.

Suspects in Ahmaud Arbery shooting face hate crime, kidnapping charges

The three men accused of killing jogger Ahmaud Arbery in south Georgia are now facing federal charges.

Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan are being charged with interference with rights and attempted kidnapping.

In February 2020, Arbery was shot and killed by the three men while he was out for a jog in Glynn County, Georgia. The men claimed that they were making a citizen’s arrest.

The murder sparked a nationwide conversation about racial injustice and led Georgia lawmakers to pass a hate crimes bill and a citizen’s arrest overhaul.

Truist Park, Mercedes Benz Stadium to reopen at 100% capacity

Two of the largest sports stadiums in Georgia have announced plans to reopen at full capacity.

Truist Park, the home ballpark of the Atlanta Braves, announced that they plan to have all of their seats filled as early as next week. Mercedes Benz Stadium, home of the Atlanta Falcons and soccer team Atlanta United, plans to welcome all fans starting on May 15. Officials are citing the increase in vaccine availability and the safety precautions in place at both stadiums. But face masks will still be required at both stadiums and sanitizing stations will also continue to be available.

A full stadium is about 41,000 fans at Truist Park. At Mercedes Benz, both soccer and football games can hold as many as 75,000 fans.

I got my first job!

In personal news, I recently got my first job! This week, I am wrapping up my first full week as a cashier at Zaxby’s. While it’s not a job that I plan on keeping long term, it would give me something to look forward too every day this summer instead of sitting around the house and doing nothing.

As for my first full week: let’s just say now I know why it’s called fast food. You have to move very fast and it requires a lot of focus. The job has been a great learning experience so far, and my only complaint is that my legs and feet hurt at the end of each day. But I’m sure I’ll get used to that as I become more familiar with the job!