Peach State Politics (April 9, 2021)

MLB fallout continues, Duncan not expected to run for re-election, Greene reports record fundraising haul, Cannon won't face charges, 2 Dems to run for Labor chief, This Week in Washington, and more

Good Friday morning, everyone! We have reached the end of another busy week in Georgia politics. Both sides are continuing to point fingers at each other over the MLB’s decision to pull the All-Star game from Atlanta. We also learned this week that Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) is not expected to seek a second term. And as usual, we will go over the latest news out of our nation’s capital. Let’s get started!

MLB fallout continues

You probably know by now that the MLB announced last week that they will pull the 2021 All-Star game from Atlanta after Georgia lawmakers signed a sweeping election restrictions bill. At the time, the league did not name a new host city. But this week, we learned that the new host city will be Denver, Colorado.

Leaders on both sides are continuing to blame one another for the league’s decision. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed the bill into law, continues to blame what he calls a “disinformation campaign” led by top Democratic leaders such as President Joe Biden and his once-and-likely-future foe Stacey Abrams.

We also found out this week that Abrams herself spoke with MLB advisers, pleading them to keep the game in Atlanta. She has encouraged businesses to stay in Georgia and use their platform to oppose these new laws.

In terms of the financial impact, tourism experts say that the decision to pull the game from Atlanta will cost the state $100 million as businesses and restaurants begin to navigate a path forward after being hit hard by the pandemic.

Duncan unlikely to run for re-election

Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R), who has been critical of the direction of his party following a series of statewide defeats, is unlikely to run for re-election, according to people close to him.

Duncan, a former state lawmaker, ascended to the state’s second-highest office in 2018. Seen by many as a dark-horse candidate, he pulled off a surprising upset when he eked out a narrow victory in the Republican primary runoff that year. He went on to defeat Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico in the general election.

After witnessing his party suffer several bruising defeats at the ballot-box, Duncan has encouraged his party to move on from former President Donald Trump. He has also sharply denounced election conspiracy theories and has stripped committee chairmanships from State Senators who aligned themselves with Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud.

In cable news interviews, he has encouraged his party to adopt a “big tent” strategy. He says that his party should reach out to moderate voters if they want to be successful in future elections. He has also admitted that the GOP election restriction bill was the result of lies and conspiracy theories perpetuated by former President Trump and his attorneys.

Who might run to replace Duncan? Several Republican State Senators are almost certainly going to look at the race. Keep an eye on Senate Majority Whip Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), State Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) and State Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson). Georgia GOP chairman David Shafer, a former State Senator who Duncan narrowly defeated for the GOP nomination in 2018, could also compete in the wide-open race. On the Democratic side, State Rep. Erick Allen (D-Smyrna) has already kicked off his campaign. But other Democrats could soon join him, including Senate Democratic Whip Emanuel Jones (D-Augusta) and State Rep. Derrick Jackson (D-Tyrone). Bottom line: expect both sides to have crowded primaries.

Greene brings in the green

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R) appears to be using her recent string of controversies to stock up her campaign coffers. The Northwest Georgia Republican, who was removed from her committee assignments by House Democrats after some of her disturbing social media posts were uncovered, reported raising a raising over $3 million in the first quarter of 2021. The eye-popping haul is unheard of for a freshman lawmaker, let alone one from a safe seat.

Greene has come under fire for her ties to the debunked QAnon conspiracy theory, making disturbing comments on social media about mass shootings, and for echoing former President Trump’s unproven claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election. She has even been temporarily suspended from some social media platforms. While it remains unclear if she will face a Republican primary challenge next year, two Democrats have said that they will run against her. But to say that they face long odds in this rural Trump+48 district would be an understatement.

Cannon won’t face charges

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said on Thursday that she will not refer the charges against State Rep. Park Cannon (D-Atlanta) to a grand jury, effectively closing the case. You may remember that Cannon was arrested and forcibly dragged out of the Capitol by state troopers last month for knocking on Gov. Brian Kemp’s door while he was signing the election restrictions bill into law. She was charged with felony disruption of General Assembly sessions and obstruction of law enforcement, which would have carried a punishment of up to 8 years in prison.

Willis issued a statement on the case, which read:

“While some of Representative Cannon’s colleagues and the police officers involved may have found her behavior annoying, such sentiment does not justify a presentment to a grand jury of the allegations in the arrest warrants or any other felony charges.”

Cannon held a press conference with supporters and her attorneys shortly after the decision was announced. She thanked DA Willis for not moving forward with the case and said that she plans to “keep knocking.” Her attorneys also said that she is considering filing a lawsuit against the officers who arrested her. “All legal options are on the table,” one attorney emphasized.

This Week in Washington

It’s time now to go over some of this week’s headlines from our nation’s capital. President Joe Biden announced this week that he is moving up the deadline for states to open COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults. He also announced a series of executive actions on gun control.

2 Dems to run for Labor chief

Two Democratic state lawmakers are running to be Georgia’s next Commissioner of Labor, a statewide position that oversees labor regulations and unemployment benefits. An article on the race is forthcoming, but State Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point) and State Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) have both announced that they will challenge three-term Republican incumbent Mark Butler.

Butler’s office has been criticized by members of both parties during the pandemic for a reported backlog in unemployment claims. Some unemployed Georgians have complained to local TV stations that they have not received any benefits from the state several months after filing their claims. Butler has yet to announce whether he will run for a fourth term, but he is widely expected to face competition in the Republican primary if he does.

McBath draws first 2022 GOP challenger

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath (D) has drawn her first Republican challenger as her party gears up to defend their fragile House majority in the 2022 midterm elections.

Army veteran Harold Earls, a first-time candidate, announced in a YouTube video that he plans to challenge McBath in Georgia’s 6th District, a competitive district in the northern Atlanta suburbs. McBath, a Marietta Democrat, is currently serving her second term in Congress after defeating former Rep. Karen Handel (R) in what was a rematch from 2018.

Earls’ campaign launch comes months before redistricting, the once-in-a-decade process when state lawmakers meet to reconfigure congressional and state legislative boundaries. Because it is happening so late this year, candidates like Earls are likely announcing now in order to build up a campaign warchest.

Kemp rebounds with GOP voters after election bill fiasco

Gov. Brian Kemp’s approval rating among Republican voters has rebounded amid the fallout surrounding the election restriction bill. The trackers at Morning Consult find his approval numbers with GOP voters at 74%, a double-digit increase since the signing of the controversial law.

Kemp, who is gearing up for a competitive race for re-election next year, went from being a Trump ally to Trump punching bag after he certified Joe Biden’s narrow win in the state. Despite the former President’s vocal support of a primary challenge to Kemp, so far no Republicans have emerged to run against the first-term Republican.