Peach State Politics (August 21, 2021)

Kemp signs order curbing local mask mandates, candidates qualify to run for ATL Mayor, Fulton County faces state election investigation, This Week in Washington, and more

Welcome back to Peach State Politics! I apologize for not being as consistent with my weekly newsletter lately. I am being overwhelmed by work, school and other personal matters. But I will try my best to continue filling you all in on the weekly shenanigans in Georgia politics!

This week, Georgia’s governor took bold new action to overrule local mask mandates. Plus, qualifying has ended in the race to become Atlanta’s next Mayor, and a metro Atlanta county is now under a state of emergency as COVID-19 cases rise and hospitals near full capacity. And as always, we’ve got the latest from Washington. Let’s get started!

Kemp allows businesses to ignore local mask mandates

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp took bold new action this week to stop the enforcement of mask mandates.

The Republican announced this week that he had signed an executive order to allow small businesses to ignore mask mandates issued by city and county governments. Though the immediate impact of the governor’s order remains unclear, the move was sharply denounced by critics as the state sees in increase in COVID-19 cases.

The governor, who has been firmly against mask mandates and vaccine requirements, cited the economic impact as a reason for his new order. He seemed to argue that turning away customers for refusing to wear masks is more economic devastation that businesses don’t need.

While the order prevents local governments from implementing mask mandates, businesses themselves are still allowed to do so.

ATL Mayor: 14 candidates qualify for general election

The race for Mayor of Atlanta is officially on, as 14 candidates have filed to run for the city’s top job. Candidates were required to submit paperwork and pay a $5,000 qualifying fee. The race became an open contest after Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced earlier this year that she would not seek a second term. Here are the candidates that will appear on the ballot:

Felicia Moore
Kasim Reed
Mark Hammad
Kenny Hill
Sharon Gay
Andre Dickens
Walter Reeves
Richard N. Wright
Rebecca L. King
Glenn S. Wrightson
Nolan English
Roosevelt Searles III
Antonio Brown
Kirsten Dunn

Election day is on November 2. If no candidate earns more than 50% of the vote, a runoff election will be held on November 30.

State officials to probe Fulton County elections

Georgia election officials announced this week that they have formed a special panel to investigate election operations in Fulton County as Republicans push for an election overhaul in the state’s largest county.

Fulton County, which includes the state capital of Atlanta, is the first and only county to be investigated by state election officials. While it is true that the county has a history of election problems, there is no evidence that they significantly changed the results of previous elections.

Nevertheless, Republican lawmakers have been relentless in their criticism of the county’s election management. Some Republican voters have even requested audits of the county’s 2020 mail-in ballots. County officials maintain that there was no wrongdoing and that the entire investigation is being driven by the “big lie.”

Fulton County was key to President Biden’s victory in Georgia. His 73% showing in the county was the best performance by a Democratic candidate for President in over 4 decades.

This Week in Washington

President Joe Biden is facing the first big foreign policy challenge as the Taliban takes over Afghanistan following his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the landlocked middle-eastern nation. But the President is not regretting his decision to end America’s longest war. Plus, 3 U.S. Senators have tested positive for COVID-19. And a Capitol bomb threat suspect has been charged.

Bourdeaux job fair draws 300 attendees

A few weeks ago, I told you all about an upcoming job fair hosted by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D-Suwanee). Roughly 300 attendees gathered at the Gas South Convention Center on Friday to seek employment as the economy recovers from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The freshman Congresswoman praised the job fair as a success, but noted that there is still lots of work to be done: “We’re just at a really important point. The economy is coming very back very strong, but there are some adjustments where people are having to find new employment, find new careers and employers are having to find new ways to recruit people.”

Click here to read more about some of the attendees.

Cobb declares state of emergency as COVID cases rise

Cobb County Commission Chairwoman Lisa Cupid signed an emergency order this week in order to help the county combat the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, citing an increase in hospitalizations that has left the county “critically low” on hospital beds. A New York Times database finds that >99% of ICU beds are in use at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, the largest hospital in the county.

Cupid’s order, which will be in effect until mid-September, allows the county to use official resources to aid local hospitals and state agencies in order to combat the surge. It also encourages Cobb residents to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Public health officials are urging us to do whatever we can to encourage people to get the COVID vaccine and wear masks while near other people,” Chairwoman Cupid said. “This declaration will open the doors to provide assistance to others in the county who need it and highlight the critical stress this surge has put on our local healthcare facilities.”

Cupid’s order does not impact Cobb County Schools, which are governed by the Cobb County School Board. This week we learned that the district reported nearly 1,800 new cases among students and staff on Friday alone, just three weeks into the 2021-2022 school year.

Though a few metro Atlanta districts are requiring masks, they remain optional in Cobb schools. The alarming numbers, combined with the board’s reluctance to intervene, have lead some parents to take their students out of school. Some parents have also grown frustrated with a school board member who sent an email promoting false vaccine information.

ICYMI: A look at how the census figures will impact Georgia

This week, I took a deeper dive into the recent numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau. How diverse has Georgia become? How will the numbers impact redistricting? How will they impact Georgia’s economy going forward? I answer all of those questions here.

Rosalynn Carter turns 94!

In conclusion, I would like to wish a very happy birthday to former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, who turned 94 years young this week! Thank you for your many years of service to our state and this country, and here’s to many more wonderful years to come!