Peach State Politics (August 28, 2021)

Herschel Walker enters Senate race, Kemp activates National Guard, This Week in Washington

Welcome back to Peach State Politics! I hope everyone’s weekend is off to a great start. Let’s get caught up on Georgia politics before we enjoy our Saturday! Don’t worry, this week’s edition isn’t going to be very long.

This week, Herschel Walker finally entered the race to challenge Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock after months of speculation. Plus, Gov. Brian Kemp is sending National Guardsmen to overwhelmed Georgia hospitals as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, and we’ll have the latest on what was another rough week for the Biden administration. Let’s get started!

Herschel’s in

Former UGA football star Herschel Walker has officially entered the Republican primary to challenge Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Walker, who has lived in Texas for the last several decades, officially registered to vote in Georgia this week and filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

In the months following Warnock’s victory, Walker had been encouraged to run by former President Donald Trump. The two have known each other since Trump’s days on reality television.

In his campaign announcement, which was set in his hometown of Wrightsville, Walker leaned heavily on his football career. “I’m a kid from a small town in Georgia who has lived the American Dream,” he said. “And I’m ready to fight to keep that dream alive for you, too.”

Walker’s top Republican opponent, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, had tough words for the football great. “Welcome back to Georgia,” he said while holding a hand-drawn outline of Georgia. “While you get reacquainted with life in our state, I’m ready to discuss the issues anytime, anywhere.”

Sen. Warnock, Walker’s would-be Democratic opponent, did not directly criticize Walker when asked about his entrance. He said that his dad always told him that “if somebody hires you to do a job, do the job they hired you to do. So right now I’m focused on doing the job.”

Kemp deploys National Guard to GA hospitals

With COVID-19 cases continuing to rise and hospitals at a breaking point, Gov. Brian Kemp announced this week that he is sending more than 100 medically trained National Guard troops to the state’s largest hospitals.

The news comes as ICU beds in Georgia are nearing full capacity. According to a New York Times database, 92% of ICU beds in the state are currently in use. The state reported 8,403 new cases on Friday, the first time more than 8,000 cases were tallied in a single day since January.

Kemp said in a statement that he is attempting to provide assistance to overwhelmed medical personnel. "These guardsmen will assist our frontline healthcare workers as they provide quality medical care during the current increase in cases and hospitalizations, and I greatly appreciate General Carden and his team for their willingness to answer the call again in our fight against COVID-19," he said.

This Week in Washington

It was another tough week for the Biden administration, as the President faces more questions about the Afghanistan withdrawal following the deaths of 12 Americans in a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport.

More GA school districts report COVID-19 cases, go virtual

With the 2021-2022 school year now in full swing, more school districts in the metro Atlanta area are seeing increases in COVID-19 cases, and some are even going virtual.

At 2,797, Cobb County Schools have reported the highest number of cases in metro Atlanta since the start of the school year. They are followed by Gwinnett County, which has so far reported 2,472 cases. Masks are optional in the former but required in the latter.

Several schools in Clayton County are switching to virtual learning after several outbreaks within the district. A total of 9 schools in Clayton County will be learning virtually through at least September 10, the district announced this week.

Another district, Catoosa County, announced a new schedule for the next three weeks. They will move to all virtual next week and then transition to a hybrid schedule in the weeks after Labor Day. The district said in a statement that 2,130 students and 120 staff members are currently in quarantine after possible exposure.

Delta vs. Delta: Airliner to raise health insurance premiums for unvaccinated employees

As air travel begins to recover from the worst of the pandemic, one of the world’s largest airliners announced this week that they will begin penalizing employees who have not been vaccinated.

Atlanta-based Delta Airlines, the largest employer in the state of Georgia, announced this week that unvaccinated employees who use the company’s health insurance plan will face a $200 surcharge each month. CEO Ed Bastian noted that most of the company employees who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 were not vaccinated.

“The airline said Wednesday that it also will stop extending pay protection to unvaccinated workers who contract COVID-19 on Sept. 30, and will require unvaccinated workers to be tested weekly beginning Sept. 12, although Delta will cover the cost. They will have to wear masks in all indoor company settings.”

Social media and late night television have taken notice to the fact that the airliner shares a name with the new COVID-19 variant. Bastian has even said himself that he does not refer to the new strain as the “delta variant,” rather the “darn variant.”

Praying for Louisiana

I would like to send my warmest prayers and best wishes to those in Louisiana and across the Gulf Coast who are in the path of Hurricane Ida. I hope everyone heeds warnings from emergency officials and is able to evacuate safely.