Peach State Politics (July 23, 2021)

Kemp's new appointments, Jim Beck convicted, Ralston rules out Senate run, This Week in Washington, and more

Good Friday morning! I hope everyone had a great week! It’s time to get you all caught up on this week’s biggest stories in Georgia politics!

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp made several interesting appointments this week. We will go over some of the more interesting and consequential appointments. Plus, Georgia’s indicted insurance commissioner is now a convicted felon and is facing years behind bars. And another prominent state Republican leader has said that they will not be running for U.S. Senate in 2022. And as always, we’ve got this week’s biggest stories from Washington. Let’s get started!

Kemp makes judicial, other appointments

Over the last week, Gov. Brian Kemp has made several crucial appointments, ranging from the state’s highest court to the child services agency. Here’s a brief look at who he appointed to these positions:

Suspended Insurance Commish convicted on all 37 counts

Just a few months after taking office in 2019, Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck was indicted by federal prosecutors in a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme. On Thursday, the Republican was convicted on all 37 charges after eight days of testimony and two hours of jury deliberations. Beck himself took the stand in the trial, but his testimony was not enough to sway any of the jurors.

“Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 8 on mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and tax fraud charges. In part because the amount of money Beck stole is so large, he’s likely to face what U.S. District Judge Mark Cohen described as a ‘substantial’ sentence.”

Beck was suspended from office shortly after he was indicted, but he continued to collect a yearly salary. But his conviction automatically removed him from office. State lawmakers also put forward an amendment to the state constitution that would stop indicted elected official from collecting a salary while facing trial. The amendment will be decided by voters in the 2022 general election.

Following Beck’s suspension, Kemp appointed Doraville police chief John King to succeed the indicted Republican. King, who has no known background in insurance, became the first Hispanic person to occupy a statewide office in Georgia history. He recently announced that he will run for a full term in 2022. State Rep. Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven) is the only Democrat in the race so far.

Senate 2022: Ralston rules out run

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston has ruled out a run for U.S. Senate in 2022. I’m not the type of person who likes to say “I told ya so,” so I’ll just be nice and say that I was not surprised at all by this news.

Ralston holds a very secure job as Speaker. So secure in fact that the Blue Ridge Republican once quipped about how he could be Speaker until he dies. The idea that he would give up such a powerful position to become a junior U.S. Senator just never made much sense to me.

Nevertheless, Ralston’s decision takes another prominent Republican out of the race to challenge Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Other GOP heavyweights are either kicking the tires or sitting on the sidelines. The field so far includes Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black and military veterans Latham Saddler and Kelvin King. And of course, we’re all waiting for an announcement from former UGA football star Herschel Walker.

This Week in Washington

It’s time to go over this week’s biggest stories from our nation’s capital. It’s hard to believe, but President Joe Biden has now been on the job for six months. This week, the President took part in a CNN town hall where he addressed concerns about inflation, the new COVID-19 variants and low vaccination rates. He also discussed the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations happening on Capitol Hill. Plus, House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy is refusing to appoint any of his members to the January 6 Committee after Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of his appointments.

ATL Mayor candidates take part in community forum

Five candidates vying to become Atlanta’s next Mayor took part in a public community forum on Wednesday night, the first time all candidates appeared onstage together this year.

Perhaps the biggest issue facing the candidates — and voters — is public safety. The increase in violent crime has become the backdrop of the campaign, and each candidate outlined their plans to reduce to combat the issue.

All of the candidates are opposed to the idea of defunding the police. And even though they largely oppose the idea of Buckhead cityhood, they all agree that residents of Buckhead deserve to have their concerns heard.

But there were plenty of issues where the candidates disagreed. For example, Councilman Antonio Brown was the only candidate in favor of closing the city jail. And former Mayor Kasim Reed was the only one to oppose increased density in single-family areas.

Election day is in November.

GA lawmakers hold hearing on crime without ATL Mayor

Speaking of which, this week Georgia lawmakers held a field hearing in Atlanta to discuss ways the state could help the city combat the violent crime increase. Lawmakers heard from several law enforcement officials, from sheriffs, to police chiefs, district attorneys and the state attorney general. Gov. Brian Kemp himself even testified as a witness in the hearing.

“House Speaker David Ralston of Blue Ridge said House leaders will propose $2 million to pay for 20 new state troopers to focus on tactical response and drunken driving enforcement in Atlanta. Ralston wants another $1 million to double to the size of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's anti-gang task force and Attorney General Chris Carr's anti-human-trafficking task force.”

But the hearing was notable for who wasn’t in attendance: Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Over the last few weeks, the relationship between City Hall and the Gold Dome has only gotten rockier. Bottoms herself has actually outlined a $70 million plan to address crime, announcing the creation of a special office tasked with addressing the issue.

Good luck, Team USA!

I want to close this week’s newsletter by wishing good luck to all of our Team USA athletes as they embark on their journey to the Gold in the Tokyo Olympics! I hope everyone remains safe and in good spirits, and I’m looking forward to everyone bringing home lots of medals!