Peach State Politics (June 11, 2021)

Reed makes comeback bid official, Black to challenge Warnock, the task ahead of Bonnie Rich, GA faces tax surplus, some Cox stations still in the dark, This Week in Washington, and more

Good Friday morning, everyone! It’s time to get you up to speed on the week’s biggest stories in Georgia politics.

He’s back! Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced this week that he will run for Mayor once again, becoming the biggest name in a wide-open race to succeed Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Plus, Warnock draws his first top-tier Republican challenger, and I will introduce you to the chair of the Georgia House redistricting committee.

And while Atlanta-based Cox Media Group has yet to respond to reports of a ransomware attack, several of the company’s TV station are still facing various technical problems. And as always, we’ve got the top stories from our nation’s capital. Let’s get started!

“I’m back!”: Reed makes comeback bid official

Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed officially kicked off his campaign for his job on Thursday, his 52nd birthday. Reed filed paperwork to begin raising money earlier this week but made things official on Thursday at a birthday celebration/fundraiser that he threw for himself at singer Tyrese Gibson’s mansion.

“Atlanta, tell L.A., tell New York, tell Charlotte, tell Dallas, tell Chicago, and definitely tell Miami: I’m back,” Reed declared to a jubilant crowd of attendees. He easily becomes the biggest name in the race to succeed Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who famously announced last month that she would not be a candidate for re-election.

He enters a race that so far includes city councilmen Andre Dickens and Antonio Brown, City Council President Felicia Moore and attorney Sharon Gay. While he brings universal name recognition, that could also be a liability. His administration has faced accusations of bribery and several of his top aides have faced criminal investigations, fines and even jailtime. Reed himself has not been charged with a crime and continues to deny any wrongdoing.

Several Atlanta political heavyweights have had some harsh words for Reed. Former Mayor Shirley Franklin said that she was “embarrassed by his lack of ethical leadership.” This is noteworthy because Franklin not only endorsed Reed for Mayor in 2009, but Reed served as her campaign manager in 2001!

Other political strategists, meanwhile, have highlighted some of Reed’s accomplishments during his tenure, from the construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, lower crime rates, and forging great relationships with Republicans in state government.

Nevertheless, it’s hard for even an amateur political observer to classify Reed as an underdog. A lot can happen between now and November, but he has a very good shot of at least clinching a spot in the runoff.

Black to challenge Warnock

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black (R) announced last Friday that he will challenge Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock next year, becoming the highest-profile Republican to enter what had been a stalled contest since Warnock’s historic upset in January.

Black, who was first elected Georgia’s top farmer in 2010, said in an interview that Herschel Walker’s impending decision will not hinder his campaign. Trump is on the record encouraging the former football star to run, but Walker has continued to keep everyone on their toes.

Black joins businessman Kelvin King and former Trump national security official Latham Saddler in the Republican primary. U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) has signaled that he will enter the race if Walker decides not to run.

Click here for more information about Black.

The Gwinnett Republican who could reshape GA politics for a decade

Even the most politically savvy Georgian probably wouldn’t be able to tell you much about State Rep. Bonnie Rich (R). The Suwanee attorney has kept a relatively low profile since being elected in 2016. But that is almost certainly going to change later this year, when Rich wields her newfound power as chair of the House redistricting committee, where most of Georgia’s new political boundaries will originate.

Rich faces quite a daunting task. Georgia Republicans are facing an increasingly grim outlook in the metro Atlanta suburbs, as demographic and political shifts have turned the once-solidly Republican suburbs into Democratic strongholds. Rich herself is one of quite a few Republican state lawmakers from competitive districts, so not only will she have to shore up other vulnerable GOP legislators. She will have to help concoct a map that protects herself.

Click here to read my profile of Rep. Rich.

CHA-CHING: Georgia faces largest tax surplus in state history

With Georgia’s economy beginning to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials learned this week that we are heading for what could be the largest tax surplus in state history.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced on Tuesday that the state government will run a surplus of more than $3 billion, which is far higher than what state officials anticipated. As noted by the AJC, economic news like this will have huge implications for the governor as he heads into his 2022 re-election campaign:

“The figures show Kemp will have a huge surplus heading into his reelection year, 2022. That will give him money to spend on the teacher pay raises he promised when he first ran in 2018 and possibly fund the kind of tax cuts GOP candidates traditionally like to run on.”

This figure does not include the $5 billion that the state will be receiving as part of the American Rescue Plan. While the governor said that he will not be denying the federal relief, he and other Republican governors have said that their states will be opting out of federal unemployment payments this month.

Some Cox stations still in the dark amid reports of ransomware attack

Last week, I told you that Atlanta-based media conglomerate Cox Media Group, which owns 57 television and radio stations across 20 markets, was the latest American company to be held hostage by criminal hackers. The company has yet to confirm or deny the reports, but the impact of the reported cyberattack is still being felt at several Cox stations.

Sources tell CNN that some Cox employees remain unable to access their company email accounts and are having to use personal email services such as Gmail. Some stations have lost access to crucial broadcasting software, and at least 2 stations are having issues with their weather computers.

The reported attack is just the latest in a series of alarming cyberattacks targeting American companies. Gasoline pipelines, meat suppliers and city transit systems are just some of the other industries that have been targeted by hackers.

This Week in Washington

President Joe Biden is currently on his first overseas trip since taking office. He spent the week meeting with leaders such as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and assuring European allies that “America is back.” This comes as the President prepares to hold a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva next week. Meanwhile back at home, the White House is ending talks with Republicans on infrastructure, and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is facing accusations of anti-Semitism from her Jewish colleagues.

NEW: VP Harris to visit GA as part of nationwide vaccine push

NEW THIS MORNING: Vice President Kamala Harris will make a stop in Georgia next Friday to encourage more people to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

Little details have been released on the time and location of her trip, but the news comes as Georgia and other states face a decline in vaccine demand.

Demand for vaccines in Georgia is so low that the state is closing its mass vaccination sites and turning down millions of vaccine doses. The state’s vaccination rate also remains among the lowest in country. According to data from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), about 34% of Georgians have been fully vaccinated, compared to 43% of the entire country.

The trip is part of a monthlong push by the Biden administration to reach a goal of vaccinating at least 70% of Americans by July 4.

Cobb bans Critical Race Theory, board’s Black members boycott vote

The debate over the controversial Critical Race Theory reached another Georgia school district this week.

The 7-member Cobb County school board voted 4-0 in favor of banning the learning concept, with all four of the board’s white members voting in favor of the resolution and the three Black members abstaining from the vote altogether.

Randy Scamihorn, the chair of the board, filed the resolution after the Georgia Department of Resolution approved a measure denouncing the concept. “It’s revisionist history and history should be thorough,” he said.

Board member Leroy “Tre” Hutchins, who is Black, sparred with his white counterparts over the resolution and argued that it made no sense for the board to ban a concept that isn’t currently being taught in Cobb County schools.

Cobb is the second school district in Georgia to ban the learning concept. Neighboring Cherokee County approved a similar measure last month.

Tomlinson endorses Allen in LG race

Former Columbus Mayor and 2020 U.S. Senate candidate Teresa Tomlinson is throwing her support behind State Rep. Erick Allen in the 2022 election for Lieutenant Governor.

In an email to Allen’s supporters, Tomlinson said that she is proud to endorse the Smyrna Democrat because she knows that he is exactly the type of leader that our state needs.

“As our next Lieutenant Governor, Erick will work to turn Georgia into a safe, prosperous, and forward-looking state,” Tomlinson said. “He’ll protect our voting rights, expand healthcare access, and build an economy that works for workers, families and businesses.”

Allen is currently one of two Democrats vying to succeed Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Republican who announced that he would not seek re-election after clashing with former President Donald Trump. State Rep. Derrick Jackson (D-Tyrone) is also running for the job.

Mike Collins enters race for GA10

The Republican field to succeed Jody Hice in Congress continues to grow. I told you last week that Mike Collins, Hice’s 2014 opponent, will be kicking off his campaign for the eastern Georgia district in a matter of days. This week, the Jackson small business owner officially entered the race.

Collins said that he is running to represent Georgia’s 10th District because “the radical left is out of control.”

“I’m pro-Trump, pro-life and will protect our Second Amendment rights. I’m running to fight for the families and small business owners in my community and around the country. I won’t bow to the woke mob’s cancel culture or (Speaker) Nancy Pelosi’s job-killing, gun-grabbing agenda.”

Collins enters a Republican primary that is set to get even larger in the months ahead. State Revenue Commissioner David Curry and former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun are just two of the many Republicans competing for the sprawling eastern Georgia district. State Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) is also said to be considering a run.

I want to hear from you!

To close things out this week, I just want to say that I love discussing Georgia politics with people. If you would like to discuss Georgia politics, share story ideas, give feedback on my newsletter or would like to ask a question, please reply to this email or leave a comment below. I can promise you that I will read them and respond as quickly as I can.

Have a good weekend!