Peach State Politics (June 18, 2021)

Loeffler & Walker tease Senate runs, GA special election results, redistricting hearings begin, MTG apologizes, This Week in Washington, and more

We’ve reached the end of another week, so it’s time to get you up to speed on this week’s biggest stories in GA politics. In 2022 Senate news, former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler traveled to DC this week and didn’t rule out another Senate run, while football legend Herschel Walker seemed to suggest that he recently moved to Georgia.

Republicans received good news this week in two Georgia House special elections, and state lawmakers are beginning to hold redistricting hearings. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has apologized for her remarks about the Holocaust, plus more news from Washington.

I also have explain the history of Juneteenth and some events happening this weekend in metro Atlanta to celebrate the historic day. Let’s get started!

Loeffler, Walker hint at Senate runs

Kelly Loeffler was in Washington this week meeting with top Republican leaders to discuss the 2022 Senate race, and the former U.S. Senator appeared to hint at a comeback of her own once the meeting was over. She told CNN’s Manu Raju that she has not completely ruled out a rematch against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, and said that she met with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to update him on “the situation in Georgia.”

That brings us to former UGA football star Herschel Walker, who posted a video on Twitter Thursday of himself driving a car with a Georgia license plate. (Walker has lived in Texas for most of his post-football life). “He’s ready,” he said of his car. “And I’m getting ready.” Former President Donald Trump has been actively pushing Walker to enter the race. Though he was absent from the GA GOP convention earlier this month, Walker did make an appearance at Trump’s birthday celebration in Mar-a-Lago.

The Republican field to challenge Warnock has been largely muddled since Warnock’s January victory. Three candidates have entered the race so far: Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, businessman Kelvin King and former Trump national security advisor Latham Saddler.

Special elections: GOP poised to hang onto two vacant GA House seats

There were two special elections in vacant Georgia House seats this week, and the numbers appear to be encouraging for Republicans.

In HD34, which is based in Cobb County, Republican Devan Seabaugh and Democrat Priscilla Smith will head to a runoff in July after failing to secure more than 50% of the vote in Tuesday’s jungle primary. Seabaugh narrowly fell short of winning the contest outright, taking 47% of the vote. Smith, the 2020 Democratic nominee for this seat, finished second with nearly 25%.

In HD156, two Republicans will duke it out in a July runoff to fill this rural Southeast Georgia seat. Consulting firm owner Leesa Hagan and car dealer Wally Sapp finished at 43% and 42% respectively, falling short of 50%. Wright Gres, a Democrat, finished at a distant third with 15%.

Both runoffs will be held on July 13.

GA lawmakers hold first redistricting hearing

On Tuesday, the Georgia Senate and House redistricting committees held their first of a series of joint hearings across the state to hear from Georgians as the state hurdles toward what will almost certainly be a partisan redistricting showdown.

State Sen. John F. Kennedy (R-Macon) and State Rep. Bonnie Rich (R-Suwanee), the chairs of Senate and House redistricting committees, held a virtual hearing on Tuesday and heard witness testimony from Georgia voters. Many voters expressed concerns about gerrymandering, and others criticized the committee for calling the hearings on short notice.

Most of the upcoming hearings will be held in-person. The next one will be held at the State Capitol in Downtown Atlanta on June 28. The dates and locations for the upcoming hearings can be found here.

Greene apologizes for Holocaust comments after visit to memorial

Controversial U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has apologized for her comments comparing COVID-19 mask and vaccine mandates to the Holocaust after visiting the Holocaust memorial in Washington.

The far-right Congresswoman apologized for her remarks as Democrats threatened to file another censure resolution against her. "There's no comparison [to the Holocaust] and there never ever will be,” she said at a press gaggle outside of the U.S. Capitol on Monday.

This is of course not the first time Greene has come under fire for these types of comments. Earlier this year, House Democrats stripped Greene of her committee assignments after media reports uncovered several of her disturbing social media posts about the Parkland school shooting.

This Week in Washington

President Biden has returned to the White House after his first overseas trip since taking office, which was highlighted by his sit-down meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also signed a bill establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday, the first time a federal holiday has been added to the calendar since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Members of Congress also marked a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Supreme Court has dealt another blow to Republican-led efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

Where you can celebrate Juneteenth in Atlanta

With Juneteenth now a federal holiday, Americans are gearing up to celebrate what was once a little-known day in African-American history. But what exactly is Juneteenth, and why do we celebrate it? Over two months after the end of the Civil War, Union troops were sent to Texas to force slaveowners to comply with the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves in southern states.

Because Texas had separated from the federal government, they had refused to comply with the order, which was issued in 1863. But on June 19, 1865, Union troops informed Texas slaves of their freedom, which marked the official end of slavery in the United States. Most African-Americans have since celebrated this historic day as Juneteenth.

The celebration gained more recognition over the last year after several police-involved killings of unarmed Black men sparked nationwide conversation on social justice and race relations.

As Americans prepare to celebrate Juneteenth this weekend, here are just some of the events planned across metro Atlanta. The Juneteenth Atlanta Parade is set to be held on Saturday at Centennial Olympic Park. The National Center for Civil & Human Rights will be hosting a children’s book giveaway every day this weekend, and Decatur will be holding a celebration on Saturday afternoon. For more Atlanta Juneteenth events, click here.

Have a wonderful Juneteenth!