Note to CEOs: Georgia has put its Confederate flag fight in the rear-view mirror

South Carolina's embrace of the Confederate battle emblem is fast becoming fodder for that state's economic rivalry with Georgia.

The Rebel flag still flies above the South Carolina statehouse, undipped after the murders of nine worshippers by a self-proclaimed white supremacist at a historically black church. In crass competitive, Georgia's political class may also see an opening.

Georgia resolved its fight over a state flag that incorporated the Confederate battle emblem in 2001 -- though it cost Gov. Roy Barnes his job and Democrats control of the state's machinery. But Georgia is involved in smaller skirmishes around the flag, including a controversy-provoking decision last year by the state to release a specialty license plate featuring the flag.


We don’t know where, but we’re told that Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam, is in Atlanta this morning, meeting with an invitation-only group of community leaders.

The topic is an Oct. 10 reprise of the 1995 Million Man March on Washington. But no doubt, Charleston, S.C., will be a topic as well.


Elsewhere in Confederate flag news, the Republican presidential candidates are walking a tightrope trying not to upset conservatives in the key early primary state. From the New York Times:

Jeb Bush issued a statement on Saturday saying he was confident that South Carolina “will do the right thing.” As Florida’s governor, Mr. Bush in 2001 ordered the Confederate flag to be taken from its display outside his state’s Capitol “to a museum where it belonged.”

Senator Marco Rubio, also of Florida, told reporters that he thought the state would “make the right choice for the people of South Carolina.”

But neither candidate would state explicitly whether he wanted South Carolina to stop displaying a flag that is a particularly searing reminder of slavery.

Freed from electoral concerns, Mitt Romney had this to say:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is attempting to carve out a niche as the blunt truth-teller in the race -- say, a bridge-free Chris Christie -- and came out against the flag, though with a caveat. Via the Cincinnati Enquirer:

"This is up to the people of South Carolina to decide, but if I were a citizen of South Carolina I'd be for taking it down," Kasich said Saturday night in a statement.


Over the weekend, our WSB Radio colleague Jamie Dupree posted this bit of insider information:

A new report from congressional number crunchers would make it a little more difficult for Republicans to use the process known as budget reconciliation to repeal that Obama health law, as such an effort may now require the GOP to find billions in extra budget savings.

The report by the Congressional Budget Office found the plan to repeal the Obama health law would increase the deficit by $137 billion over 10 years.

That means the GOP will have to come up with around $137 billion in budget savings, most likely through savings in entitlement programs, and include that in any plan to repeal the Obama health law.


Our AJC colleagues James Salzer and Carrie Teegardin have dug up some news that could – or at least, should – become part of the 2016 electoral dialogue in Georgia:

After years of stable premiums, Georgia’s biggest car insurance companies have been pummeling drivers with rate hikes over the past two years.

The increases are the largest in a decade for many of the companies, with some filing more than two rate hikes in a year. The result: Georgia led the nation in 2014 with the highest overall increase in personal auto insurance rates. The state ranked second overall in 2013….

Georgia insurers say that a wave of costly weather events in the past two years — including tornadoes, hail and Atlanta’s Snowmaggedeon — forced long-avoided rate hikes. Increases also came, insurers say, as an improved economy placed more commuters back on the roads, leading to more crashes, injuries and lawsuits.

But another powerful force — Georgia politics — may be just as important in the rising cost of auto coverage statewide. In 2008, lawmakers handed insurers the freedom to increase rates on some types of coverage without first getting state approval. Two years later, a state senator who backed that law was elected Georgia’s insurance commissioner after the reign of two commissioners who prided themselves on being stingy regulators when it came to auto insurance prices….

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of rate requests by the state’s largest auto insurers found that big increases were extremely rare in the years just before the new law passed. Hudgens at first told the AJC that he rarely approved the full rate hikes requested by insurers. But the AJC’s review found just the opposite to be the case: His office almost always approves exactly the increases requested.


Today's front page/premium edition bears the news that Georgia is on the Hillary Clinton campaign's radar:

Clinton’s advisers won’t talk publicly about anything beyond the Democratic primary. But they are telling local politicos that Georgia is a “Tier Two” state. As in, it’s not a swing state, but it could be.

That’s a steep climb in a state that saw Democratic hopes rise on the backs of a legacy ticket for governor and U.S. Senate in 2014, only to see neither Jason Carter nor Michelle Nunn surpass 45.2 percent. Democrats, however, see new opportunity in big presidential-year turnout as the state’s demographics slowly shift their way.

Georgia has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since another Clinton won the state in 1992. For 2016, Georgia Democrats are eagerly hoping for — though not expecting — serious money and manpower.

Left on the cutting room floor was part of a discussion with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed dealing with how to find and turn out those new voters. He did not think the New Georgia Project -- last year's multimillion dollar effort led by House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams that took some pre- and post-election heat -- will make the state competitive on its own.

Said Reed:

"I don’t believe nor did I believe that the New Georgia Project is the model. I think that you have professional organizations that are experts at building the voter database in states, and I think that they should be a part of the overall political campaign.

"I think that the appropriate model was developed by President Obama for states like North Carolina and Virginia and Indiana during the 2008 cycle. I think that to compare the New Georgia Project to a presidential campaign misses the mark. I don’t think that's a reasonable comparison for operations."

We also heard from former Mayor Shirley Franklin, who threw an elbow at Reed, via email:

“I have no idea how any of the announced presidential candidates will fare in Georgia. The leading elected Democrats in the state are the ones best positioned to give predictions.  Hopefully, unlike some prior elections the elected officials from the House, Senate and local positions like Mayor of Atlanta, will be unified and will focus their efforts like a laser  to give Party’s nominee early, unwavering, enthusiastic support.  If that is the case, Hillary Clinton would have a fighting chance to win Georgia.”

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.