AP file photo/Seth Wenig
Photo: AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File/051619 babies
Photo: AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File/051619 babies

The Jolt: In 2018, deaths out-numbered births in nearly half of Georgia’s 159 counties

So earlier this month, Brant Frost V, the second-vice chairman of the Georgia GOP, created a stir by claiming that his party had a secret weapon: Republicans make more babies. Specifically:

“The other side has a culture of death. We have a culture of life. Christian and conservative women have a 35% fertility advantage over Democrat women,” Frost asserted. “And the more conservative a woman is, the more likely she is to be married and have lots of kids.”

He then predicted “an explosion, a reawakening” of traditional values in two or three decades.

As we’ve mentioned before, Charlie Hayslett focuses on rural Georgia’s economic tailspin on his blog, Trouble in God’s Country.

Hayslett took Frost’s statement as a challenge, and found that – though the Republican’s cure may be suspect – his diagnosis of the problem is dead-on accurate. Nearly half of Georgia’s counties reported more deaths than births in 2018. And since 2010, the number of Georgia counties reporting more deaths than births has tripled:

According to data recently posted by the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), 79 of Georgia’s 159 counties had more deaths than births in 2018.

That’s actually news: it’s a record high, and it extends an alarming trend that started about a decade ago.

Hayslett has a stunning chart at his website. And as you dig deeper, the problem for Republicans grows larger. In Georgia, and especially in its vast rural areas, race and voting habits are closely tied. Writes Hayslett:

The number of counties reporting more white deaths than births was 104. Eighty-four of those counties voted for Kemp.

Here’s where Frost’s remarks check out, according to Hayslett – who used the 2018 race for governor as a template:

in 2018, the Millennial birth rate in the Kemp counties was 79.8 births per 1,000 women versus 72.7 in the Abrams counties.

The problem is, the Kemp women are badly outnumbered.

In 2018, 647,492 Millennial women in the Kemp counties gave birth to 51,687 babies (who, in this scenario, will all grow up to be good Republican voters). The 886,215 Millennial women in the Abrams counties delivered 64,453 baby Democrats.

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According to our AJC colleague J. Scott Trubey, Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday demanded that a medical sterilization facility in Covington take “proactive measures” to install pollution controls, remarks made shortly before a town hall focused on toxic gas emissions at the site.

The Republican governor said BD Bard should agree to adopt similar pollution controls as Sterigenics, a Cobb County plant, that entered a legal agreement with state regulators earlier this month to improve controls and minimize ethylene oxide emissions.

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On a similar note, at 6 p.m. or so on Tuesday, we published an account of a mass meeting on the ethylene oxide issue held in Marietta on Monday. One of the key questions is why the two governmental agencies tasked with protecting the environment failed to notify residents of the emissions of a cancer-causing substance in there area.

We noted that representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state Environmental Protection Division moved in the direction of an apology, but never got there.

An hour or so later on Tuesday, a similar meeting got underway in Covington. Ken Mitchell, the deputy director of the air and radiation division for the EPA’s southeast office, admitted his agency should have passed the news on to residents sooner than it did.

“We probably should have. And I’m sorry that we didn’t,” Mitchell said. He repeated his apology three more times.

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Our AJC colleague Kristal Dixon reported yesterday that U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, had written a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, seeking answers about the ethylene oxide emissions that have spewed from a Sterigenics medical sterilization facility in Smyrna. The plant is in his 11th District.

Which led us to the question: does the three-term Republican still believe the agency shouldn’t exist?

Loudermilk was one of three original co-sponsors of a 2017 bill to eliminate the EPA. The former state senator said at the time that the agency “is no longer effective in protecting and preserving our environment.”

The Georgia congressman described the EPA as “an overgrown and unaccountable bureaucracy wrought with fraud and waste.”

I believe it is time to restructure government with smaller agencies who work with states to develop national environmental policy that is enforced by state governments,” he said.

Given its role at the center of the Sterigenics saga, we asked Loudermilk whether recent events have changed the way he views the EPA’s role in environmental stewardship. Loudermilk said his previous legislation was “meant to be a wake-up call” for the agency: 

“The current administration has worked to refocus the EPA on issues relating to the environment and the safety of the public. While there is more work to be done to make the EPA more responsive and mission focused, I believe they can now be used more efficiently to address health and environmental concerns, such as those surrounding Sterigenics.”

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The Cobb County GOP has filed an ethics complaint against state Rep. Erica Thomas of Austell. But not for the reason you might think.

Thomas, the Democratic legislator at the center of arecent  heated grocery store run-in, is accused of repeatedly failing to file campaign disclosures, missing four separate deadlines in 2018.

The complaint also said that she has failed to pay $750 in fines in the 2018 cycle for late filings.

“Despite her failure to file, Rep. Thomas still has actively engaged in fundraising activities to support her re-election committee,” read the complaint, which attached several flyers advertising her fundraisers. 

An attorney for Thomas declined comment. 

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State Sen. Zahra Karinshak’s decision to run for Georgia’s Seventh District congressional seat has left an opening her ex-rival hopes to fill. Republican Matt Reeves, who lost to Karinshak by about 5,000 votes last year, said he would run for the Gwinnett County seat again in 2020. We haven’t heard of any Democrats interested in the race yet, though party officials say a few potential candidates are sniffing around. 

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Ten years ago, ethics watchdog/gadfly George Anderson filed a complaint against John Oxendine, the Republican state insurance commissioner who was running for governor. One decade later, our AJC colleague James Salzer has an update:

The state ethics commission is finally holding a hearing Wednesday on complaints that Oxendine - the frontrunner in the Republican race for governor in 2010 - illegally diverted campaign money for his personal use, that he spent money he raised from donors for races he never ran, and that he collected contributions well over the legal limit from a Georgia insurer.

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Over at the Brambleman website, Jonathan Grant has a piece on Democrat Jill Prouty, a Peachtree City librarian who has joined three Republicans in special election to fill the state House seat vacated by David Stovall, a Republican from Newnan. He notes that Prouty came in second in a recent Coweta County GOP straw poll, behind Phillip Singleton. In a final tally, he got 17 votes, she received six. The special election is Sept. 3, with a runoff scheduled for Oct. 1 if necessary.

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We told you the other day about the Southern Poverty Law Center spotlight on Sixth District hopeful Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican looking to unseat U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, in 2020. Project Q delved into some of her past comments about transgender people that were featured in the report, which you can read about here. Greene has dismissed the SPLC for going to “any lengths to bully, intimidate and silence conservatives.”

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Jon Ossoff, the former 6th District candidate and potentially future Senate contender, blasted President Donald Trump’s smear that any Jewish person who votes for a Democrat is guilty of ignorance or “great disloyalty.” 

“Jews have a long history with right-wing thugs, ethno-nationalists, and race-baiting demagogues,” wrote Ossoff, who is Jewish, in a tweet.

“This one will lose the Jewish vote in a landslide (again).”

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The conversation is unlikely to stop there. In normal times, if a U.S. president were to come within a whisker of accepting plaudits as the next Messiah, condemnations would erupt from every pulpit in America. But we are not in that world, and so we casually point you to President Donald Trump’s Wednesday morning thoughts on Twitter:

“Thank you to Wayne Allyn Root for the very nice words. “President Trump is the greatest President for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world, not just America, he is the best President for Israel in the history of the world...and the Jewish people in Israel love him....

....like he’s the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God...But American Jews don’t know him or like him. They don’t even know what they’re doing or saying anymore. It makes no sense! But that’s OK, if he keeps doing what he’s doing, he’s good for.....

....all Jews, Blacks, Gays, everyone. And importantly, he’s good for everyone in America who wants a job.” Wow!

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