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The Jolt: In Georgia, the culture wars ramp up -- but without Donald Trump

May 25, 2012 Atlanta - Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler cheers for the team during 2nd half action in the home opener at Philips Arena in Atlanta on Friday, May 25, 2012. Atlanta Dream won 100 - 74 over the New York Liberty. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
May 25, 2012 Atlanta - Atlanta Dream co-owner Kelly Loeffler cheers for the team during 2nd half action in the home opener at Philips Arena in Atlanta on Friday, May 25, 2012. Atlanta Dream won 100 - 74 over the New York Liberty. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The culture wars haven't ended in Georgia. Far from it. But on Tuesday, one notable combatant was missing: Donald Trump.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, seeking to retain her seat In November, on Tuesday opened a second front with a letter objecting to the WNBA’s plans to honor the Black Lives Matter movement.

The senator warned against a "particular political agenda undermines the potential of the sport and sends a message of exclusion." From the piece in today's AJC:

Loeffler, a Republican who co-owns Atlanta's WNBA franchise, urged Commissioner Cathy Engelbert in a letter to scrap plans for players to wear warm-up jerseys reading "Black Lives Matter" and "Say Her Name" and instead put an American flag on all uniforms and apparel.

"The truth is, we need less—not more politics in sports. In a time when polarizing politics is as divisive as ever, sports has the power to be a unifying antidote," said Loeffler, who faces a November special election against 20 other candidates. "And now more than ever, we should be united in our goal to remove politics from sports."

More from the senator’s letter to the WNBA:

"I adamantly oppose the Black Lives Matter political movement, which has advocated for the defunding of police, called for the removal of Jesus from churches and the disruption of the nuclear family structure, harbored anti-Semitic views, and promoted violence and destruction across the country.

"I believe it is totally misaligned with the values and goals of the WNBA and the Atlanta Dream, where we support tolerance and inclusion."

Early Tuesday morning, her campaign announced that Loeffler had signed onto a bill sponsored by Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, entitled the Ending Taxpayer Funding of Anarchy Act.

The measure, according to the press release, “would restrict federal funding for ‘anarchist jurisdictions,’ or jurisdictions that abdicate their constitutional duty to their citizens to uphold the rule of law and to provide police, fire, or emergency medical services.”

Atlanta, the Loeffler campaign implied, would fall into that category.

Later in the day, Loeffler appeared on Fox News to put blame for the Saturday death of 8-year-old Secoriea Turner, shot in the area where Rayshard Brooks died while fleeing police, on a Democratic indulgence of "mob rule":

"Crime is skyrocketing, violent crime is skyrocketing, it has doubled in many cities. And this is the time when we have to say let's put politics aside and put public safety first. We need strong leaders who are willing to do that.

"I've called to replace mob rule with the rule of law, and I was criticized but now look what has happened. A child has been murdered and this is wrong."

Throughout all this, never mentioned the name of Donald Trump, perhaps that she hasn't given up on establishing a foothold among suburban women who have fled to the Democratic Party.

But Loeffler was effusive in her praise for Gov. Brian Kemp and his decision to send National Guard troops into the city of Atlanta -- even if Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms didn't want them.

***

On something of a similar note: U.S. Sen. David Perdue is out with his first volley of TV ads this morning - and they echo his famed commercials in 2014 that helped catapult him to the top of the GOP heap in a jumbled primary. From a previous post:

The first spot, called "Justice," invokes the stalled Republican effort to overhaul law enforcement policies in the wake of the demonstrations triggered by George Floyd's death while in police custody…

The other ad, "Patriot," warns of the threat posed by the "radical left" and suggests [Democratic rival Jon] Ossoff and other partisans threaten American exceptionalism.

Perdue’s famed blue jean jacket from his 2014 campaign makes a cameo in each TV spot. But again, neither mentions Donald Trump.

***

This morning, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democratic rival to U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, offered this reaction to her WNBA letter:

"Instead of standing on the right side of history with the many leaders in the sports and business community, like the WNBA and NASCAR, Senator Kelly Loeffler has, unfortunately, chosen to give into the narrow impulses of tribalism and bigotry.

"The Black Lives Matter movement is an effort to give voice to the very real problem of injustice in our country. While we urge peaceful demonstrations, the pain in the Black community is still real and demands to be heard, no matter how inconvenient for Kelly Loeffler."

***

Already posted: U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, on Wednesday sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, urging a Justice Department investigation into Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard's decision to quickly charge two Atlanta police officers in the June 12 death of Rayshard Brooks – which Collins called an "egregious abuse of power." Howard is in an Aug. 11 runoff against a challenger to keep his seat for a seventh term.

***

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has a suggestion this morning for another use for the 1,000 National Guard troops deployed to protect state buildings in Atlanta.

“Perhaps the National Guard can help with testing too,” she wrote on Twitter.

The Democrat speaks from experience. She said Monday she tested positive for coronavirus. On Wednesday, however, she got back another test taken eight days earlier. Back then, only one person in her household had tested positive. Now she, her husband and one of her kids have it.

"If we had known sooner, we would have immediately quarantined," she wrote on Twitter. 

The National Guard has assisted with testing for months in Georgia, particularly at the state’s nursing homes. But that work shifted in June when troops were assigned to help keep the peace during nightly protests. Now the Guard is mostly focused on mobile testing operations.

What’s unclear is whether Bottoms was tested eight days ago for precautionary reasons or if she felt she had been exposed. If it’s the latter, she could face scrutiny for not quarantining herself earlier.

***

The Savannah Morning News reports that COVID-19 hospitalizations have nearly quadrupled in the area over the past month:

On Tuesday, 101 people were being treated for COVID-19 in Savannah's three hospitals, the first time the count topped 100 since the pandemic began. On June 7, that number was 26.

***

You know that Savannah and a handful of other cities are crossing Gov. Brian Kemp with their mandates for wearing masks indoors. This morning, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said she would join the crowd and sign an order requiring the use of masks in her city.

In fact, a contradiction in logic has risen up in the state's insistence but only the governor can lay down such a rule.

The University System of Georgia announced Monday that it would require students and faculty to wear face coverings in classrooms and other campus facilities if social distancing can't be done, reversing a prior position.

In metro Atlanta, local school systems are coming to the same conclusion.

If those bodies can implement tougher pandemic restrictions, why can't municipalities do the same?

***

Although they were apparently published more than two weeks ago, ballot-casting guidelines for November issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are just now drawing attention. From the Washington Post:

The guidance was issued with little fanfare on June 22 and suggested that state and local election officials take steps to minimize crowds at voting locations, including offering "alternative voting methods." President Trump has repeatedly claimed without evidence that one popular alternative — mail-in ballots — promotes widespread voter fraud.

Voters who want to cast ballots in person should consider showing up at off-peak times, bringing their own black ink pens or touch-screen pens for voting machines, and washing their hands before entering and after leaving the polling location, the guidance said. Workers and voters alike, it said, should wear face coverings.

The guidelines, which you can read here, are notably granular. From one section on "crowd and line management":

-- Consider increasing the number of polling locations available for early voting and extending the hours of operation.

-- Maintain or increase the total number of polling places available to the public on Election Day to improve the ability to social distance.

-- Unless there is no other option, do not increase the number of potential registered voters assigned to each polling place.

-- Minimize lines as much as possible, especially tightly spaced queues in small indoor spaces. Use floor markings or decals and signs to remind voters to maintain social distancing while in line.

-- Limit the number of voters in the facility by moving lines outdoors if weather permits or using a ticket system for access to the facility.

***

Another prominent Georgia Republican has joined the chorus of GOP officials backing John Cowan's bid for a U.S. House seat after the latest video of Marjorie Taylor Greene's racist and xenophobic comments emerged.

U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Augusta, joined several other members of the House delegation in backing Cowan, a neurosurgeon from Rome with deep roots in the 14th District.

Among the others who backing Cowan: U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter, Drew Ferguson and Austin Scott; and former congresswoman Karen Handel, who is making a comeback bid.

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