Despite the worst measles outbreak in decades, few state legislatures this year have reconsidered the exemptions that families use to avoid inoculating their children. (Andrey Popov/Dreamstime/TNS)
Photo: Andrey Popov/TNS
Photo: Andrey Popov/TNS

The Jolt: State GOP official blames immigrants, not anti-vaxxers, for disease spikes

Earlier this week, Politico.com focused on a bit of California weirdness – an anti-vaccine movement that compares itself with the 1960s fight for civil rights and racial equality. The lede:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A chorus of mostly white women sang the gospel song “We Shall Overcome” in the California State Capitol, an anthem of the civil rights movement. Mothers rallied outside the governor's office and marched through Capitol corridors chanting “No segregation, no discrimination, yes on education for all!" Some wore T-shirts that read “Freedom Keepers."

One could easily dismiss this as a case of West Coast grift that’s spreading disease in very specific (and often) wealthy portions of that state, but for the fact that the article resonated with one particular Georgia Republican.

Brant Frost V is chairman of the Coweta County GOP and second vice president of the Republican Party of Georgia. From his Twitter account on Thursday:

This crisis is largely due to uncontrolled borders and the failure to screen people for diseases. It’s sad to see these moms being used as scapegoats to cover up for the government’s failure to secure the border. #BuildTheWall

You’ll remember Frost as the fellow who, last month, pointed out that conservatives will overcome, eventually, because conservative women have more babies than liberal women.

Update: Frost quickly took issue with the above headline. Via Twitter:

That’s a false headline. I said “It’s not the fault of the illegals that they have these illnesses, it’s the fault of the feds for not properly screening and controlling the borders. This whole sad episode was totally avoidable.”

***

The above has a connection to the Oct. 1 runoff for state House District 71, a seat dominated by Coweta County. County GOP chairman Brant Frost is a member of the Republican faction in support of Philip Singleton, who faces Marcy Westmoreland Sakrison, also a Republican.

Singleton has been endorsed by WSB Radio host Erick Erickson because of the candidate’s willingness to oppose David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, as House speaker.

The language has gotten sharp. On Thursday, Erickson made an on-air reference to Sakrison as a “white Stacey Abrams.”

***

Also from Politico.com this morning is a piece on the U.S. Senate’s decision to cede any attempt to overhaul the nation’s gun laws to President Donald Trump and his White House staff. The chamber simply cannot compete, according to one senator who may now feel more free to express himself:

“First time ever in history when the president sets the agenda every day when he tweets at 4 in the morning,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who is retiring at the end of the year and saw his work on an immigration bill fall apart last year after Trump came out against it. “Pelosi will drive some trains, Mitch will drive others. And the president is going to drive ones he wants to drive.”

***

Let the public jockeying begin. Up until now, there’s been a reluctance among potential appointees to the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Johnny Isakson to speak publicly about their chances. Public Service Commissioner Tim Echols has ended that. 

Echols, who has admitted in notes to donors he’s a long shot contender, has taken to the airwaves and to social media touting his chances. 

“If @GovKemp wants a seasoned fighter, he should pick @RepDougCollins,” Echols tweeted this morning. “If he needs someone who can run 4 statewide campaigns in 2 years & bring in grassroots campaigners to knock doors, he might take a look at yours truly. Honored to have received the most votes of all time in GA.”

Echols might feel he has nothing to lose. He has not been viewed as a serious contender for the job by anyone close to Kemp, who told WSB on Thursday that the Republican wasn’t on his radar: 

“Tim’s a statewide elected official, so he’s got a statewide base out there. I wasn’t aware that he would have been interested before this process, so there you go.”

Contrast Echols with the relative silence from other wouldbe U.S. senators, who are mostly not speaking publicly about their ambitions. That includes U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, who submitted his application on Thursday but has declined to elaborate. 

***

More from that interview with Aaron Diament of WSB-TV: As we’ve noted before, Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to create a public application system for the U.S. Senate seat has put some potential contenders in a bind by requiring them to publicly declare that they want to be considered.

It’s particularly tough for newly-elected statewide office-holders and candidates for other offices. Kemp said that’s not his worry.

The governor mentioned both Attorney General Chris Carr, a former Isakson deputy who won a four-year term in November and former U.S. Rep. Karen Handel as she’s seeking a rematch against U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, next year. said Kemp:

“I talked to Karen Handel and Chris Carr and a lot of other people all the time, and have talked to them previously about these positions ... I understand it’s politically sensitive for them, but it doesn’t concern me.”

***

The Guardian and the investigative news site Sludge crunched financial data for all 100 U.S. senators and found that more than half own corporate stock in major business sectors -- investments they argue could create conflicts of interest.

The investigation looks at the 51 senators and their spouses who own stock in five major sectors: energy, telecom, defense, finance and health. It found that Georgia’s U.S. Sen. David Perdue has investments valued at between $1.7 million and $6.3 million among the five sectors, making him the third most-invested senator in those categories.

Perdue has more invested in finance, securities and real estate stocks than any other member of the Senate Banking Committee, the report notes:

In addition to his considerable financial sector stock, the former Dollar General CEO has stock holdings worth as much as $2.8m in the energy and natural resources sector and up to $2m in the communications and electronics sector.

It’s legal for members of Congress to own stock in industries they help regulate as long as they’re not trading based on insider information. But there’s often a large gray area. Just ask former Georgia congressman Tom Price, who was pilloried by Democrats during his confirmation hearings as President Trump’s health secretary for trading health stocks while he worked on health care legislation. 

A Perdue spokesperson said the senator's assets "are managed by an outside financial advisor who ensures transactions are publicly reported in a timely fashion as required by the Senate Ethics Committee.”

***

One of your Insiders wrote recently about Keisha Lance Bottoms’ new role as a key Joe Biden surrogate. The former VP’s presidential campaign on Thursday announced a more detailed schedule for the Atlanta mayor’s swing through South Carolina on his behalf this weekend.

Bottoms will deliver a keynote address at the Laurens County Democratic Party’s annual dinner on Friday and make stops in Columbia and Charleston on Saturday, capping the day off with a speech at the South Carolina Coalition for Voter Participation's annual dinner.

***

Catching you up on some U.S. House business:

-- Five Georgia Republicans – Buddy Carter of Pooler, Doug Collins of Gainesville, Drew Ferguson of West Point, Tom Graves of Ranger and Rob Woodall of Lawrenceville – voted with all five of the state’s Democrats to pass a two-month stopgap bill to fund the federal government. The Senate is expected to pass it in short order, delaying a shutdown fight for now but setting up the possibility of a Thanksgiving melee.

-- The chamber is slated to vote today on a measure authored by U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, that would end forced arbitration clauses in employment, consumer and civil rights cases. Johnson said the widely-used practice benefits businesses at the expense of workers. Republicans say arbitration often offers a simpler and faster path to resolution than the judicial system, and they’re expected to almost universally oppose the bill.

-- Georgia Republicans, including Doug Collins of Gainesville, were sharply critical of Democrats’ new prescription drug pricing proposal on Thursday, with several describing it as a “socialist” federal takeover of health care. Allowing the government to negotiate the price of certain drugs, however, is an idea that President Donald Trump has embraced in the past, so we’re curious to see where this ends up. 

***

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is ramping up the pressure on Congress to pass President Trump's new Canada-Mexico trade deal. On Thursday, Perdue joined seven of his predecessors stretching back to the Reagan administration in new letter urging leaders to advance the measure. "USMCA will provide certainty in the North American market for the U.S. farm sector and rural economy," the group said, using the acronym for the trade agreement. 

***

Seventh District candidate Lynne Homrich, a Republican, was a guest Thursday at a fundraiser that U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik held for E-PAC, which she’s using to help elect conservative women. It could be an early sign that some Washington groups are picking sides in the crowded contest, which features more than a dozen candidates from both parties.

***

Well, here’s a first: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp was quoted in the opening of a new two-part music video by T.I. and Teyana Taylor. 

Against a black backdrop, Kemp’s quote sharpens into focus: “In this city, Atlanta has become a hub for human trafficking. Innocent children are simply being sold for sex. Evil people committing evil deeds all to turn a profit.”

Watch it here. Be advised: it’s somber and depressing.

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