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The Jolt: ‘There’s nothing essential about going to a bowling alley,’ says Keisha Lance Bottoms

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms/MSNBC
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms/MSNBC

Twenty-four hours later, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms' reaction to Gov. Brian Kemp's decision to begin allowing businesses to open their doors only grew sharper. From an interview with MSNBC's Chuck Todd:

"Our numbers are not going down. And simply because we have hospital beds available, doesn't mean that we should work to fill them up. I am asking people to please stay home. Avail yourself of the services that we have through the city, whether it's through our food program, or our small business loan program.

"We need to, as government leaders, step up and give people an incentive to stay home. But there's nothing essential about going to a bowling alley in the middle of a pandemic."

Meanwhile, the governor of Georgia took his message to Fox News, describing the lifting of the business ban as incremental:

Kemp [said] that he's heard from droves of other Georgians who are "tired" of the shutdown that drained the economy, upended daily life and led to record unemployment claims.

"It's a tough balance. I understand where folks like the mayor and others may agree or disagree. I have some people protesting me because I took this step, and I may have others that protest me because I didn't go far enough," he said.

…He added: "If people don't want to open the gym, they don't have to. But when you close somebody's business down and take their livelihoods ... I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt."

Via CNN, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, a former state senator and former chairman of the Georgia GOP, threw some support Kemp's way:

"We've got to be very cautious about how we do this," said Paul, regarding Sandy Springs' approach to reopening the city. "We're still waiting on a little bit of guidance from the state to know how we are going to enforce all the different things that are going to be required, but we are going to implement it as safely and as conscientiously as we possibly can in Sandy Springs. And the health and safety of our citizens is going to be paramount."

***

On WGAU (1340AM) in Athens this morning, Gov. Brian Kemp said he would be meeting with House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan this week to discuss when the Legislature should reconvene. The body adjourned suddenly on March 13 as the coronavirus swept through the state Capitol.

Kemp said GOP leaders had two concerns. First, passing a budget that takes effect July 1 in time to take into account what are likely to be massive cuts. Secondly, the governor said, the legislative leaders are "waiting until it's a safe environment to do so, and have the proper protocols to where we can make sure that that's not a dangerous situation."

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More dramatic radio could be heard this morning on WAOK (1380AM), where Rashad Richey, once political director for the Georgia Democratic party, interviewed state Rep. Vernon Jones, D-Lithonia. The former DeKalb County CEO had just resigned his legislative seat after a storm of criticism rained down on him -- for endorsing President Donald Trump's re-election bid.

Our AJC colleague Maya T. Prabhu has some of the details here. But she also sent along a longer, more detailed version:

Jones again listed several of the positions he shared in the video announcing his support of President Donald Trump last week, including the black unemployment rate and criminal justice reform.

Richey accused Jones multiple times of trying to filibuster the interview.

"You don't get to come on my show and give a commentary," Richey said to Jones before the interview ended. "Sir, you don't get to do a commentary. This is a Q&A. Respect the interview."

During the conversation, Jones repeatedly accused Democrats of taking advantage of black voters, being racist and promoting bigotry – saying in a statement sent shortly before his appearance that announced his resignation that he was "leaving the plantation."

"I am woke," Jones said. "And I'm trying to wake up black people that their vote is being taken advantage of … The Democrats put everybody else's agenda ahead of them."

Richey pushed back, asking Jones why he spent the past several decades running as a Democrat if he felt that way.

"Yeah, but you took advantage of it by continuing to run as a damn Democrat when you knew you weren't, sir," Richey said. "What are you talking about? Did you take advantage of black people when you ran as a Democrat knowing good and damn well you were not?"

After about 20 contentious minutes, Jones abruptly ended the interview.

"I'm sorry you wouldn't let me continue to answer your questions without being interrupted," Jones said. "So thank you, again. I hope everybody out there votes for Donald Trump. Black people, stay woke. They're taking advantage of you."

Richey responded: "Have a good day sir, I appreciate your call. Thank you. Hang up on this clown, please."

***

Already posted: U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., is pivoting away from criticism over her stock trades by wading deeply into coronavirus relief:

Loeffler, likely the wealthiest member of Congress, has dipped into her own bank account to buy meals for first-responders, healthcare workers and, most recently, shell out a $1 million donation to the Phoebe Putney hospital system in hard-hit Albany to buy life-saving gear.

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We told you earlier this week about the "Reopen GA protest" scheduled for noon Friday at the state Capitol. The New York Times has a piece explaining that the movement against shelter-in-place orders by the nation's governors isn't as spontaneous as it might seem:

The groups have tapped their networks to drive up turnout at recent rallies in state capitals, dispatched their lawyers to file lawsuits, and paid for polling and research to undercut the arguments behind restrictions that have closed businesses and limited the movement of most Americans.

Among those fighting the orders are FreedomWorks and Tea Party Patriots, which played pivotal roles in the beginning of Tea Party protests starting more than a decade ago. Also involved are a law firm led partly by former Trump White House officials, a network of state-based conservative policy groups, and an ad hoc coalition of conservative leaders known as Save Our Country that has advised the White House on strategies for a tiered reopening of the economy.

The effort picked up some influential support on Tuesday, when Attorney General William P. Barr expressed concerns about state-level restrictions potentially infringing on constitutional rights, and suggested that, if that occurred, the Justice Department might weigh in, including by supporting legal challenges by others.

Now comes word of a “Not Dying for Wall Street” caravan protest in Atlanta to push back against Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to loosen restrictions on businesses. It will start at 4 p.m. Friday in intown Atlanta.

"At the peak of the coronavirus crisis, governors across the country are planning to force us to work in unsafe conditions," organizers wrote. "They believe their riches will keep them safe while they throw us into the furnace."

***

Our AJC colleague Mark Niesse says the first wave of absentee ballots for the June 9 primary are in the mail to nearly 650,000 Georgia voters who have requested them so far. Meanwhile, GPB News also reports on the impact that a flood of absentee ballot requests are having on local election officials:

Counties like Fayette, which has nearly 90,000 registered voters, are straining under the load of absentee ballot applications.

"We have been inundated," Election Supervisor Floyd Jones said. "We've got applications that are coming in by the bucket loads over here and they come in email nonstop."

The same holds true in Cobb County, where officials have approved 43,146 applications, more than anywhere else in the state. Cobb Elections Director Janine Eveler estimated last week roughly 100,000 more applications awaiting processing were stacked in mail trays across the office.

***

Count U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop among those who are questioning Gov. Kemp's decision to allow certain Georgia businesses to reopen on Friday.

Bishop, a Democrat, lives in Albany, which has one of the highest death rates caused by the coronavirus.

“While we have had some recent good news in Albany regarding decreased hospitalizations, it is not because the threat of the virus has passed,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. “We have seen a decrease in hospitalizations because of the shelter-in-place and social distancing, which help to protect everyone from people who do not know they are infected.”

The congressman said that the state should not reopen before increases in testing and other prevention measures are implemented.

“Without widespread testing and tracing, I fear reopening too soon will only lead to more grief than we currently feel with social distancing,” he said.

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A day after Gov. Brian Kemp announced his plans to ease coronavirus restrictions, his hometown fired back. The Athens Clarke County Commission unanimously passed a resolution calling for residents to continue a shelter in place and wear masks in public.

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Heads up: Stacey Abrams is joining The View this morning. The former Democratic gubernatorial nominee has been an outspoken opponent of Gov. Brian Kemp's plan to reopen sectors of the economy he shuttered earlier this month to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

***

Just in time for the final primary push, Sarah Riggs Amico has an updated website for her Senate campaign. Check it out here. 

***

Over 240 members of the U.S. House have signed a letter requesting help for local media organizations during the pandemic-related economic downturn. The group includes eight members from Georgia: U.S. Reps. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville; Buddy Carter, R-Pooler; David Scott, D-Atlanta; Austin Scott, R-Tifton; Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville; Tom Graves, R-Ranger; Lucy McBath, D-Marietta; and Drew Ferguson, R-West Point.

The letter, sent to President Donald Trump, asks his administration to use its executive powers in ways that can provide a quick boost to newspapers, radio and television stations. The lawmakers' ideas include using federal dollars to purchase advertising and also to direct stimulus funding to media organizations.

"As in many of our nation's most challenging times, the public turns to free and local media for life-saving information and breaking news, because local radio, television and newspapers are still the most trusted sources in times of emergency and disaster," the letter said. "We urge you (to) work with us in ensuring that local media can continue to inform communities, even as these outlets face unprecedented economic distress."

Members of Congress may also discuss stimulus for media organizations as part of a fourth coronavirus-related bill that is starting to take shape.

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