The Jolt: When it comes to the pandemic, Georgia may be immune to a rural-urban divide

Protesters carry rifles near the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Flag-waving, honking protesters drove past the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday to show their displeasure with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's orders to keep people at home and businesses locked during the new coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Protesters carry rifles near the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, Mich., Wednesday, April 15, 2020. Flag-waving, honking protesters drove past the Michigan Capitol on Wednesday to show their displeasure with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's orders to keep people at home and businesses locked during the new coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Credit: Paul Sancya

Credit: Paul Sancya

Protests over stay-at-home orders issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan have sparked much conversation over conservative impatience with restrictions required by public health officials during the pandemic.

They have also caused us to wonder whether Jack Kingston, the former congressman, still calls Georgia home. Consider these lines from the Daily Beast:

Republican operatives say the burgeoning movement against coronavirus restrictions could end up stressing an already heavily stressed body politic even further, with conservative activists challenging their governors in increasingly dramatic fashion. Former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), who is a close White House ally, said he felt the country was nearing a tipping point.

"I think it could be a combination of politics, misinformation, economic hardship, emotion/anxiety, and well-intentioned civil disobedience," Kingston wrote. "The liquor stores and dispensaries are open but I can't buy gun!"

Actually, he can buy a gun. From a recent piece by our AJC colleague Maya Prabhu:

Gov. Brian Kemp's executive order instructing Georgians to shelter at home to stem the spread of COVID-19 beginning Friday made it clear that the sale of guns and ammunition will not be banned — state law won't allow it.

"Nothing in this order shall be construed to suspend or limit the sale, dispensing, or transportation of firearms, or any component thereof," the order states.

The law passed in 2014 was part of sweeping changes that also removed guns and ammunition from provisions that allow a governor to ban the sale of alcohol, explosives or combustibles — as long as those "explosives" and "combustibles" are not guns or ammunition. The legislation also vastly expanded where Georgians with a carry license can legally take firearms, including schools, bars and most government buildings.

That said, there is a significant rural vs. urban/suburban divide when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic and perceptions of its dangers. But in a very painful way, Georgia may have been inoculated against that tension. Because it may come down to personal experience.  From The Atlantic magazine:

Perhaps the most extreme example: The counties in New York State that fall under the largest metro category—New York City and its environs—have 12,454 cases per million residents. That's compared with 3,304 in New York's midsize metros, 1,556 in the smaller metros, and 915 in the nonmetro counties. In Michigan, where the Detroit area has been ravaged by the disease, the caseload drops from 4,787 per million residents in the largest counties to 1,000 per million in the midsize metros, 874 in the smaller metros, and just 346 in the nonmetro counties.

…The few exceptions were states that have suffered large outbreaks in rural areas, such as Georgia (where the caseload in small places is as heavy as in the big cities) and Arizona (where the caseload in nonmetro counties has exceeded that of the biggest places).

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Much as Georgia Democrats would like to snag at least one of two U.S. Senate seats up for grabs in November, the Washington Post is picking up signs of doubt:

So far, no major party-affiliated campaign committee or super PAC has placed ad reservations in Georgia for the fall, even as a competitive presidential race in the state threatens to drive up advertising prices.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidates in the two races have posted relatively modest fundraising totals, with [Stacey] Abrams's well-publicized decision to skip a Senate run fueling perceptions in Washington and among donors nationally that the two races may be long shots. Instead, money has flowed more readily into Arizona, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and even Iowa and Kentucky — states where many Democrats see a more likely path to the majority.

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Yet, as we mentioned Thursday, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat and pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, outraised both U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins in his bid for Loeffler's seat in the first three months of the year. And this morning, The Hill newspaper tells us this:

Democratic Senate candidate Jamie Harrison outpaced Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) in fundraising during the first three months of 2020, marking the first time the Democrat has done so this election cycle.

Harrison raised more than $7.3 million in the first quarter of the year, dwarfing the $3.5 million he raised in the fourth quarter of 2019 and setting a new South Carolina record for fundraising in a three-month period, his campaign said.

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Carolyn Hall Fisher, the first vice chair of the Georgia GOP, took to Facebook yesterday with this message about New York's governor: "Why do we have to listen to Guido Cuomo Every. Damned. Day?"

Her use of racist language quickly caught the attention of several folks who alerted us. When reached for comment, she deleted the post and apologized.

“I have grown frustrated during the quarantine watching the relentless attacks on President Trump by Governor Cuomo and others. I disagree strongly with Governor Cuomo but was wrong to have insulted him in any way.”

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Supporters of U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler took a certain satisfaction that she was tapped to President Donald Trump's bipartisan coronavirus economic task force -- and archrival U.S. Rep. Doug Collins did not.

Both Loeffler and her counterpart, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, will serve on President Donald Trump's Congressional Economic Task Force. In fact, every GOP member of the U.S. Senate was tapped for the panel, except Trump critic Mitt Romney.

The announcement wasn't all roses for Loeffler, who continues to take a beating on social media about her stock trading during the pandemic. In response to her message on Twitter about serving on the board, Comedy Central's news satire program The Daily Show posted this response:

"Lotta people knocking this, but Senator Loeffler has personally created dozens of jobs for federal investigators probing insider trading."

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Already posted:

-- Mark McDonough, once the top public safety official in Gov. Brian Kemp's administration, has endorsed U.S. Rep. Doug Collins' campaign for U.S. Senate, siding with the four-term Republican over the governor's hand-picked choice for the seat.

-- Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ed Tarver has called on a powerful Washington group to withdraw its support for his rival, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who last month was accused by his wife of running over her foot with his car during an argument. Warnock denies the accusation.

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Tucked into U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler's campaign expense reports are about $64,000 worth of in-kind contributions for campaign-related trips on the financial executive's private jet.

Her spokesman, Stephen Lawson, said the payments reflect campaign flights in January and February and don’t include any costs related to official U.S. Senate travel.

The trips include a Jan. 2 flight that cost roughly $17,000, a three-leg flight from Feb. 10-13 that amounted to roughly $38,000 and a Feb. 19 trip that cost around $9,000.

An earlier amendment showed a campaign-related flight on Dec. 23 that amounted to $9,484, Lawson said.

The senator’s opponents have mocked her use of the private jet, which her spokesman has said helps save public dollars that would otherwise be spent reimbursing her for flights to official duties.

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State Sen. Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, will succeed the late Jack Hill as chairman of the all-important Senate Appropriations Committee -- a sign of Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan's clout.

The lieutenant governor is one of five Senate officials on the committee of assignments, which doles out the coveted posts. And he was an early supporter of Tillery, an attorney, to take charge of the budget-writing committee.

We’re told the conference call opened with Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller nominating Tillery, who is also on the committee, followed by Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan backing state Sen. Steve Gooch of Dahlonega.

After none of the other four lawmakers seconded Gooch’s nomination, the deal was done. The vote for Tillery was unanimous.

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Local writer CB Hackworth, a longtime associate of former mayor and U.S. ambassador Andrew Young, sends us this dispatch about an old friend:

The former top spokesperson and lobbyist for the Medical Association of Georgia has died of complications from COVID-19.

Priscilla Daves, 71, represented the powerful, 6,000-member physician group throughout most of the '90s, and in that capacity was an outspoken advocate for doctors. She was the voice of their opposition to greater authority for nurse practitioners, often citing a lack of sufficient training.

Workers at Pruitthealth Marietta, the assisted care facility where Daves had been living, called 911 on Wednesday morning after she was found with a high fever and low oxygen level. Unresponsive upon arrival at Kennestone Hospital, she was quickly intubated quickly, but died early in the afternoon.

"Physicians enter medicine to help people," she once wrote. "Unfortunately, because they spend too much time fighting through paperwork and by phone with insurance companies and the government every day on the patients' behalf, they may not always be able to give you all the time you would like."

Daves was uniquely qualified for the job. As a longtime, award-winning journalist, she had long navigated the halls and back rooms of the Gold Dome with unusual familiarity, rubbing elbows with the state's most powerful lawmakers. She made no qualms about it – and said as much in 1992, when the medical association was criticized for its $3,500 donation to a Political Action Committee set up to benefit House Speaker Tom Murphy, even though he was unopposed for re-election.

"Let's face it, Tom Murphy is a powerful individual" she told Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters unapologetically. "If you want to have one friend in Georgia, you want it to be Tom Murphy."

Before she represented the Medical Association of Georgia, Priscilla Daves was known as something of a crusading reporter – with the state Capitol often in her crosshairs. She was a formidable adversary when covering the General Assembly in Atlanta, but navigated the Gold Dome with a kind of Southern grace that could charm the truth out of lawmakers who sometimes would have preferred it not come to light.

"Priscilla could turn out the copy," recalls Phil Hudgins, her first city editor at The Times in Gainesville. "And no one was going to run over her. She knew her rights as a reporter, and she stood her ground. She also loved a good laugh."

Colleagues at The Times and elsewhere remember her as a fearless, determined reporter who could get to the bottom of almost any story. A native of Jefferson, she reported for the Jackson Herald, The Savannah Morning as well as The Times. A graduate of Jefferson High School and the Henry Grady School of Journalism at the University of Georgia, her ties to the community provided her with sources across North Georgia but also keen, compassionate insight into the region and its people.

Sadly, in recent years, she suffered a number of serious health challenges, but remained keenly empathetic to the needs of others.

"Although the effects of surgeries and other treatments for cancer took away much of her capacity to perform at a sustainable level, she never stopped trying," said Jackie Sosby, who was her district editor at The Times and remained a lifelong friend. "Priscilla was always supportive both professional and personally. However, she never shied away from giving me a needed reality check or helping me see humor in what I saw only as a dire situation."

Among many other accolades, she was named Conservation Communicator of the Year (1985-86) by the Georgia Wildlife Federation and was the recipient of the Jack Lindsay "Service Above Self" award (2012-13) from the Jefferson Rotary Club.

After leaving newspapers, she headed communications for Brenau College and the Medical Association of Georgia before starting her own marketing firm, The Daves Group. She also co-edited a magazine focused on Jackson County and, as editor, worked with students to produce the Jackson County Comprehensive High School newsletter.

Priscilla's deep love of history, Southern traditions and loyalty to causes in which she believed was evident to all. When she worked with the city of Arcade to create a permanent tribute to veterans on City Hall grounds, she donated a large school bell that became focal point of the structure. The design of the memorial reflected her appreciation and commitment to a love of country.

Former colleague Stacy Jenson recalls Priscilla's letters recounting her battles with squirrels sent to cheer up Jenson's husband while he was in a nursing home. "She made the ordinary extraordinary," said Jenson.

She also organized a Girl Scout patch program introducing girls to the medical field. "All I did was mention that it would be nice to have, and she just ran with it," said friend Christine Enck. "Priscilla arranged speakers and shadowing opportunities for the Scouts. My daughter earned that badge and went on to become a physician."

She maintained a lifelong connection to her native Jackson County. In addition to her newspaper and magazine work there, she served on the board of directors of the Crawford W. Long Museum and was active in many civic groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club. She was a member of First Christian Church in Jefferson.

Priscilla was pre-deceased by her parents, Jewell and Boyd Daves, as well as her sister, Lucretia Sears. She is survived by her sister Teresa Sauls of Jefferson, and her nephew, Jonathan Sears of Atlanta.

A memorial service is not possible at this time, but will be held at a later date.

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