(AP Photo/Dan Loh)

Capitol Recap: In Georgia cities, politicos don’t mix

Coloring the political maps of Georgia’s metropolitan areas requires lots of care to stay within the lines.

Those Republican reds and Democratic blues are very distinct.

You can leave the purple crayon in the box, according to an analysis FiveThirtyEight conducted on urban political polarization.

Four Georgia metro areas — Columbus at No. 7, Augusta at No. 12, Savannah at No. 13 and Atlanta at No. 14 — helped populate the top rungs in the website’s ranking of political segregation of the nation’s 153 largest metro areas. The Southeast, stretching from Virginia to Texas, was well-represented. It held 15 of the first 20 spots (16 if your definition of the region includes Baltimore), and it provided the nine entries at the head of the list.

Ranking was based on a formula that involved vote totals for the two major parties in the 2016 presidential election. Democrats dominate in the cities, but that doesn’t mean Republicans don’t live in them. There just isn’t much mingling.

When searching for Republicans in these cities, FiveThirtyEight said it’s best to look in “the less-centralized, lower-density neighborhoods.”

“Even if you look within the same census tract or the same ZIP code or the same precinct, and even if you’re in a place like Manhattan, Republicans will search out the less-dense part to live in,” Washington University political scientist Steven Webster told the website.

So the bigger the lawn, the more likely you’ll find a GOP candidate’s sign planted in it.

FiveThirtyEight’s analysis identifies race as a big reason for the political segregation.

“We found a strong correlation between black-white segregation and political segregation,” it said. “Since black voters are almost uniformly Democrats, it stands to reason that when many of a city’s black residents live in just a few areas, those areas will be overwhelmingly Democratic, and fewer Democrats will be living next door to Republicans.”

But FiveThirtyEight also found that some of the nation’s whitest metropolitan areas were politically segregated, too.

So what’s with these political silos on the urban landscape? FiveThirtyEight said there are a multitude of theories.

Bill Bishop, a journalist who co-wrote the 2008 book “The Big Sort,” told the website that “it’s identity all the way down.”

“Places are getting more segregated,” he said. “It is a function of choice, economy, work, lifestyle. … Lifestyle these days equate(s) to political choice.”

The 7th race, at its heart: We haven’t heard from the voters yet — they won’t make their final case until November 2020 — but candidates in the 7th Congressional District appear ready to make that election about the state’s new anti-abortion law.

That includes Republican state Sen. Renee Unterman of Buford, who still remains in the category marked “likely to run.”

Unterman had a quick response to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article about how the district attorneys in metro Atlanta’s four most populous counties have said they will approach the law. All four said they don’t intend to prosecute women, under House Bill 481, the state’s “heartbeat” law, when it takes effect Jan. 1. Some said they also don’t intend to prosecute abortion providers, raising questions about ambiguity in the law and whether it’s constitutional.

“Between Socialist Stacey, ACLU, & Planned Parenthood…if that’s not a call to action @GaRepublicans, there never will be one in Georgia,” Unterman, who shepherded the legislation through the state Senate, said in a tweet.

Unterman also initially said the law targets women seeking abortion before she later clarified that she meant it sought to crack down on abortion providers.

Some Democrats in the race appeared willing to make it about both Unterman and the new law, which would ban most abortions at around six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.

“We’re going to flip your Senate seat and this Congressional district. Girl, bye,” Nabilah Islam wrote.

Carolyn Bourdeaux, the Democratic runner-up in last year’s 7th District election, wrote on Twitter: “.@GeorgiaDemocrat’s, if THIS isn’t our call to action, nothing else will be. If you value having control over your own body, I’ll see you at the ballot box.”

The 7th District race also continues to grow like kudzu. Dr. Rich McCormick, an emergency medicine physician and military veteran, this past week became the third Republican to join the race. Five Democrats are also running, and more could dust off their track shoes.

More to come: Abortion will also reach into elections elsewhere.

Georgia’s WIN List, which backs Democratic women who support abortion rights, arranged a press conference at the state Capitol where six women announced they would be seeking office.

Melita Easters, the executive director of the WIN List, said the successes women saw in November’s legislative races — 14 new women entered the General Assembly this year — was not enough to fight back an abortion bill they knew was coming, since Brian Kemp promised to sign the toughest such measure in the nation while campaigning in last year’s governor’s race.

“There is still much work to do as we seek to finish the job of turning Georgia blue,” Easters said.

One of the the new candidates, Kelly Rose of McDonough, said HB 481 motivated her decision.

Rose said a talk she held with her 8-year-old daughter about bullying helped convince her she should run.

She told her daughter the best way to handle a bully is to come together as a community and stand up for what you believe in.

“The way I feel, this Legislature is being a bully,” she said. “Bullies act out of fear and to preserve perceived power.”

Rose will be running against Republican state Sen. Brian Stickland of McDonough, who is serving his first full term in the Senate and is a Kemp floor leader.

Joyce Barlow, a registered nurse from Albany, is seeking a rematch against state Rep. Gerald Greene. She lost to the 19-term Republican in November by about 1,400 votes.

“If I don’t step up to be concerned about our families, then we’re going to leave it to the people who are serving special-interest groups,” Barlow said of Republican incumbents.

In all, five of the women will be running for the state Legislature, while Karen Lupton has her eyes on the Chamblee City Council.

This is the second rollout of candidates by WIN List. Just days after the legislative session ended last month, the group announced that seven women were launching legislative campaigns against Republican incumbents.

Anti-abortion groups are also gearing up for the elections. The Georgia Life Alliance announced earlier this month that it’s planning a $1 million effort to knock on 1 million doors to support anti-abortion candidates.

“Religious liberty,” the fast-food version: In Texas, the “religious liberty” debate comes with a side of waffle fries.

A “Save Chick-fil-A” measure cleared the Texas state House this past week. It would block government from taking action against businesses or individuals based on membership, support or donations to religious groups.

How did legislation in Texas take on the name of the Atlanta-based fast-food chain known for advertising that employs cows who are creative spellers?

The San Antonio City Council voted to deny Chick-fil-A a location at the city’s airport because of the company’s “legacy of anti-LGBTQ behavior.”

Back in 2012, Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy made comments opposing the concept of same-sex marriage.

“We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit,” Cathy said in article published by the Baptist Press. “We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.”

That prompted calls for a boycott. But words never really turned into action.

Still, the issue comes up occasionally. A New Jesey university banned Chick-fil-A, and the company also faced pushback when it tried to open a restaurant at a New York airport.

Chick-fil-A isn’t entirely happy about its name being branded on Texas legislation, and it has tried to separate itself from Cathy’s comments. In a statement, it said it has no “political or social agenda” and that it doesn’t discriminate.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott appears to be an “Eat Mor Chikin” kind of guy.

“So what are the odds I’ll sign the Chick-fil-A bill?” Abbott wrote in a tweet featuring a photo of one of the company’s cups resting on his laptop. “I’ll let you know after dinner.”

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