Capitol Recap: Kemp puts guns on Georgia General Assembly’s agenda

Brian Kemp, shown during an ad promoting his successful campaign for governor in 2018, when he endorsed a measure to allow more Georgians to carry firearms without a permit, is now making a similar proposal a priority during the legislative session that opens Monday.

Brian Kemp, shown during an ad promoting his successful campaign for governor in 2018, when he endorsed a measure to allow more Georgians to carry firearms without a permit, is now making a similar proposal a priority during the legislative session that opens Monday.

Proposal would allow the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit

It’s an election year, and that means it’s time to dish out the red meat.

This week, it was Gov. Brian Kemp who was holding the serving fork, and he was hoping the state’s GOP base would go for the hot item on his legislative menu: a bill that would allow Georgians to carry concealed weapons without a state permit.

Kemp said the proposal would be designed to “give people their constitutional right to carry without a piece of paper from the government,” although he offered no details. It’s one of the first legislative initiatives he’s announced for 2022, meaning it’s a top priority for him during the legislative session that opens Monday.

Georgia law currently requires gun owners to pay about $75 — depending on the county probate court — to register with the state and pass a background check before being issued a license to carry a handgun in public.

Obviously, Kemp isn’t the only steakhouse in town. Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is challenging the governor in May’s GOP primary, served up a similar proposal weeks ago and slammed the governor for not acting more quickly to expand gun rights.

Guns were a central issue in Kemp’s 2018 campaign for governor. He backed a similar measure to do away with permits, although this is the first time he’s made it a legislative priority.

Featured prominently during that campaign were television ads that involved Kemp wielding firearms. One that gained a lot of attention showed him cleaning a shotgun that appeared to be pointed in the general direction of “Jake,” a young man purportedly courting his daughter.

That sparked some outrage from the left, not necessarily a problem for Kemp, who may have been banking on a similar reaction this time to beef up his bona fides with conservatives. If so, he quickly got what he was looking for.

“The same guy who pointed a gun at a teenager on TV now panders with reckless proposals threatening Georgia lives,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo, the campaign manager for Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is running once again for governor.

State Sen. Michelle Au, D-Johns Creek, suggested that gun owners should meet requirements similar to what Georgia drivers face.

“To obtain a Georgia driver’s license, one has to demonstrate competency to drive on public roads, fulfill an educational requirement, show proof of ID, and have no major traffic violation convictions in the last year,” she said. “Can we agree such licensing requirements exist for good reason?”

State Sen. Jason Anavitarte, a Paulding County Republican who last year sponsored legislation similar to Kemp’s proposal, was supportive.

“There’s no reason why we can’t get this done this year,” he said.

Kemp sees no need this year for additional action on abortion, elections

The expansion of gun rights is only one issue on Gov. Brian Kemp’s busy agenda for the legislative session that begins Monday.

Others include fulfilling a promise to raise teacher’s pay, encouraging in-person student learning during the coronavirus pandemic, and continuing a crackdown on gangs and human trafficking.

But the Republican currently plans to stand pat on some other hot-button issues, including efforts to further limit abortions and increase restrictions on voting.

Some Georgia GOP lawmakers are now pushing for the state to adopt legislation similar to a new Texas law that allows private citizens to sue anyone involved in facilitating abortions.

But Kemp told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that there is no need to pass new limits while the legislation he signed into law in 2019 works its way through the courts.

That law would ban abortions once fetal cardiac activity is detected, usually about six weeks into pregnancy and before many women know they’re pregnant.

A federal appeals court judge said he would hold off on deciding the fate of the Georgia law until the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling on a lawsuit challenging a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks.

“We’ve passed the most aggressive anti-abortion law in the country, and it’s also the most conservative,” Kemp said. “I’m very pleased with what we have.”

Kemp also sees no need to build on last year’s overhaul of the state’s election rules, even though some Republican legislators are pushing for more, including efforts to get rid of the state’s recently purchased touchscreen machines and ban the use of drop boxes to collect absentee ballots.

“We had the strongest election integrity law in the country, and I’m looking forward to continuing to talk about that and the good work we did,” Kemp said, adding that he and Attorney General Chris Carr will focus on “defending that legislation in court.”

Last year’s overhaul is currently facing a number of court challenges, including a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department.

Twitter, Facebook both take action against Greene over misinformation

Twitter cited its “COVID-19 misinformation policy” in permanently shutting down one of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s accounts.

Greene, who responded by calling Twitter “an enemy to America” that “can’t handle the truth,” still has a congressional Twitter account, @RepMTG, that remains active.

“That’s fine,” Greene said about suspension of the personal account, which had about 460,000 followers. “I’ll show America we don’t need them and it’s time to defeat our enemies. They can’t successfully complete a Communist revolution when people tell the truth. Social media platforms can’t stop the truth from being spread far and wide. Big Tech can’t stop the truth. Communist Democrats can’t stop the truth. I stand with the truth and the people. We will overcome!”

Twitter told CNN that the shutdown followed “repeated violations” concerning misinformation about COVID-19.

“We’ve been clear that, per our strike system for this policy, we will permanently suspend accounts for repeated violations of the policy.”

The New York Times reported that Greene had tweeted “extremely high amounts of Covid vaccine deaths.” Federal officials have reported no such information, and research has shown that recovery rates are higher among those who’ve been vaccinated.

Greene’s personal account had been suspended four other times, most recently in August.

The Republican from Rome also lost use of her Facebook account for a day after posting some of the same misinformation about vaccines.

Facebook said the post violated its community standards. The company says its policies don’t allow for deleting her account altogether.

Bill White, chairman of the Buckhead City Committee, which seeks to break off the wealthy neighborhood from the rest of Atlanta, tweeted and then deleted a social media post from a blog associated with white nationalists and anti-Semites. Several elected officials used White’s deleted post to say it served as proof that the Republican-led effort to create a wealthy, majority-white Buckhead City was rooted in racism. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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Credit: Jenni Girtman

Tweet and delete turn up heat on Buckhead breakaway leader

Critics jumped after the leader of an effort to break off Buckhead from the rest of the city of Atlanta tweeted and then deleted a social media post from a blog associated with white nationalists and anti-Semites.

Bill White, a force behind the cityhood initiative, remarked “@BuckheadCityGA Now” on a Twitter post from the VDARE account that equated majority-Black cities with “carnage” and crime.

White, a wealthy New York transplant and ally of former President Donald Trump, deleted the post hours later after it drew rebukes from civil rights leaders, Atlanta officials and Democratic legislators.

He told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he regretted amplifying a “nasty” comment from the account.

“I am not perfect and simply retweeted something too fast,” said White, who heads the Buckhead City Committee. “I’m sure I won’t be the first or the last person on Twitter to do that.”

Several elected officials said White’s deleted post served as proof that the Republican-led effort to create a wealthy, majority-white Buckhead City was rooted in racism.

“If Gov. Kemp or legislative leaders take up a Buckhead City proposal in the weeks to come, today’s events will define it,” said state Rep. Josh McLaurin, among the Democratic legislators opposing the proposal.

“You heard it directly from Bill White and the white supremacists he retweeted: The proposal is about racial division,” McLaurin said.

VDARE is an anti-immigration website founded in 1999 that routinely engages in white identity politics and has published the work of white supremacists and anti-Semites.

Peter Brimelow, the founder of the site, has denied that VDARE is a white nationalist publication, although he has also claimed that America cannot withstand a future where the country is not explicitly white.

Powerful Republicans have backed a proposal seeking a November referendum to carve Buckhead into its own municipality.

They include former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is challenging Gov. Brian Kemp in May’s GOP primary. Perdue’s endorsement of the idea has increased pressure on Kemp to follow suit, although he has yet to take a position on the proposal.

Appeals court slaps down third parties in ruling on petition signatures

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dealt a blow to third parties in Georgia when it overruled a lower court’s decision that would have eased a restriction for getting on the ballot for U.S. House races.

The appellate court restored a requirement under state law that third-party candidates petitioning for a spot on a House ballot collect signatures from at least 5% of registered voters.

U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May had reduced the threshold to 1% of registered voters for candidates running for nonstatewide office, the same percentage of signatures needed for statewide candidates.

May wrote in her September order that the 5% signature requirements created an “unconstitutional burden.”

A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit unanimously reversed May’s order based on an appeal by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. U.S. Circuit Judge Britt Grant, a former Georgia Supreme Court justice, wrote the decision.

No third-party candidate for the U.S. House has ever collected enough signatures to appear on the ballot in Georgia under the 1943 state law.

Candidates nominated by the Republican and Democratic parties automatically appear on the ballot.

Former Sen. David Perdue, who is running in the GOP primary to unseat Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, has hired several people who worked for Kemp's successful campaign for governor in 2018. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

Perdue wages fight against Kemp using governor’s onetime staffers

If former U.S. Sen. David Perdue beats Gov. Brian Kemp in May’s GOP primary, he will do it with help from some of the incumbent’s old crew.

Perdue added a pair of Kemp men to his campaign staff, Austin Chambers and Heath Thompson.

Chambers, who will serve as a general consultant to Perdue’s team, worked to boost Kemp’s campaign in 2018 through the Republican Governors Association.

Thompson, who will be Perdue’s TV media strategist, was a consultant to Kemp’s 2018 campaign.

Perdue’s campaign manager Taylor Brown, is also well known in Kemp’s circle. Brown ran then-U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s campaign shortly after Kemp appointed her to the office, hoping she would share the top of the Republican ticket with him this year.

Perdue has reportedly beefed up his campaign with several field staffers who worked for Republican Glenn Youngkin’s winning campaign for governor in Virginia, and more hires are expected.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath are running against each other in the 7th Congressional District. Now, they also have backed separate Democratic candidates in a state Senate race based in Gwinnett County.

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Democratic showdown for state Senate seat is bigger than its two candidates

This never would have happened 10 years ago.

As Georgia Democrats prepare for races this year that could potentially determine the direction of their party, ground zero could be Gwinnett County.

The onetime Republican stronghold is now the site of a congressional fight that will most likely be won by a Democrat — it’s just a matter of what type of Democrat.

After U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath saw her 6th Congressional District redrawn, transforming it into what should safely be Republican territory, she opted to become the liberal challenger in an intraparty contest with moderate U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in what is now a much more Democratic-friendly 7th District.

The same dynamic will now play out in a legislative race while still commanding the attention of Bourdeaux and McBath.

Activist Nabilah Islam has entered the race for an open Georgia Senate seat, armed with support from McBath. Islam placed third in the 7th District’s 2020 Democratic primary that Bourdeaux won. She gained attention then after nabbing the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a high-profile member of the Democrats’ liberal wing.

Islam will face state Rep. Beth Moore, a second-term legislator from Peachtree Corners who bears an endorsement from Bourdeaux.

The district was redrawn during November’s special legislative session, and it now heavily favors Democrats. It covers parts of Duluth, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree Corners and Suwanee, a fast-growing and diverse area where the populations of Hispanics and Asian Americans are increasing.

Candidates, endorsements, etc.:

— U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff endorsed fellow Democrat Stacey Abrams in her bid for governor.

State Rep. Winfred Dukes, a Democrat from Albany, has filed paperwork to run for agriculture commissioner, but he’s still not sure he’ll run for the post. Dukes, who has spent about 25 years in the Legislature, including 15 years on the House Agriculture Committee, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he wants to ‘float the idea” for now.

Michelle Munroe, a nurse who served as the first female commander of Winn Army Community Hospital at Fort Stewart, will run in the Democratic primary in the 1st Congressional District. She will face attorney Wade Herring, who raised $175,000 during the first three quarters of 2021. The winner will gain the right to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter.

— Chris West, one of several Republicans bidding to unseat Democratic U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop in southwest Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District, raised more than $100,000 in two weeks. He’s also signed on dozens of hosts for a Jan. 25 fundraiser in his hometown, Thomasville.