PG A.M.: Winners and losers of Georgia’s runoff elections

Your daily jolt of news and analysis from the AJC politics team
Former Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson  (second from right) will be the next chief executive officer of DeKalb County.

Credit: Jenni Girtman for the AJC

Credit: Jenni Girtman for the AJC

Former Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson (second from right) will be the next chief executive officer of DeKalb County.

It can be tricky to draw too many conclusions from low-turnout elections such as Georgia’s runoffs held on Tuesday. But several distinct themes emerged as the results came in from the legislative and nonpartisan races around the state.

Among the takeaways:

Alieka Anderson will be the next Clayton County Commission chair.

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

Historic wins. Five Black women are now poised to lead metro Atlanta county commissions with victories by Alieka Anderson in Clayton County and Lorraine Cochran-Johnson in DeKalb County. They’ll join Black women who lead governance in Cobb, Gwinnett and Henry counties.

JaNice VanNess, once an outspoken Republican, ran as a Democrat and won the commission chair slot in Rockdale County.

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

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Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

The Democratic establishment fell flat. Dozens of Democratic elders picked sides in two county chair races and a middle Georgia legislative seat — and lost all three of them. JaNice VanNess won the commission chair slot in Rockdale County, Cochran-Johnson prevailed to become the next CEO of DeKalb County and Tangie Herring captured a state House seat in middle Georgia.

“A recalibration in the Democratic voter base happened last night,” said Fred Hicks, a political strategist who worked for Cochran-Johnson. “It’s truly a new day.”

A review by an outside attorney hired by Georgia House Democrats determined that allegations against Minority Leader James Beverly (right), including sexual harassment, “cannot be substantiated.”

Credit: Christina Matacotta for the AJC

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Credit: Christina Matacotta for the AJC

The House Democratic caucus came up short. The internal turmoil over embattled House Minority Leader James Beverly may be taking its toll. With no active staff and ongoing infighting, the caucus’ struggles have been on display the last two elections.

In May, state Rep. Teri Anulewicz was ousted by Democratic Socialist Gabriel Sanchez after receiving little backup from the caucus in that Smyrna-based district. Republicans will surely work to brand her far-left successor the new face of their rival party.

And on Tuesday, a coalition of local leaders fended off attempts by Beverly to boost Juawn Jackson in the race for a court-ordered majority-Black legislative district in parts of Bibb County. Herring, an educator, prevailed instead.

Contrast the House Democrats struggles with winning efforts by the Senate Democrats who went all-in backing Kenya Wicks in an open south metro Atlanta seat and who also boosted state Sen. Elena Parent in her successful May primary contest.

House Republicans, meanwhile, scored a win Tuesday night when they successfully defended state Rep. Steven Sainz of St. Marys against a challenger on the coast, although freshman state Rep. Lauren Daniel, R-Locust Grove, was defeated in May.

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Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns named four members of a new commission focused on health care access.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

HEALTH CARE WATCH. House Speaker Jon Burns rolled out four members of a new commission that will wrestle over how to expand health care access.

The appointees to the Comprehensive Health Coverage Commission are: Pam Clayton of the Georgia Health Care Association, Dr. Sid Moore, Dr. John Odom and Dr. Delvecchio Finley.

“Expanding access to health care for low-income Georgia families in a fiscally responsible manner has been — and continues to be — a top priority for House Republicans,” Burns, R-Newington, said of the process.

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State Sen. Nabilah Islam Parkes, D-Lawrenceville, is critical of Attorney General Chris Carr for joining a GOP challenge to recent workplace protections for pregnant women.

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

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Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

CARR CHALLENGE. Attorney General Chris Carr is getting heat from Democratic state Sen. Nabilah Islam Parkes of Lawrenceville for joining a recently failed GOP challenge to recent workplace protections for pregnant women.

In a letter to Carr, Islam Parkes called his decision to challenge rules established under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act “ridiculous” and “an insult to Georgians.”

Specifically, she said the new law means that pregnant women or women who have just given birth would be entitled to “very basic accommodations — allowing them to drink water as needed, take necessary bathroom breaks, sit down as needed, and have essential lactation periods.”

But a spokeswoman for Carr said his objections were not to the underlying legislation, which had broad bipartisan support, but to the rules put in place by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after the law passed. Among the mandates was to include abortion in the definition of “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions” that employers would need to accommodate under the law.

“The Biden administration wants to force states and employers to subsidize abortion, and they’re using an executive agency to go around Congress and illegally expand the law,” Carr’s spokeswoman, Kara Murray, said. “Sen. Islam Parkes is wrong both factually and legally.”

The challenge to the law from a group of Republican attorneys general, including Carr, was dismissed by a federal judge last week and Islam Parkes’ letter asked Carr not to appeal the decision. The state of Tennessee has announced it will challenge the ruling. Carr will decide about Georgia’s challenge once the details of the Tennessee appeal are available.

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TRUMP FORCE LANDING. The ground operation for former President Donald Trump is starting to take shape with an announcement of a “Trump Force 47″ campaign office in Martinez.

The Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and the Georgia GOP will host a grand opening of the Columbia County office Friday. Expect that event to look like the grand opening last week of the state’s first “Trump Force 47″ office in Fayetteville, with former HUD Secretary Ben Carson coming to Georgia to cut the ribbon.

The Trump operation has to this point been far less visible than President Joe Biden’s campaign in Georgia, which brought top staff to the state months ago and opened a Black voter outreach office in Savannah in May. That followed multiple visits to the state by both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

With top staff now in place in Georgia and more than a dozen field offices in the works, look for more visibility from Trump’s team through November.

Both Biden and Trump will be in Atlanta next week for the first presidential debate of the 2024 campaign.

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Pro-Donald Trump ads aired in Atlanta earlier this week.

Credit: Jeffrey Phelps/AP

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Credit: Jeffrey Phelps/AP

TRUMP ADS. People in metro Atlanta watching the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team Trials earlier this week found that many commercial breaks featured ads critical of President Joe Biden’s policies and performance.

The ads are sponsored by “Securing American Greatness,” a pro-Donald Trump political organization. One accuses Biden of refusing to address rising inflation in America.

“Is it dishonesty or dementia?” the narrator says.

Politico reports that Securing American Greatness is led by former Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich and classifies the organization as a “dark money” group that can raise unlimited funds without disclosing its donors as long as it doesn’t tell voters directly who they should or shouldn’t vote for.

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Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to a crowd of supporters during a Juneteenth gathering in Atlanta on Tuesday.

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

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Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

VP VISIT. The AJC’s Maya T. Prabhu spent Tuesday tailing Vice President Kamala Harris from the time she landed at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport around the lunch hour to her departure just in time for dinner.

While on the ground, Harris took part in a summit held by the Rocket Foundation, a nonprofit created by Atlanta-area rapper Quavo that works to end gun violence after his nephew Takeoff was fatally shot in 2022.

Harris, during remarks at the event at the Carter Center, focused on the Biden administration’s efforts to curb gun violence, including requiring background checks for every gun purchase and banning the sale of assault-style rifles.

Vice President Kamala Harris (right) greets hip-hop star Quavo at his summit to stop gun violence at the Carter Center in Atlanta on Tuesday,

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

The vice president then headed to a Juneteenth block party near the Loft Athletic Club in Atlanta, which is the Biden-Harris campaign’s newest office in Georgia. She walked on stage to Jermaine Dupri’s “Welcome to Atlanta” and delivered her second speech of the day.

“Think about Juneteenth as a call to action to register to vote,” she said. “Through this office right here we will gather, we will organize, we will build coalitions.”

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 U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen (center) will be in Atlanta today. She is pictured touring a solar cell manufacturing facility in Norcross in March.

Credit: Jenni Girtman for the AJC

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Credit: Jenni Girtman for the AJC

YELLEN VISIT. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen travels to Atlanta today to highlight a new public-private partnership focused on combating fentanyl trafficking by cutting off the flow of money to and from dealers.

She will also stop by a lunch meeting of the Metro Atlanta Chamber and tour a drug treatment program at Grady Memorial Hospital.

This will be Yellen’s second visit to Atlanta this year. In March, she toured a solar cell manufacturing plant in Norcross to highlight the Biden administration’s clean energy policies.

She also visited the Port of Savannah last September to tout the Georgia Ports Authority’s value to the U.S. economy and the Biden administration’s investments in infrastructure and clean energy.

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State Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain, is a guest today on the "Politically Georgia" show.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

LISTEN UP. Today’s episode of “Politically Georgia” includes a full analysis of the results of Tuesday’s night’s runoff elections. Republican strategist and Dentons principal Stephen Lawson and state Senate Democratic Leader Gloria Butler join the discussion.

Listen live at 10 a.m. on WABE 90.1 or follow “Politically Georgia” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Wednesday’s show was a special pre-taped “Juneteenth” episode featuring the AJC’s Mike Jordan, senior editor for UATL, along with preservationist Ann Hill Bond, freelance journalist and filmmaker King Williams and Tiffany Williams Roberts from the Southern Center for Human Rights.

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TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • President Joe Biden heads to Camp David for presidential debate prep.
  • The Senate has more confirmation votes lined up.
  • The House is on recess until Tuesday.

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Officer Flash successfully identified and helped seize a substantial amount of prohibited food items at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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Credit: U.S. Customs and Border Protection

DOG OF THE DAY. Today’s award goes to Officer Flash, a rescued Blue Ridge beagle who is among the newest class of sniffers for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection unit at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Flash’s journey to law enforcement started at the Blue Ridge Humane Society, where he was rescued, and later trained at the National Detector Dog Training Center in Newnan. After signing up with CBP, he became a member of the “Beagle Brigade” and tasked with hunting down contraband and prohibited agricultural items coming into the country.

On his first day on the job, Flash found infested beans, cow skin, herbs, soup mix, seeds, wood, and yams along with other fresh fruits, vegetables and meat products. Good dog, Flash! Your reward is being our Dog of the Day.

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AS ALWAYS, Politically Georgia readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to greg.bluestein@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com, patricia.murphy@ajc.com and adam.vanbrimmer@ajc.com.