The Jolt: After David Ralston asks for help, Kelly Loeffler condemns ‘blue state bailouts’

Negotiations over a multi trillion-dollar coronavirus relief package collapsed late last week, In large part because of disarray within Senate Republican ranks. The disagreement apparently carries into Georgia.

On Saturday, President Donald Trump moved unilaterally, making public an aid package that, among other things, called for a further extension of special unemployment benefits in the amount of $400 a week, down from $600.

But much as the Trump administration has put responsibility for pandemic policy on state shoulders, it is also interesting that state governments -- most of which are barred from spending beyond their means -- pick up the tab for coronavirus economic relief.

Under Trump’s executive order, $100 a week of that $400-a-week unemployment extension must come from state governments. Whether Georgia is inclined to chip in that amount is a question that Gov. Brian Kemp will quickly be required to answer.

Even more serious is the matter of emergency aid for state and local governments. One line from today's Wall Street Journal:

Democrats had wanted some $915 billion in state and local aid in their $3.5 trillion aid bill passed by the House in May. Republicans had offered $150 billion during negotiations.

-

Last week, House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, sent a letter to his U.S. senators urging Congress to provide a $500 billion relief package to states as governments across the country shed workers and cut programs because of the coronavirus recession. Two other ranking state lawmakers have done likewise.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge us on the state level regarding the delivery of services,” Ralston wrote. From our AJC colleague James Salzer:

In his letter to Perdue and Loeffler, Ralston said the revenue picture is “mirroring” the trajectory of the Great Recession, when the state ran through a $1.5 billion reserve quickly, furloughed thousands of state employees and cut k-12 school funding.

One of those senators, Kelly Loeffler, may have answered Ralston on Saturday, when she Tweeted out a clip of her interview on Fox news.

“We’ve been looking at a package that’s very focused at jobs, kids and health care,” Loeffler said – making no mention of the speaker’s worries.

Then she said this about Trump’s intentions: “He wants to make sure we don’t have blue state bailouts. We want to get back to the blue-collar boom that he built.”

“Blue state bailouts” has been code for GOP opposition to sending cash directly to state and local governments -- on the theory that Democratic-run states are in financial distress because of their own spending policies.

***

After photos of mask-less students at a Paulding County high school went viral, state Rep. Beth Moore had an idea.

The Democrat from Peachtree Corners set up an anonymous inbox -- reportmyschool@gmail.com -- for whistleblower tips, photos and videos about unsafe conditions at Georgia schools.

She says she’s been both overwhelmed and “shellshocked” by the response -- hundreds of messages in the last two days. The worst, she says, came from a teacher she verified as working in a north Georgia school district.

“I am planning for 27 students in my tiny classroom,” the unnamed teacher wrote her. “They are not making masks mandatory. My principal is joking to people that this is ‘god’s cleansing plan.’”

***

Over the years, we’ve seen the ambitions of many would-be politicians checked by their previous lives. Most often, it has been the money -- how they came by the fortune they gave them the leisure to seek elected office.

Novel-writing, too, may fall into that category of hazardous – and limiting – occupations. Late last week, the Huffington Post pointed to a book written by Matt Lieberman:

A Democratic Senate candidate in Georgia wrote and self-published a deeply bizarre novel in 2018, featuring a main character who believes that for most of his life he owned an imaginary slave who could communicate with plants and animals.

Lieberman [said] he wrote the book, titled “Lucius” after the name of the imaginary slave, in the wake of the 2017 white nationalist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, as “an honest examination of enduring racism against Blacks — which is real, harmful and totally infuriating.”

…”I know my approach to this delicate subject is not palatable for every reader,” Lieberman wrote in a statement. “I expected some readers to react with disgust.”

-

The red flag here is “self-published.” Editors exist for a reason.

But Lieberman was right. While we have not run into anyone who has actually read the book, many have reacted with disgust to descriptions of it. The problem is that many of those people are in Lieberman’s own Democratic party. Posted over the weekend:

The chairwoman of Georgia’s Democratic Party on Friday condemned Senate candidate Matt Lieberman for authoring a book with “racist and discriminatory tropes,” while the head of the state NAACP called on the Democrat to abandon the race…

“Let me be clear: racist and discriminatory tropes have no place in our politics and no place in the Democratic Party,” said Nikema Williams, a state senator and congressional candidate who is chairwoman of the party. “These kinds of offensive writings are antithetical to our party’s values and will not be tolerated.”

-

That Huffington Post piece got one thing wrong when it declared that Lieberman was one of two prominent Democrats gunning for Kelly Loeffler's seat in the U.S. Senate -- mentioning the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church as the other.

Ed Tarver of Augusta, a former state senator and federal prosecutor, is a third. He, too, took aim at Lieberman:

“During the current period of social unrest, Lieberman’s book creates further division with its use of derisive caricatures. This moment marks a period of reckoning and an opportunity for healing for all Americans, including the people of our great state.”

-

***

We’re not quite sure which of Georgia’s most prominent Democrats are speaking at the online-only convention next week, but we know at least one “real person” who has snagged a role.

Natasha Taylor drives a MARTA bus, is a member of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 732 and a Joe Biden supporter. She’s also among several rank-and-file folks selected to speak on behalf of the former vice president.

***

Georgia Democrats were critical of President Donald Trump’s weekend decision to sign multiple executive orders aimed to provide $400 a week for unemployment insurance benefits - down from the $600 benefit that expired on July 31 - after coronavirus relief negotiations fell apart in Congress.

Some of the harshest words came from Jon Ossoff, the Democratic nominee challenging Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue. Ossoff, who believes President Donald Trump didn’t go far enough, said on MSNBC:

“The president isn’t going to be able to dig us out of this economic crisis by executive order. This requires legislative action. He’s supposed to pride himself on his deal-making abilities but right now he looks more like a lame duck president who can’t get a package through Congress when the American people vitally need it.”

-

Perdue, meanwhile, is aggressively touting his proposal to help school districts buy protective gear and create a clearinghouse for teachers and administrators to share best safety practices. His wife Bonnie, a former teacher, wrote about it over the weekend in The Gwinnett Daily Post.

“Most importantly, this bill contains no mandates from the government, allowing local districts to make whatever decisions they feel are best. For instance, Fulton County has decided to start out entirely virtual this year. Forsyth County, on the other hand, is launching a hybrid between in-person and virtual. Under the SCHOOL Act, districts can take their own approach while having equal access to the resources they need when it’s time to reopen fully.”

-

***

As Georgia increasingly joins the conversation about battleground states, nation media is paying closer attention to our state politics. U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler was named-checked in a Politico article about Republicans’ attempts to define the Black Lives Matter movement as extremist.

Over the weekend, Washington Post profiled Rev. Raphael Warnock’s campaign for Loeffler’s Senate seat against the backdrop of national protests:

His bid to become Georgia’s first Black senator had already begun to find its footing after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the ensuing protests. And Tuesday, as the WNBA launched its pandemic-delayed season, many players adorned “VOTE WARNOCK” warm-up shirts before games, including those on the Atlanta Dream.

That’s the team Loeffler owns, a protest to the senator’s public opposition to basketball players embracing the Black Lives Matter movement.

Now Warnock gets to test something he highlighted when he launched his long-shot campaign on Jan. 30, touting his rise from one of 12 children growing up in the Savannah projects to running the church the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. used as his civil rights platform.

-

Then there was The Atlantic, with a biting essay about Gov. Brian Kemp’s leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic titled “America’s Authoritarian Governor.”

Lots of states—such as Florida, California, and New York—have mishandled the pandemic since it hit in March. But when you look closely at Georgia, you see a state with a leader unique among his peers. First-term Republican Governor Brian Kemp presided over a late shutdown so short that his reopening drew a public rebuke from President Donald Trump, who has frequently opposed shutdowns altogether. Kemp’s administration has repeatedly been accused of manipulating data to downplay the severity of the outbreak. He has sparred publicly with the state’s mayors and sued to stop them from implementing safety restrictions or even speaking to the press.

To understand the course that Georgia has plotted through the pandemic, you have to understand Kemp’s failures.

-

***

Marjorie Taylor Greene could get the green-light to Congress after Tuesday’s GOP runoff in the 14th District, and Politico writes that it could have been avoided if Republican leaders had spoken up and opened their wallets. But they haven’t and, although many GOP insiders believe Greene is problematic, it may not be enough to help opponent John Cowan win:

Of the top three GOP leaders in the House, only House Minority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana has helped Greene’s opponent, neurosurgeon John Cowan, raise money and contributed to his campaign. Outside groups have not made any significant investments in the primary runoff for the solidly red seat, despite pleas from rank-and-file Republicans. And there hasn’t been a tweet from President Donald Trump that could signal to his supporters that they should oppose her.

… The lack of intervention from national Republicans — despite their public rebukes of Greene — has frustrated and baffled GOP lawmakers, strategists and donors, who worry Greene’s victory would be a black eye for the party at a time when they are still grappling with a national reckoning over racial inequality.

-

***

The Seventh District congressional seat is currently held by Republican Rob Woodall, but the Democratic hoping to replace him is building an edge, according to updated forecasting by Inside Elections.

The nonpartisan group on Friday moved the general election race between Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux and Republic Rich McCormick from “toss up” to “tilt Democrat.”

About the Authors

ajc.com

ajc.com

ajc.com