The Jolt: Atlanta’s vote is changing. Will it change the race for Mayor?

About four years ago, Keisha Lance Bottoms squeaked by Mary Norwood in a nail-biter to win election as Atlanta’s mayor. As she runs for re-election this year, she faces a far different – and potentially predominantly white – electorate.

A new analysis by the data gurus at Chism Strategies shows voter registration in the city is on path to have grown by 100,000 – roughly a third – over the last four years. They give Stacey Abrams’ New Georgia Project much of the credit for getting new names on the rolls, and Donald Trump credit for motivating turnout in 2020.

Most of the registration growth was in the heart of the city and southeast Atlanta, which features more diverse neighborhoods than the white enclaves of Buckhead.

But voter registration is just a step toward political engagement. In the four years before the 2020 vote, 54% of all new registrants in the city were Black, but fewer than one-third of that group actually cast a ballot in either the November election or January runoff. That’s compared with 74% of new white registrants, who also went to the polls.

The partisan makeup of the city has hardly budged. Hillary Clinton netted 81% of the city’s vote in 2016, Joe Biden carried Atlanta with 83%. But Biden improved on Clinton’s margins in the northern-most precincts of the city by about 11%, outdoing Trump 63-36.

But the demographic changes in the city’s voter participation might be the most fascinating part of the report: While Black voters now make up 57% of the registered voters in the city and white voters make up about one-third of the electorate, white voters passed Black voters in the 2020 elections to comprise a slim plurality of people in the city who cast ballots in the election. (Very slim – white voters made up 46% compared to 45% Black voters.)

Bottoms is facing at least one credible opponent so far: City Council President Felicia Moore, who is also Black. It’s not obvious how that will change the dynamics in the battle for City Hall this year, but you can bet it will be a factor that doesn’t go ignored by any candidate.

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UNDER THE GOLD DOME:

  • The House and Senate are in recess Friday, returning to work Monday.

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State Sen. Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain, wasn’t impressed by Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan’s recent boycott of the debate over Senate Bill 241, the GOP measure that would eliminate no-excuse absentee voting and add other major rollbacks to ballot access.

“I think you should have the courage to vote the way you feel about bills,” Butler told GPB’s Donna Lowry. “If you don’t like the bill vote no. If you like the bill vote yes, instead of walking out on it,” she said. “I don’t recall ever walking out on a bill. I stand up to it.”

Butler also raised issues with the process in the Senate Ethics Committee that produced SB 241. The committee frequently met at 7:00 am, held hearings for just an hour to debate the most controversial bills, and featured a 9-to-4 split between Republicans and Democrats.

Finally, Butler said she’s gotten a commitment that a Democrat will serve as a conferee on those election bills, whom she said will be Sen. Harold Jones, D-Augusta.

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President Joe Biden addressed the nation from the White House last night detailing the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that passed Congress this week. The bill includes $1,400 stimulus checks for 85% of American households, major child tax credits, and more than $4 billion in relief for Georgia schools.

But the measure has split Georgia leaders.

State House Speaker David Ralston is still steamed that the new law will prevent Georgia from cutting taxes for the next three years, including a modest income tax cut the House passed last week. Ralston took his concerns yesterday to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, after appealing to Georgia’s Democratic delegation and President Biden to modify the bill.

Yellen will write the regs about how the bill will be implemented.

On the other side are U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, who will each be in Atlanta today talking up the bill at separate appearances.

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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will make a joint appearance in Atlanta March 19 as a part of their “Help is Here” tour, selling the benefits of the COVID package.

It will also be a bit of a victory lap for Biden and Harris, who were regulars on the Georgia campaign trail in 2020 and flipped the state Blue (at least at the top of the ticket) for the first time since 1992.

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U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff has hired Donni Turner as his new Legislative Director in Washington. Turner is a veteran of former Sen. Max Cleland and Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Capitol offices and is one of five Black L.D.’s in the Senate.

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Charlie Bailey, a contender for Attorney General, is teaming up with U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath for a video chat on Saturday. The two Democrats are long-standing allies and gearing up for 2022 campaigns.

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Speaking of Lucy McBath, the House passed two bills Thursday that would tighten federal gun laws. The Marietta Democrat was a champion of both, particularly a measure that implements background check requirements for private-party gun sales.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi singled out McBath during a press conference after the vote, nothing that the murder of her son, Jordan, fuels her advocacy on these measures.

“It’s an honor to be here with you, with our colleague, Lucy McBath, who has shared her story as to why this is so important, in a way so eloquent that it challenges the conscience of the Congress not to pass this legislation,” Pelosi said.

McBath also had a cheeky response to the NRA on Twitter after the gun-rights group lamented that the measures had been approved. She posted a link to merch available for purchase on her campaign website: a coffee mug printed with the phrase, “TEARS OF THE GUN LOBBY”

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The House Ethics Committee confirmed that U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde was fined twice after bypassing metal detectors outside the House chamber. The first offense carries a $5,000 penalty, and that amount was supposed to double after the second offense. But as we reported last month, Clyde filed an appeal that is still pending.

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Congressman Hank Johnson has teamed up with his counterpart in the U.S. Senate to go after the Federalist Society, which has been accused of using money to influence the U.S. Supreme Court, particularly when it comes to supporting certain nominees for justice positions.

Punchbowl News reports that Johnson is working with U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, who chairs the Judiciary subcommittee that oversees federal courts. Johnson, D-Lithonia, is chair of a similar subcommittee on the House side.

“Although we have difficulty getting subpoenas because of the [Senate] organizing resolution, he doesn't," Whitehouse said of Johnson. “So if we need to get subpoenas, we can work with our House colleagues to see if they'd be willing to pursue them."

“The Rhode Island Democrat said he may offer legislation that would require judicial nomination ads to be treated like campaign ads, meaning their funding sources have to be disclosed to the Federal Election Commission.

“And Whitehouse wants to see who's paying for “waves of amicus briefs" that get filed in federal courts. He sees these filings as legal stalking horses for special-interest groups searching for the right case to help their anti-regulatory initiatives.

- Punchbowl News

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In case you don’t watch the state House floor for fun like your Insiders, it may come as a surprise that House Speaker David Ralston always ends his morning remarks by recognizing members’ birthdays - both Republicans and Democrats.

Yesterday it was Rep. Dexter Sharper’s turn to sing happy birthday to the Speaker, who turns a youthful 67 on Sunday. Sharper still carries supplemental oxygen with him at the Capitol as he recovers from a serious bout with COVID-19. But the Valdosta Democrat made it through his balcony serenade just fine.

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