“It’s a choice to cost Atlanta 460 hospital beds in an overstretched, underfunded system,” said Abrams. “It’s a choice to reject money that we’ve all paid for with our federal taxes, where we put in 10 cents and get 90 cents more. It’s a choice to pretend there’s nothing to be done.”
Speaking to reporters in Rome, Warnock said Republicans “haven’t done what’s right for the people of Georgia, which is to expand Medicaid.”
“We’ve had about 10 of our hospitals close in a decade. Those hospitals would have had paying customers had we expanded Medicaid,” he said.
Kemp, who has long opposed expansion as too costly and inflexible, said through a spokesman he’s also concerned about Atlanta’s already fragile healthcare safety net. He touted his policies, such as a planned work requirement for a more limited Medicaid expansion.
State Rep. Scott Holcomb spoke for many when he asked: “If Georgia had fully expanded Medicaid, would this hospital have survived?”
We asked Wellstar Health System that very question. “No,” was the answer we got in response.
In a statement, the healthcare giant said it decided to shutter the hospital on Nov. 1 because it couldn’t find a “sustainable solution” to mounting costs. But executives said Medicaid expansion alone would not have saved the facility from closing.
“While expanding Medicaid may have helped Atlanta Medical Center’s financial sustainability, it would not have changed this outcome,” the health system said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “AMC has sustained significant operating losses, including $107 million over the last 12 months.”
Many public officials told us they were blindsided by the decision, which will increase the strain on Grady Memorial Hospital, Emory Midtown and other nearby medical centers. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said it leaves an “open wound” in Atlanta’s heart.
“The City of Atlanta received no advance notice of this decision and had no opportunity to engage with you to understand or help mitigate the factors leading to this closure,” Dickens fumed in a letter to Wellstar’s chief executive.
ABRAMS MEMO. Stacey Abrams’ campaign released a memo this morning detailing an internal poll that showed a neck-and-neck matchup against Gov. Brian Kemp — and a tightening race for governor.
It serves as a counterweight to other polls, including a recent AJC survey, that showed Kemp with a slight lead over his Democratic rival. Per usual, take internal polls with a grain of salt. After all, candidates wouldn’t release them unless they serve a purpose for their bids.
Among the takeaways: Her support among Black voters is at 85%, compared to 80% in last month’s AJC’s poll, and she’s hovering around 28% with white voters. The memo included charts that showed the campaign’s heavy spending on TV ads was paying off — and included a plea to donors.
“With investment, her campaign can maintain this advantage on the airwaves and continue to move the needle,” it read.
Credit: Steve Schaefer
Credit: Steve Schaefer
BEE ATTACK. Democrat Bee Nguyen is criticizing her rival — Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger — for his handling of a breach of election equipment in Coffee County by supporters of former President Donald Trump after the 2020 election, our colleague Mark Niesse reports.
“I am deeply concerned that bad actors were given access to confidential election data and what that means for Georgia’s election security,” Nguyen said Wednesday. “As secretary of state, I will work steadfastly to safeguard our free and fair elections by swiftly investigating any vulnerabilities in our system, holding bad actors accountable, and upholding free and fair elections.”
The day after riots over the presidential election in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, a group of Trump supporters and tech experts copied sensitive election records in Coffee County, including an election server, ballot scanners and memory cards, according to documents disclosed by subpoenas in a lawsuit over election security. The documents indicate they were working under the direction of Trump attorney Sidney Powell and were granted access by county officials.
The secretary of state’s office and the GBI have both said they’re investigating the incident. A grand jury investigating interference in the 2020 election is seeking Powell’s testimony.
And Raffensperger’s campaign hit back at Nguyen’s attack.
“Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has shown he will stand up to anybody who tries to interfere in Georgia elections, and that’s exactly what he did in this instance too,” said campaign manager Jordan Fuchs. “Ask the people in Coffee County who were just visited by the GBI if they don’t think this is being treated with appropriate seriousness.”
She added: “The fact that Abrams and Nguyen are parroting 2020 election denier talking points to shows that they don’t understand how elections actually work and that their campaigns are in such free fall they will say anything for attention.”
Election security advocates have said the breach showed that bad actors can gain access to voting equipment, which could allow them to create hacks or malware that could change results. There’s no evidence that voting machine vulnerabilities have been exploited in an election so far, and the 2020 results were upheld following multiple investigations and recounts.
* * *
SEEING RED. Earlier this week, we posted a story about Democrats searching for votes in deep-red rural Georgia. For state Sen. Tyler Harper, the GOP nominee for agriculture commissioner, those areas are his bread and butter.
Harper held a rally in Colquitt County this week that attracted dozens of supporters – along with former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
TAG TEAM CAMPAIGNING. Mark Gonsalves and Rich McCormick are Republican candidates for Congress in neighboring but very different congressional districts.
McCormick, running in Georgia’s 6th District, won a crowded GOP primary and will face Democrat Bob Christian for the seat that lawmakers redrew to be a Republican pickup. Gonsalves is campaigning in the now deep-blue 7th District, where Democratic U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath — who unseated fellow incumbent Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in the primary — is considered the front-runner.
Still, they both struck similar tones during a joint press call Wednesday morning. Each stressed the need to get more Republicans in Congress and criticized the Inflation Reduction Act, a bill passed by Democrats to reduce health care costs, address climate change and raise taxes on large corporations.
McCormick, whose medical school expenses were covered by programs for military veterans, also criticized President Joe Biden’s plan to ease student loan debt for millions of people.
“We’re at a dangerous time where a president can decide who to give money to just buy a vote,” McCormick said.
And Gonsalves gave some insight into his strategy of reaching out to supporters of Bourdeaux and state Rep. Donna McLeod, whom McBath defeated in the Democratic primary, to convince them to back him instead.
Gonsalves is also airing his first TV ad of the cycle, including his family’s story as Portuguese immigrants.
POULTRY PLANT PRIVACY. U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde is accusing the U.S. Department of Agriculture of forcing poultry processing plants to choose between their companies’ privacy and their ability to operate at maximum speed.
At the center of Clyde’s concern are USDA line speed waivers, which were expanded during the coronavirus pandemic, that allow large poultry plants to increase output by putting more workers on processing lines. Groups representing poultry workers complained that forcing more people in close quarters endangered their health and could put them at greater risk for COVID-19 infections.
The USDA recently notified poultry plants that in order to keep those waivers in place, they must participate in a new USDA study by providing monthly reports on worker safety and other data. Clyde led 34 GOP colleagues in writing a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack taking issue with the study being tied to plants’ ability to keep the waivers and asking for more information about how the study will be carried out.
“If the Agency forces the industry to cut production, the ripple effects will be disastrous to the consumer of American raised chicken both domestically and abroad, the family farmers that work tirelessly to raise broiler chickens, the health and welfare of millions of broiler chickens, and the industry as a whole,” the letter says. It also says the waiver is based on “unfounded safety concerns.”
Clyde, R-Athens, has multiple poultry operations in his district. He took the lead on the letter, and four other Georgia Republicans signed on: Reps. Rick Allen, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Drew Ferguson and Austin Scott.
Credit: Patricia Murphy
Credit: Patricia Murphy
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Remember that digital ad by Herschel Walker’s campaign that mocked U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s Alvin the Beagle commercial, while a weepy Sarah McLachlan tune played?
Not surprisingly, it’s gone. The YouTube link now includes a notice that the “video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Nettwerk Music Group.” That’s the management company that represents McLachlan.
SEE YOU THERE. Join us on Tuesday, Sept. 6th for an evening with the AJC at the Georgia Aquarium.
Panels of AJC journalists will talk food, sports, and of course politics, with Reserve your tickets at live.ajc.com/ajcstateofourstate
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