The Jolt: End of an era for Georgia GOP

Biden Inauguration, Senate swearings- in, and needed COVID supplies lead the day

It’s official: Sens.-elect Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock will be sworn in around 4:30 p.m. today, just hours after President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris take office.

The 33-year-old Ossoff will be the state’s senior senator, outranking Warnock by one slot because of a rarely used Senate rule that breaks ties in seniority and state size with the spelling of senators’ last names.

The addition of Biden in the White House and the two Democrats in the Senate also brings the end to an era of Washington dominance for Georgia Republicans, who have held both Senate seats since 2005 and enjoyed multiple high-profile roles in the Trump administration over the last four years.

The GOP is certain to mount a comeback effort, but for today, the focus is on the Democrats.

The AJC is bringing you full coverage of today’s inauguration events, which have largely gone virtual amid a locked-down Washington, due to both the coronavirus pandemic and the immense security following the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Follow our live blog and look for Georgia-focused inauguration tidbits throughout the day. The blog launches at 9 am, with the Inauguration starting at 11 am.

***

Without inaugural balls to ring in the new administration, Democrats are planning a virtual celebration tonight at 7:30 instead. Warnock, Ossoff, Stacey Abrams, U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams and others will Zoom in to raise a glass.

There’s no dress code, but attendees are encouraged to wear their “finest couch attire.”

***

The New York Times features Sen.-elect Raphael Warnock in a lengthy piece looking at the history of the 10 Black senators who have come before him. The Times also details the many efforts over the years to delegitimize the elections that got those men to Washington - including Warnock.

“But within a few hours, the news of (Warnock's) victory and its significance was drowned out as a violent horde — seditious rioters led by a veritable lynch mob — attacked the Capitol on President Trump's exhortations to “take back our country." In the same building that Jefferson Davis once defiantly exited in order to wage war against the United States, and on the same day the Senate was set to send one Black member to the vice presidency and gain its first Black member from the state of Georgia, an insurrection swelling with white nationalists paraded the Confederate battle flag through the halls of Congress."

- The New York Times

***

What can Georgia expect in Biden’s first 100 days? Lots of changes. Look for Biden to push for new COVID relief checks, changes to immigration law, a new effort on voting rights, and other priorities the incoming POTUS laid out during the campaign - several of which could affect the state directly.

***

Another Georgian making history this month is Chairman David Scott, who takes over as the first Black chairman of the powerful House Agriculture Committee. In an interview with AgriTalk, Scott talked about his new role and the upcoming Congress, when he said he’ll focus on food security and climate change. “Nobody suffers from climate change like our farmers,” he said.

***

Badly needed COVID vaccine supplies are uneven throughout the state and are not coming in as expected, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey told lawmakers during a budget hearing yesterday in Atlanta.

That understandably has officials and Georgia residents worried about getting the two-dose regimen completed properly.

“We literally don’t know week-to-week what our allocation will be,” Toomey said. “There’s some disconnect between what we were told was coming and what actually is available.”

Help should be coming from the Biden administration, but exact details won’t be known until after today’s swearing in.

***

Help wanted. An eagle-eyed tipster sent along a job posting for one of the most plumb job assignments in Georgia Democratic politics - Jon Ossoff’s incoming Senate chief of staff.

The ad comes from the Senate Employment Bulletin, an internal job board frequently used by Senate offices to fill lower-level jobs. The bulletin also usually features anonymous postings like “senior Democrat from a Southern state,” rather than naming the office directly.

For those interested, “senior-role experience in the Senate” is required, which narrows the pool down very quickly. You’ll also need a record of “effective collaboration” with colleagues and extensive management experience.

Since neither Ossoff nor Sen.-elect Raphael Warnock has served in elected office, neither can look to the other for the ins-and-outs of setting up nor running a Senate office. So experienced hands will be in high demand.

***

Two senators coming in means one is going out. U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler delivered her farewell speech on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon. The Atlanta Republican spoke about championing conservative priorities during her one year in office and said she will continue to support the Republican Party in its next phase.

She also spent time in her good-bye speech to take shots at the AJC over our coverage of stock trades made on her behalf at the beginning of the pandemic.

Even as she criticized the Fourth Estate for full and accurate coverage of her financial portfolio, she also decried the “cancel culture” that she says attempts to silence the voices of conservatives.

The AJC, of course, fully covered and amplified Loeffler throughout her term and campaign and did not cancel her, nor her conservative viewpoints.

***

Also in the departure lounge: President Donald Trump, who left the White House for the final time this morning to skip Joe Biden’s swearing-in.

Instead of handing over the reins of power, Trump spent his last 24 hours as president thundering about starting his own “Patriot” party to challenge the GOP, like Teddy Roosevelt, without the cuddle factor. Do keep your Insiders posted if you’re seeing any real evidence of Trump’s new party in the grassroots.

***

POSTED: The latest proof that Trump’s attacks on Georgia’s elections were nonsense came yesterday when attorney Sidney Powell withdrew her latest challenge for the most basic of reasons:

“Last week the appeals court notified Powell that she had not been admitted to practice law in the 11th Circuit. The court told Powell that, unless she applied to be admitted, her motions would be stricken and treated as if they had never been filed. Powell voluntarily withdrew the lawsuit Tuesday.”

***

With the Trump era winding down, the New York Times has taken the liberty of compiling all of Trump’s Twitter insults - and you may be surprised about the identity of his most frequent Georgia target - though we weren’t.

It wasn’t John Lewis, the late civil rights hero who boycotted Trump’s 2017 inauguration ceremony. It wasn’t Stacey Abrams, who was narrowly defeated in the 2018 race for governor and is one of Trump’s leading critics in the South.

It’s Gov. Brian Kemp, who earned Trump’s enduring enmity for refusing the president’s demands to illegally overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results. For your Bingo cards, Trump called Kemp a “fool” three times, a “RINO” (four times), and a “disgrace,” an “obstructionist,” and all sorts of other nasty names.

See for yourself -- or just focus on what Biden says during his swearing-in.

***

Another check is in the mail for the Savannah Harbor expansion, which received $94 million in the latest government funding package approved by Congress. The money was championed by the Georgia congressional delegation and will be used for dredging, project construction and environmental monitoring.

In Other News