The Jolt: For the first time, Metro Atlanta is now majority-nonwhite

May 26, 2021 Atlanta: Traffic makes its way north towards downtown on the connector on Wednesday, May 26, 2021 in Atlanta. AAA forecasts a rebound in travel for Memorial Day, with more than 1.1 million people in Georgia expected to take a trip during the holiday weekend. ThatÕs up about 62% from last year, though still more than 11% below levels seen in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. A similar rebound is forecast nationally. The vast majority of Georgians who will hit the road during the May 27-31 holiday period are expected to travel by car. Nationally, more than 9 in 10 Memorial Day travelers will drive instead of flying or taking other modes of transportation. Congestion on the roads is expected to be heaviest on the afternoons of Thursday, May 27, and Friday, May 28. It could take three times longer than normal to navigate the most congested stretches of highway.  The number of people in Georgia taking planes will be more than six times higher than last year, AAA predicted. About 82,000 residents are expected to fly for the holiday, up from roughly 12,000 last year, but still down from 104,000 in 2019. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)
Caption
May 26, 2021 Atlanta: Traffic makes its way north towards downtown on the connector on Wednesday, May 26, 2021 in Atlanta. AAA forecasts a rebound in travel for Memorial Day, with more than 1.1 million people in Georgia expected to take a trip during the holiday weekend. ThatÕs up about 62% from last year, though still more than 11% below levels seen in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic. A similar rebound is forecast nationally. The vast majority of Georgians who will hit the road during the May 27-31 holiday period are expected to travel by car. Nationally, more than 9 in 10 Memorial Day travelers will drive instead of flying or taking other modes of transportation. Congestion on the roads is expected to be heaviest on the afternoons of Thursday, May 27, and Friday, May 28. It could take three times longer than normal to navigate the most congested stretches of highway. The number of people in Georgia taking planes will be more than six times higher than last year, AAA predicted. About 82,000 residents are expected to fly for the holiday, up from roughly 12,000 last year, but still down from 104,000 in 2019. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

News and analysis from the Politics Team at the Atlanta Journal Constitution

Georgia is on the verge of becoming a majority-minority state. And the transformation is being fueled by an unprecedented increase of residents of color in metro Atlanta.

An analysis by our data-crunching colleague Jennifer Peebles shows that the Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area – a vast blob stretching from the Alabama line to Athens – is now majority-nonwhite for the first time, according to the data.

The 29 counties included in the Atlanta MSA were nearly 51% white in 2010. Now they’re slightly less than 44% white, the new data showed. Almost 6.1 million people live in those 29 counties. That means that the territory now constitutes 57% of Georgia’s total population.

What’s driving this change? It’s not the city of Atlanta, which actually grew whiter. Atlanta is now 47% Black - a plurality - because of an influx of roughly 37,000 white residents in the last decade that far outpaced Black population growth.

But elsewhere there are other profound changes. The wealthy suburb of Johns Creek in north Fulton County is now majority-minority. So are Buford, Dacula, Loganville and Snellville in Gwinnett County. Ditto for Carrollton and Newnan.

In all, seven core metro Atlanta counties are now predominantly Black: Clayton, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Henry, Newton and Rockdale.

The AJC’s lead story offers broader details to help paint the picture: A 13% increase among Black Georgians, the 32% jump in the Hispanic community and a 53% spike in the Asian-American population.

The proportion of white Georgians, meanwhile, declined 1%. The state is now 50.1% majority-white, from about 60% white in 2010.

Ok, now for some of the political implications:

Give a few senior Georgia Republicans a truth serum, and they’d tell you they dream of drawing both Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath out of their suburban districts. But just outing one of them to increase the GOP’s 8-6 edge in the congressional delegation is a tall order.

That’s because Bourdeaux’s Gwinnett-based district, which she narrowly flipped last year, has to shrink. A lot. Mapmakers have to find a way to pare it down by about 94,000 residents, even as more sparsely-populated Republican-held districts need to expand in size to ensure even representation.

Meanwhile, McBath’s district spanning the Northern Arc is about the right size at 765,000 residents. To draw in a chunk of the fast-growing conservative exurbs to her district would mean ceding some of her bluer, densely populated territory to other lawmakers.

But it’s a tricky path, especially given the GOP desire to shore up U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, McBath’s next door neighbor. His district stretching from Buckhead up to Bartow and Cherokee counties has grown tighter over the years, and could be a credible Democrat target later this decade if left alone.

The redrawing of statehouse maps will be just as fraught.

Dozens of counties in south Georgia didn’t keep up with the state’s 10.6% population growth over the last decade, meaning more than a few Republican-held districts in rural areas could evaporate.

One potential target, we hear, is the state Senate district held by Tyler Harper, who is running for agriculture commissioner.

Republicans, though, stand to make up for that lost ground in the exurbs. Forsyth’s population soared by about 43% in the last decade, and both Bartow and Cherokee topped 20% growth. Lawmakers could squeeze in a few extra legislative seats in those areas.

But GOP mapmakers will also have to keep an eye on vulnerable incumbents.

Thirteen state House districts that had majority-white voting-age populations in 2010 now are less than 50% white. Of those, three are represented by Republicans: Chuck Efstration of Dacula, David Jenkins of Hogansville and Bonnie Rich of Suwanee. All are on the Democratic target list.

Likewise for the sole Republican-held state Senate district where a similar transformation took place. That one is held by state Sen. Brian Strickland of McDonough, who represents a stretch of the Southside that Republicans seem certain to try to fortify.

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Punchbowl News reports that U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux is among a group of moderates who penned a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warning they wouldn’t consider voting for a budget resolution until the bipartisan infrastructure measure is signed into law.

If the group of nine moderates holds, they could block the House from passing a budget resolution outlining a $3.5 trillion plan to expand the nation’s social safety bet that’s planned for a vote later this month.

Pelosi’s plan is now to pass the infrastructure measure after the Senate approves the budget reconciliation plan later this year. This threat could upend the timeline.

A reminder of the tightrope act in the House: Pelosi can only afford to lose three Democratic votes to still pass the budget resolution without any GOP support. Read the letter here.

And read our Washington Insider’s report detailing what other Georgia Democrats in the U.S. House are saying about Pelosi’s two-prong approach.

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Parents in Cobb County clashed on Thursday during a protest over mask mandates, which the school system currently does not have in place, the AJC’s Kristal Dixon reports:

The rally grew tense at times, with some parents getting in shouting matches over whether masks were effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19. The majority attending the rally wanted the district to require masks amid the spike in COVID-19 cases in the county and around Georgia.

Two people, who were both in support of the mask-optional policy, used bullhorns to shout their talking points in response to the crowd’s pro-mandate chants.

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This one may not play well to the MAGA crowd if Kelly Loeffler decides to run for the U.S. Senate again.

The AJC’s Matt Kempner reported Thursday that the New York Stock Exchange will require its traders at the Wall Street office to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or be tested if they are working in person, with exemptions for medical or religious reasons.

Loeffler’s husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is the founder and owner of Intercontinental Exchange, the NYSE’s parent company. Loeffler served as one of ICE’s top executives before stepping down after Gov. Brian Kemp appointed her to the U.S. Senate.

Company executives did not say if the vaccination requirements also applied to its 1,200 employees in Georgia. But vaccine mandates are a pillar of the current culture war and have already come up as a campaign issue on the GOP side for candidates in next year’s Senate race.

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Multiple smaller school systems in rural Georgia have already had to go entirely online in response to COVID-19 transmission rates.

WALB-TV Albany reports Crisp County Schools will be virtual through Aug. 23 and Ben Hill County Schools will be entirely online until at least Aug. 20. Talbot County went virtual almost as soon as the school year began because of positive student cases, but were scheduled to be back online within a week.

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Former Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox is the sole finalist to become president of Georgia College & State University, the AJC’s Eric Stirgus reports.

Cox currently serves as dean of the Mercer University School of Law. Located in Milledgeville, Georgia College is the University System’s main liberal arts institution.

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Since it’s Friday, we like to send you into the weekend with some light reading.

  • Jamie Dupree’s Washington Insider column this week details the many ways Georgia’s two new Democratic senators continue to affect the legislative agenda in Washington just by being there;
  • Wednesday’s Political Insider column looks at a possible 2020 redux for Republicans hammering away at their opponents;
  • Sunday’s Political Insider column details the road ahead for the effort to create a new Buckhead City-- as well as the transplanted New Yorker who has become the public face of the movement.

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As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.