The Jolt: Georgia state senator warned of Asian hate crimes Monday

Dr. Michelle Au.
Dr. Michelle Au.

Credit: TheCOLCollection

Credit: TheCOLCollection

As Georgians wake up to the horrific details of a spate of shootings that killed eight people Tuesday, including six victims who were of Asian descent, the words of a Georgia state senator a day earlier seem an ominous foreshadowing.

During a point of personal privilege Monday morning, Georgia state Sen. Michelle Au told her fellow senators about the alarming rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans in Georgia and beyond during the coronavirus pandemic.

Au is a first-generation Chinese-American who was elected in November. She grew up in New York and moved to Georgia in 2008 after medical school at Columbia University.

“Asian Americans are part of our country’s plurality. We are some of the many, and we’re part of that one,” she said. “And all I’m asking right now, as the first East Asian state senator in Georgia, is simply to fully consider us as part of our communities. Recognize that we need help, we need protection, and we need people in power to stand up for us against hate.”

The Johns Creek Democrat invoked an 150% increase in hate crimes against Asians and Asian-Americans from 2019 to 2020, a surge advocates link to the rise in anti-Chinese rhetoric during former President Donald Trump’s term in office, including his labeling of Covid-19 as the “China virus.” Au called the recent violence “a new chapter in a very old story.”

Law enforcement officials have not specified a motive for the shooting spree, though the pattern of targeting Asian spas in Atlanta and Cherokee County has raised fears the attacks were racially motivated. Stop AAPI Hate, formed to prevent anti-Asian discrimination during the pandemic, called the shootings “an unspeakable tragedy” for the victims’ families and an Asian-American community that has “been reeling from high levels of racist attacks.”

In 2020, the Georgia House and Senate passed the state’s first hate crimes legislation since the Georgia Supreme Court struck down a previous law in 2004 for being “unconstitutionally vague.”

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Three years ago, the lead story of the GOP runoff was Brian Kemp’s rout of Casey Cagle. The undercard was Geoff Duncan’s narrow win over David Shafer. Almost forgotten was Brad Raffensperger’s victory over David Belle Isle.

This cycle, we have a feeling that Raffensperger’s election fortunes won’t be overlooked.

He’s come under withering attack from former President Donald Trump and most of the state’s GOP establishment for refusing attempts to reverse the 2020 vote, and then U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue demanded his resignation.

His path to re-election in 2022 is only getting tougher. We’ve picked up word that Belle Isle, a former Alpharetta mayor, is set to announce on Monday he will challenge Raffensperger.

We’re not sure of his platform yet, but on social media he’s criticized ballot drop boxes, advocated for new ID requirements for absentee ballots and said “confidence in Georgia elections needs a Peach Bowl comeback.”

He won’t be the only Republican challenger to Raffensperger, who is in rarefied territory in a January AJC poll. His 47% statewide approval rating made him the most popular Republican in Georgia, topping both Trump and Gov. Brain Kemp.

But it showed he was more popular with Democrats, who give him a 60% approval rating, than he is with his own Republicans. Just 45% of GOP voters say they’re happy with the job Raff has done.

Among the other potential contenders: Former state Rep. Vernon Jones, a Democrat-turned-Republican who recently trekked to Trump’s former compound to grip-and-grin with the former president.

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Under the Gold Dome (Legislative Day 34):

  • 8:00 am: House and Senate committee meetings begin, including a Senate Ethics Committee meeting on HB 531, Rep. Barry Fleming’s elections legislation, scheduled for 8:00 am;
  • 10:00 am: The House convenes;
  • 10:00 am: The Senate gavels in.

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The House is now full, with the addition of state Rep. Angela Moore.

The newly elected DeKalb Democrat was sworn in on the House floor Tuesday morning to fill the vacancy for House District 90, which includes portions of DeKalb, Henry and Rockdale counties.

After she took the oath of office, Moore said, “Oh my God, I’m a General Assemblywoman, y’all!”

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Georgia GOP chairman David Shafer had a bizarre take on Stacey Abrams’ recent criticism of the restrictive election laws moving through legislatures across the country, accusing Abrams of racism for raising alarms about efforts in Georgia to require additional identification to vote by mail.

In an appearance Tuesday night with Laura Ingraham on Fox News, Shafer said, “There’s nothing racist about requiring people to show voter identification. It’s surprising to me that Stacey would practice the racism of low expectations suggesting somehow that people of color are not capable of obtaining identification.”

Abrams has called the proposals pending in Georgia racist and “a redux of Jim Crow in a suit and tie.” She’s reserved particular condemnation for efforts to eliminate no-excuse absentee voting, roll back Sunday voting, and, as Shafer referenced, require additional identification for absentee voting.

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Georgia Chief Justice Harold D. Melton delivered his third and final State of the Judiciary address to the legislature Tuesday. Melton announced earlier this year that he will leave the bench.

In his annual address to lawmakers, Melton discussed the incredible challenges that have resulted from the need last spring to pause grand juries and jury trials to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among potential jurors, lawyers and other court personnel during in-person sessions.

Melton said it could take up to three years to work through the backlog of jury trials that has resulted from that emergency measure.

Melton will be succeeded by Justice David Nahmias on July 1. Nahmias is the next-longest serving justice after Melton.

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Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s Greater Georgia voter registration group has endorsed the legal effort to unseal ballots in Fulton County so a government watchdog can investigate allegations of voting fraud in the November election.

“Transparency is the first step toward restoring integrity and accountability in our elections, and we look forward to the investigations’ findings.”

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Georgia U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is giving his maiden floor speech shortly before 1:00 this afternoon. We got an exclusive look at some of what he plans to say, including this focus on efforts legislatures across the country, including Georgia, that would restrict access to voting:

“Some politicians did not approve of the choice made by the majority of voters in a hard-fought election in which each side got the chance to make its case to the voters. And, rather than adjusting their agenda and changing their message, they are busy trying to change the rules. We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights and voter access unlike anything we have seen since the Jim Crow era.”

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U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s historic win — he is the first Black Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate in the Deep South — has motivated others to follow in his footsteps. Politico reports that a historic number of Black candidates are running for Senate seats in 2022.

Fueling the burst is an unusually fluid Senate map that already features five open seat races. But prospective candidates and political strategists point to other catalytic factors — foremost among them, Warnock's upset victory in January in a red, Deep South state that had never elected an African American to the Senate.

“I think this idea that Black candidates can't win statewide and young candidates can't win statewide in difficult races was just disproven in Georgia," said Malcolm Kenyatta, a 30-year-old Black state representative who is running in Pennsylvania. “We have the Senate majority because a young guy and a Black guy helped us take the two seats we needed."

Warnock is more than just an inspiration for some of these candidates — he's also served as a mentor and a clearinghouse of information on running for the Senate. The senator confirmed that he has spoken with several prospective African American congressional candidates about potential bids, saying the chamber “does not suffer from an overwhelming amount of diversity."

- Politico

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POSTED: Georgia’s U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have named the group of Georgians who will advise them on applicants for federal judgeships, U.S. attorney and U.S. marshal positions.

The Federalist Society, this group is not.

The commission will be led by Judge Leah Ward Sears, the former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, and will include the current NAACP president, the executive director of the ACLU of Florida and an attorney for Fair Fight Action.

Read more about all 16 members here.

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