The Jolt: Georgia voters weigh in on moving up presidential primary

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
President Joe Biden’s plan to put Georgia near the start of the presidential primary calendar still faces significant hurdles in the Republican-controlled state. (Miguel Martinez/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

President Joe Biden’s plan to put Georgia near the start of the presidential primary calendar still faces significant hurdles in the Republican-controlled state. (Miguel Martinez/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

President Joe Biden’s plan to put Georgia near the start of the presidential primary calendar still faces significant hurdles in the Republican-controlled state. But an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll shows that many voters are receptive to the idea.

Some 42% of voters support the push for Georgia to join South Carolina, New Hampshire and Nevada as one of the early-voting states. Another 40% oppose the idea and 17% don’t know.

The poll, conducted earlier this month by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs, also surveyed voters on important legislative and political questions. We’ll be publishing the results all week, including this article by Mark Niesse and Maya Prabhu.

The scheduling overhaul presents a prickly challenge to Democrats, who are struggling to convince GOP leaders to endorse the calendar switch.

Georgia law gives Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, the sole authority to set the election calendar. While he hasn’t rejected the shift, he’s also laid out conditions that may prove impossible to meet.

“We’ve been clear: This needs to be equitable so that no one loses a single delegate and needs to take place on the same day to save taxpayer funds,” Jordan Fuchs, Raffensperger’s top deputy, said earlier this month.

States that reshuffled their schedules without the national party’s signoff would lose delegates, and national Republicans have already agreed to a calendar that keeps Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada as the first 2024 states.

President Joe Biden would like to move up the date of the Democratic presidential primary in Georgia. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp opposes the change. (Carolyn Kaster, Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

Credit: Associated Press

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Credit: Associated Press

The plan was dealt another setback when Gov. Brian Kemp’s Republican administration abruptly announced a few weeks ago that he won’t back the switch. State Democrats then convinced party officials to give them more time to hash out their strategy.

While his approval isn’t necessary, Democrats hoped Kemp would advocate for the plan because it would give state Republicans – and the governor — more sway in shaping the wide-open GOP race for the White House in 2024.

Instead, Democrats are for now left without a powerful GOP advocate to make the case to the Republican National Committee to let Georgia move up on the schedule — a must to earn Raffensperger’s blessing.

Democrats also want opponents of the switch to look beyond the political implications. From a story earlier this month:

They've highlighted studies that show early primary states attracted not just a boost in political spending, but a surge in federal dollars after the election. It's an argument echoed by key business leaders.

“Money would flow into Georgia from out of state," said A.J. Robinson, head of the Central Atlanta Progress. “Candidates would make promises to Georgia voters about their agendas. It would be a different type of attention than we usually receive."

- The Atlanta Journal Constitution

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SEE YOU IN COURT. Today brings the first public court action since the Fulton County Special Grand Jury completed its investigation into possible election interference by former President Donald Trump earlier this month.

During a hearing today, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney will consider arguments about whether the report from the special grand jury should be made public.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times, and more than a dozen other news organizations have argued that the report, known as a special presentment, is clearly in the public interest.

The AJC’s Tamar Hallerman and Bill Rankin have more details on today’s hearing and what to expect.

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MEDICAID BOUNCE. Aides to Gov. Brian Kemp estimate that his Medicaid “waiver” plan will end up providing health insurance to 90,000 Georgia adults after two years of operation.

That’s out of about 370,000 poor Georgians who fit the eligible age range, our AJC colleague Ariel Hart reports. The plan is Kemp’s alternative to full Medicaid expansion as envisioned under the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

Aides to Gov. Brian Kemp estimate that his Medicaid “waiver” plan will end up providing health insurance to 90,000 Georgia adults after two years of operation. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

That update his administration provided to reporters Monday is an increase from the original estimate of about 50,000 new enrolled that was made when the Republican governor first introduced the waiver proposal before the pandemic in 2019.

Kemp’s Medicaid waiver would require participants to work or meet certain activity requirements to be eligible for Medicaid health coverage. The estimates were calculated for the state by the consulting firm Deloitte.

Kemp’s office still forecasts that the majority of the target population would not end up qualifying and would remain uninsured. Under the current calculation, about 280,000 poor Georgia adults either wouldn’t or couldn’t meet the requirements to obtain coverage.

Democrats have called for full Medicaid expansion, but Kemp presented his plan as a conservative alternative he believes will give poorer residents a motive to enter the workforce. Georgia has the third-highest rate in the country of uninsured people and is among 11 states that have not expanded Medicaid.

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The Georgia State Capitol. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Casey Sykes for the AJC

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Credit: Casey Sykes for the AJC

UNDER THE GOLD DOME (Legislative Day 6):

  • 10:00 am: The House gavels in;
  • 10:00 am: The Senate convenes;
  • 1:30 pm: Committee meetings begin.

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STATE OF KEMP’S GEORGIA. Gov. Brian Kemp’s State of the State address is scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday in the Georgia House of Representatives.

Kemp’s address will feature the usual pomp and circumstance, complete with an escort committee of Republicans and Democrats. It’s his opportunity to lay out the specific legislative items he’s looking to pass in the session ahead to support his overall second term agenda.

Expect plenty of economic and budget-related items, along with public safety themes.

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Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns’ remarks about public safety to the Georgia Municipal Association on Monday included a subtle, but important remark about his reluctance to wade into any internal city conflicts. (Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

BUCKHEAD CITY PUSHBACK. House Speaker Jon Burns’ remarks about public safety to the Georgia Municipal Association on Monday included a subtle, but important remark about his reluctance to wade into any internal city conflicts.

“Crime is always a headline and, in certain communities, there’s at least a perception that crime is getting worse,” he said. “I’m not interested in turf wars. I’m not looking to pick a fight with anyone or blame anyone.”

“I have a clear, overarching goal — bring crime rates down and bring criminals to justice,” he added.

The speaker has so far refused to endorse the push to split Atlanta into two municipalities.

We’re told that Burns was supportive of Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens’ response to the violent protests in downtown Atlanta this weekend. One adviser said Dickens has made “all the right moves” so far.

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Georgia state Rep. Kim Schofield, D-Atlanta, will be helping to introduce a measure to repeal the state’s strict abortion restrictions and expand access to the procedure. (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

ABORTION OVERHAUL. Georgia Democrats plan to file legislation Tuesday to repeal the state’s anti-abortion restrictions and expand access to the procedure.

The Reproductive Freedom Act will be introduced by state Reps. Shea Roberts and Kim Schofield, both Atlanta Democrats. But it won’t gain any traction in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Roberts, who has shared a deeply personal story about seeking an abortion 15 years ago, said legislators should be discussing ways to help more women access abortions rather than restricting them.

The proposal expands the group of health care professionals who can provide abortion care and allows more insurance plans to cover the procedure.

“Every Georgian deserves to live with an abundance of freedom no matter our race, gender, income or zip code,” she said. “That includes the rights and resources to decide whether, when and how to build our families and raise them with dignity.”

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U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has formed a strong alliance with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)

Credit: Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

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Credit: Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times

DYNAMIC DUO. The New York Times is out with a deep dive into House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s powerful alliance with firebrand Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia.

“I will never leave that woman,” McCarthy, R-Calif., reportedly told a friend after he won the speakership on the 15th round of voting. “I will always take care of her.”

The article says that Greene helped McCarthy solidify his political power by legitimizing him in the most conservative wing of the Republican Party. She has been pulled into high-level policy meetings and also meets one-on-one with the speaker roughly weekly.

McCarthy even tasked his general counsel with helping Greene get back on Twitter after her personal account was suspended for posting COVID-19 misinformation.

Greene has been appointed recently to two powerful committees: Oversight and Homeland Security.

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TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • The U.S. House and Senate are in session today;
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will address the controversy surrounding Taylor Swift’s sold out concert series in a hearing featuring the president of Live Nation, which owns Ticketmaster.
  • President Joe Biden will meet with Democratic leaders from the House and Senate. This evening, he will host a reception for new members of Congress

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Republican U.S. Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton, Georgia, has been appointed to the House Intelligence Committee.  (Vino Wong/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Vino Wong /AJC

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Credit: Vino Wong /AJC

MORE COMMITTEES. U.S. Rep. Austin Scott has been appointed to the House Intelligence Committee, a new assignment for the Tifton Republican in his seventh term.

“I’m honored to have been selected to serve on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence by Speaker McCarthy and work to ensure the safety and security of our nation and the free world,” Scott said on Twitter.

Expect a continued trickle of committee assignments. Republicans are still filling out their rosters, and Democrats are a few days behind them. House committees should mostly be complete by the end of the week.

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MAKE IT HAPPEN. Georgia’s entire congressional delegation, all 16 members representing both chambers and both political parties, came together to send a message to President Joe Biden: they want to see the Bulldogs celebrated at the White House.

Their letter to Biden points out that the team did not receive an invitation following their 2021 season championship season due to COVID-19 restrictions. Now that the Bulldogs have won again, Georgia’s delegation wants to make sure they get to Washington this year.

Georgia's quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) holds up the National Championship Trophy during the 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship game at SoFi Stadium, Monday, Jan. 9, 2023, in Inglewood, California. (Hyosub Shin/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

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Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

“For years, the college football national champion has had the high honor of being hosted, by the President, at the White House. … It is our hope that this repeat championship team can join the many teams prior that have been honored by the President,” the letter said.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, who had planned to attend the national championship game but was forced to stay in Washington after the marathon speaker vote threw off the House calendar, is taking the lead on the effort.

Biden recently hosted the 2022 NBA champions Golden State Warriors at the White House. And in September the Atlanta Braves were celebrated for their 2022 World Series pennant.

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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.