The Jolt: Kemp not ready to join GOP governors relaxing COVID precautions

Govenor Brian Kemp announces expanded vaccine sites across Georgia on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 at the Capital.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Govenor Brian Kemp announces expanded vaccine sites across Georgia on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 at the Capital. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Don’t count Gov. Brian Kemp among the “Neanderthalstate leaders that President Joe Biden knocked for rolling back pandemic restrictions.

The Georgia Republican said Wednesday he wasn’t ready to go the same route as the governors of Texas and Mississippi who rolled back pandemic guidelines meant to contain the spread of the disease.

“We can’t let our guard down,” he said. “We’ve got to keep doing this for another month or two, to get closer to true herd immunity. I just feel like we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted a statewide mask mandate and allowed all businesses to operate a full capacity on Tuesday. The same afternoon, Gov. Tate Reeves of Mississippi ended mask requirements and rescinded capacity limits on the state’s businesses.

Kemp famously never required residents to wear masks, and only signed an order allowing cities and counties to impose face covering requirements after a legal feud. But he’s instituted dozens of safety guidelines for businesses to remain open.

The Georgia governor sounded much like Biden, who described the GOP governors who eased the requirements as cavemen-like.

“It’s critical, critical, critical, critical that they follow the science,” the president told reporters. “Wear a mask and stay socially distanced. And I know you all know that. I wish the heck some of our elected officials knew it.”

That’s not the only news Kemp made on Wednesday, when he announced an expansion of the state’s mass-vaccination sites.

In a Fox News interview minutes after his press conference, he was asked by host Neil Cavuto his thoughts on a potential 2024 run by former President Donald Trump, who spent much of the last few months eviscerating the governor. Trump has said he’s “ashamed” he endorsed Kemp in 2018 and that he should resign as governor because he didn’t work to overturn his election defeat.

CAVUTO: Real quickly, Donald Trump is the ’24 nominee for Republicans, would you support him?

KEMP: Absolutely. I’m going to support the nominee. As I said, again, I worked very hard for the president.

Quipped state Rep. Beth Moore, a Gwinnett Democrat: “This is the very definition of Stockholm Syndrome.”

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State Sen. Jen Jordan is readying her plans to run for Attorney General.

The Sandy Springs Democrat told allies she’ll formally announce her challenge to Republican Chris Carr after the legislative session ends. We reported in February she was expected to run.

Trial lawyer Adam Malone sent a note to colleagues saying as much, calling it a “tremendous opportunity for Georgia.”

She won’t have a clear path: Democrat Charlie Bailey launched a rematch bid in January against Carr, who narrowly defeated him in 2018. On Thursday, he’ll host a fundraiser featuring former Gov. Roy Barnes and a host of trial lawyers.

Carr isn’t sitting still, either. He joined with fellow AGs in Alabama and Missouri this week to pen an op-ed in the New York Post that cautioned of left-leaning efforts to expand the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Georgia Republican mover-and-shaker Randy Evans has returned to Atlanta and landed a new gig: He announced today he’s joined the Squire Patton Boggs law firm.

Evans, until recently the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg, will join the firm’s global litigation practice and work out of the Atlanta and Washington offices.

He’s one of several prominent politicos with the firm, a roster that includes former House Speaker John Boehner and former U.S. Reps. Jack Kingston and Joe Crowley.

Evans is a former Republican National Committeeman who was tapped by former President Donald Trump to serve as the diplomat to the wealthy European nation.

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Democrats in the U.S. House pushed forward on their progressive initiatives, passing a sweeping federal election, campaign finance and redistricting bill late Wednesday night. Fair Fight Action, the advocacy organization founded by Stacey Abrams, celebrated the vote on the For the People Act and said it included a last-minute change that could offset new laws in Georgia.

“HR 1 passes tonight with an amendment that would blunt, reverse or fix the voter suppression underway in the Georgia state legislature,” Fair Fight CEO Lauren Groh-Wargo wrote on Twitter. “Keep fighting, organizing, dreaming big and doing the work.”

House Democrats also approved a separate measure Wednesday — the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that would limit qualified immunity protections for law enforcement and ban chokeholds.

Georgia’s delegation split along party lines for both votes with all six Democrats in favor and eight Republicans opposed. These bills face an uncertain future in the Senate, where bipartisan support is required to pass legislation.

One of the reasons why the House worked until midnight was so that it could cancel today’s planned floor session. U.S. Capitol Police announced that Q-Anon conspiracy theories led to another security threat with rumors of a possible attack. Shell-shocked from the Jan. 6 riot, the House decided to shut down as much as possible. The Senate is still in session, however.

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Congressman Sanford Bishop is the newest member of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, further boosting an already strong Georgia’s presence in legislating for that sector.

Bishop, D-Albany, already serves as chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that determines funding for agriculture and related programs. Now, he joins the policy committee chaired by fellow Georgia Democrat David Scott. Over on the Senate side, Raphael Warnock serves on his chamber’s Ag Committee.

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