The Jolt: New progressive party makes major gains in Georgia

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution



The story of the metro Atlanta runoffs goes beyond the fact that a string of incumbents were ousted. Look closer and you’ll find that many of the winners were backed by the Georgia Working Families Party, the local chapter of a relatively new national progressive party based in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Three newly elected Atlanta City Council members, Liliana Bahktiari, Jason Dozier and Antonio Lewis, were WFP-endorsed, as was Khalid Kamau, a self-described democratic socialist who was elected mayor of the city of South Fulton.

The Georgia Working Families Party let it be known it played no minor role in their victories.  The organization financed a six-figure independent expenditure to back its candidates, and its leadership provided both consulting advice and grassroots volunteers.

The party was particularly helpful to Kamau’s campaign, with an independent effort that made 100,000 voter contacts. He now has big plans for the city, including a name change.

“My vision for this city is to build better, invest more in younger people and seniors and change our image to rebrand, rename and remarket our city,” Kamau told Fox 5 News.

For background, the South Fulton City Council voted in 2017 to change its name to “Renaissance,” but the idea vetoed by the mayor, whom Kamau has now defeated.

If the Working Families Party is new to you, it was founded in New York City in the late 1990s as a coalition of politically active labor interests.

Its national charter calls for free universal health care, upgrading broken infrastructure, ending restrictive zoning laws, and a call to “repair historic wrongs and end systemic racism.”


Georgia’s U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was in federal court Thursday for a hearing on her lawsuit challenging the fines she has received — $68,000 and counting — for failing to comply with mask mandates on the U.S. House floor.

Greene sat on the front row with her co-plaintiffs, Kentucky’s U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie and South Carolina’s Ralph Norman. All three were wearing masks for the court date, complying with courthouse rules.

An attorney for the members argued that the fines are unconstitutional because the money to pay the fines is taken directly out of their paychecks. The 27th Amendment prohibits any law from changing members’ compensation before the next election.

U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton appeared skeptical of that thinking, pointing out that money for taxes and insurance comes out of members’ paychecks, too, but that isn’t considered a reduction in their salary.

He also repeatedly pointed out that the mask mandates were steps taken to preserve the safety of lawmakers, staff and police officers during a pandemic.

Lawyers for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other House staffers listed as defendants have asked Walton to dismiss the case. He said his goal is to make a ruling on that motion within the next month.


Speaking of court cases, Georgia history buffs and legal scholars are in for a treat this morning.

At 9:30, attorneys Michael Terry and Ray Persons will re-argue the famous “Three Governors” case before the Georgia Supreme Court as part of a 175th anniversary celebration of the court’s first decision.

You can watch the proceedings here. We won’t spoil the ending.


House Speaker David Ralston told a grassroots conservative group this week he’s exploring “constitutional carry” legislation that would let gun owners conceal and carry handguns without a permit.

The proposal is a national priority for gun rights advocates, though even some Georgia Republicans have considered it too expansive.

Currently, Georgia gun owners must pay about $75 — depending on the county probate court — to register with the state and pass a background check before being issued a license to carry a handgun in public.

We won’t be surprised if the idea gains some traction. Gov. Brian Kemp campaigned on a promise to support carrying weapons without a permit and expanding gun rights. Facing pressure on his right flank, he might be more willing to embrace the legislation.



The boundaries will shift for the 2nd Congressional District in southwest Georgia after GOP-led redistricting. The new lines worry Democrats and embolden Republicans in the territory U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop has represented for nearly 30 years.

And with the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, Georgia’s U.S. Senate candidates are ready for the coming fight over the issue.


One day into her campaign for governor, Stacey Abrams is making it known her top political priority for 2022 will be the same as it was in 2018.

In a sit-down with 11Alive, Abrams was asked what she would say to Gov. Brian Kemp. Her answer was simple: “Expand Medicaid.” Then, she elaborated:

“That’s the linchpin. We’re in the midst of a pandemic, where only half of our state is vaccinated. But where we know we’ve already lost two hospitals during his tenure, that is, that is a shameful outcome. It’s mean, and it’s callous, and it does nothing for Georgians.”

The 11Alive interview was part of a round of local TV interviews Abrams did on her first full day back on the trail. She ended the night on MSNBC with Rachel Maddow.


Congress avoided a government shutdown Thursday when the House and the Senate approved a resolution to keep the government funded through Feb. 18.

The House voted mostly along party lines with just one Republican, retiring Illinois Re. Adam Kinzinger, voting with Democrats in support of the stopgap measure.

All eight Georgia Republicans voted “no.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said government spending is out of control in an impassioned speech in favor of a shutdown. Reps. Andrew Clyde and Buddy Carter slammed President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates for employees in statements opposing the measure.

The Senate vote was more bipartisan. Nineteen Republicans voted alongside Democrats to pass the bill.

Biden is expected to quickly sign the legislation into law ahead of the midnight shutdown deadline.

Congress still has loads to get through before the end of the month, including the DOD authorization bill, a vote to lift the debt limit, and Biden’s Build Back Better spending bill, still pending in the Senate.


The move to rename Georgia’s Fort Benning and Fort Gordon, as well as other military installations named after Confederates, is making progress. The AJC’s Jeremy Redmon has the latest:

A federal panel announced this week it has received more than 34,000 recommendations for renaming Benning, Fort Gordon and other military installations, roads and vessels that are named after Confederate officers or that commemorate the Confederacy.

The Naming Commission stopped soliciting ideas online Wednesday and is now working on a report of its recommendations it will present to Congress by October of next year.

The Pentagon is expected to act on the commission's recommendations by 2024.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Today is the final day of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators’ Annual Legislative Conference, which is being held in Atlanta. The organization has about 700 members, with Georgia lawmakers making up the largest delegation.

Ambassador Andrew Young and his daughter, Andrea Young, were tapped for the keynote address.

Georgia state Rep. Billy Mitchell, D-Stone Mountain, currently serves as NBCSL’s president.


Finally, we always like to send you into the weekend with a little light reading, including:


Remember to check out the Politically Georgia podcast this afternoon and every Friday for a recap with your Jolters on the always wild week in Georgia politics.


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