The Jolt: Stacey Abrams in control of Democratic nomination in governor’s race

01/04/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Former Georgia gubernatorial Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams makes remarks during a Georgia Democrat U.S. Senate campaign rally in Atlanta’s Summerhill neighborhood, Monday, January 4, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
01/04/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Former Georgia gubernatorial Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams makes remarks during a Georgia Democrat U.S. Senate campaign rally in Atlanta’s Summerhill neighborhood, Monday, January 4, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

It might be the single-most frequent question your Insiders get: Can Georgia Democrats keep their momentum from the November election and the January runoffs going into 2022?

Our Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released this week offers a clue: U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, along with expected gubernatorial contender Stacey Abrams, each enjoyed 48% favorability ratings. Gov. Brian Kemp, meanwhile, was at 44%.

That leads us to the second question we always hear: When is Abrams going to announce a run?

At this same stage in the 2018 cycle, Abrams had already filed initial paperwork setting the stage for a run and was preparing for a June formal announcement.

That was also a vastly different time for Abrams. Though she had earned a high profile in political circles by 2017, she had yet to become a nationally known figure, nor could she clear the Democratic field of other credible challengers.

Her metamorphosis into a household name during the 2018 campaign and her enduring influence in state and national Democratic politics even in defeat has frozen the 2022 field.

The only politicians chattering quietly behind the scenes who suggest Abrams might not run are Republicans. We don’t even have Democrats whispering to us that they would consider running if Abrams does not.

Nor does Abrams need to scramble. She need look no further than Georgia’s two U.S. senators for inspiration: Ossoff announced his run in September 2019, while Warnock didn’t enter the special election until January 2020.

“She’s in no rush because she doesn’t have to do the groundwork other candidates have to do,” professor Amy Steigerwalt of Georgia State University said on Wednesday’s edition of Political Rewind on Georgia Public Broadcasting.

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Speaking of our recent poll, 24% of Georgians said they do not plan on getting vaccinated against the coronavirus. That hesitancy represents hurdles to reducing the virus’ spread amid increasing pressure for businesses and schools to fully reopen.

About half of the poll’s 844 respondents have already received at least one COVID-19 shot. But among those who haven’t, 50% said they didn’t plan to get inoculated ever. About a third of the unvaccinated said they were waiting to see how things go before deciding.

Vaccine hesitancy tended to be higher among men, young adults, and those earning less than $25,000 a year or who have not attended college, we reported. College graduates, liberals and people age 65 and older were most likely to be vaccinated.

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POSTED: Eight members of Georgia’s U.S. House delegation, including all six Democrats, have collectively submitted requests for almost $97 million in earmarks. The process is just beginning, but members were required to post their requests online as part of new transparency requirements.

All but two Georgia Republicans decided not to participate, forgoing the chance to funnel dollars to their districts in the name of good government. Only Republicans Buddy Carter and Barry Loudermilk submit earmarks requests for projects in their districts.

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Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, Gov. Brian Kemp signed Senate Bill 236, a new law to allow the sale of mixed drinks “to go” in the state. Appropriately, the governor did the deed at Southern Brewing Company, a brewery in Athens.

Before you reimagine your trips to Game Day, the fine print on this one is important.

Drinks need to be ordered with an entree, sold in a sealed container without “straw holes,” and need to be stored in a locked trunk or glove compartment, or behind the drivers’ seat if there’s no trunk in the car.

Why all the red tape? Because the new law is meant to boost restaurants’ takeout income, especially in the post-pandemic to-go friendly new world, not incentivize drinking and driving.

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We’re keeping an eye out for more bill signings from Gov. Brian Kemp today and through May 10, the deadline by which he must either sign or veto bills, or allow legislation to take effect without his signature.

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Staffing update: Ralph Jones is the new communications director for U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta. He replaced Chandra Harris, who took a job in Sen. Jon Ossoff’s office. Jones is a veteran of Raphael Warnock’s Senate campaign, and previously served as a spokesman for Virginia Rep. Donald McEachin.

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Seth Clark, the mayor pro tem of the Macon-Bibb County Commission, was tapped as the executive director of a group pushing to create a new national park and preserve in middle Georgia.

The Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative also elected Chris Sheridan, a Georgia conservationist, as the group’s next chairman. They’re pressing U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock for help with the designation.

The new park, if it is created, would include the existing Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park plus the Bond Swamp National Wildlife Refuge other areas along the Ocmulgee River. Two years ago, Congress authorized a National Parks Service study on the matter.

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