McCormick enters race in redrawn 6th Congressional District

Dr. Rich McCormick

ATLANTA – Dr. Rich McCormick announced his candidacy Tuesday for Georgia’s newly redrawn 6th Congressional District seat.

The Republican from Suwanee lost to U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwanee, last year in the old 7th District. However, a new congressional map the Republican-controlled General Assembly adopted last week remakes the 6th District into GOP-friendly territory while rendering the 7th heavily Democratic.

“The Sixth Congressional District is my community,” McCormick said in a prepared statement. “I lived in Cobb County for 12 years, I work the night shift in the Northside hospital system and serve as a youth minister at Gwinnett Church in Sugar Hill.”  

The 6th District seat will be vacant. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, announced last week she would run for a second term in the redrawn 7th District next year, pitting her against Bourdeaux in the Democratic primary in May.

McCormick brings more than $1.2 million into the race, along with endorsements from 28 Republican members of Congress, including five of the eight-member Georgia GOP delegation.

The redrawn 6th Congressional District includes portions of East Cobb and North Fulton counties currently represented by McBath but now also stretches north through all of predominantly Republican Forsyth and Dawson counties as well as eastern Cherokee and northwestern Gwinnett counties.

McCormick is an emergency room physician and a former Marine helicopter pilot.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Super PAC backing Herschel Walker for U.S. Senate

Herschel Walker

ATLANTA – A newly launched super PAC is raising money on behalf of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker.

34N22 will conduct fundraising, grassroots engagement, television and digital advertising, direct mail and polling in support of Walker’s bid to capture next year’s GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.

“Americans deserve leaders who put people ahead of politics and work across the aisle to get things done,” said Stephen Lawson, spokesman for the super PAC. “As Georgia’s next United States senator, Herschel Walker will use his business experience, common-sense conservative values, and record of results to bring people together to restore hope, unity, and opportunities for working families.”

Super PACs are independent political action committees that may raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions, and individuals but are not permitted to contribute to or coordinate directly with parties or candidates.

Walker, who won the Heisman Trophy as a University of Georgia running back in 1982, entered the Senate race in August at the urging of former President Donald Trump. The two became friends during the 1980s when Walker signed with the United States Football League’s New Jersey Generals, a pro team owned by Trump.

Other Republicans vying for the Senate nomination include Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black; Latham Saddler, an Atlanta banking executive and former Navy SEAL officer; Kelvin King, a small business owner and Air Force veteran also from Atlanta; journalist James Nestor, and attorney Jared Craig.

With President Joe Biden’s approval ratings on the decline, The Cook Political Report recently moved the Georgia Senate race from “lean Democrat” to “toss up.”

Last weekend, 34N22 launched its first round of digital ads in Georgia, featuring spots across Facebook, Instagram, and Google. The campaign includes targeted, geo-fenced ads surrounding locations of persuadable voter blocs.

The ads are scheduled to run until Dec. 20.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Kemps lands endorsement from Georgia Chamber of Commerce

Gov. Brian Kemp

ATLANTA – Georgia’s leading business organization endorsed Gov. Brian Kemp Monday for reelection next year.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce cited the Republican governor’s emphasis on economic issues during his first term in office.

“Governor Kemp has made economic growth a priority in Georgia,” said Ben Tarbutton, president of Sandersville Railroad Co. and the chamber’s 2022 board chairman.

“Despite the challenges facing our state during the pandemic, Governor Kemp has led us in being designated the No.-1 state in which to do business for the eighth consecutive year as we boast record unemployment levels – a feat no other state can tout.”

“Our governor embodies all the characteristics of a true servant leader focusing on the health, safety and livelihoods of all Georgians during these unprecedented times,” added Chris Clark, the chamber’s president and CEO.

“His positive working relationships with the business community and with organizations like the Georgia Chamber have paved the way for tremendous growth in our state over the last three years, making Georgia the envy of the nation.”

Kemp has drawn opposition from within the Republican Party since refusing to back then-President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn last year’s election results in Georgia.

Former state Rep. Vernon Jones is seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination, running as a Trump loyalist. Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., is seen in some corners as a more difficult potential primary challenger to Kemp, but Perdue has not announced whether he will run.

On the Democratic side, the governor could face a rematch with former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, who lost to Kemp in 2018. But Abrams, too, has yet to reveal her intentions for 2022.

Kemp said he is honored to have the Georgia Chamber in his corner going into next year’s race.

“During my first three years in office, I’ve been proud of stand alongside the industry leaders, local chambers and business owners represented by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to continue building a business climate that is unrivaled across the country,” the governor said.

“Working alongside these hardworking Georgians, we kept Georgia open for business during a once-in-a-century pandemic. … Thanks to their partnership, we are leading the nation in economic recovery with record low unemployment and unprecedented jobs and investment coming to the Peach State.”

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Georgia’s abortion laws could be impacted by upcoming Supreme Court rulings

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Dec. 1 on one of the most significant abortion cases in years, and the aftereffects of its ruling will be felt here in Georgia.

The case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has drawn more than 1,000 friend-of-the-court briefs so far — including one from Georgia — on both sides of the issue. 

The case revolves around Mississippi’s abortion law, which bans the procedure after 15 weeks. That is nine weeks fewer than the 24-week precedent established by Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Georgia’s brief was organized by the State Innovation Exchange’s Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council, which describes itself as a “network of state legislators working to advance reproductive health, rights and justice.” 

The brief argues the Supreme Court’s failure to uphold the rule of law and precedent would result in disastrous consequences for women seeking abortions, as well as for their families.  

“State legislators are the first line of defense against policies that deliberately roll back progress on abortion rights and reproductive health across the country, and the overwhelming majority of the public agrees we must protect Roe v. Wade,” said the organization’s Jennifer Driver. “With this amicus brief, nearly 900 legislators are sending the Supreme Court a clear message: We cannot go back. You must uphold 50 years of legal abortion in all 50 states.”  

Georgia’s abortion law is currently tied up in the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is waiting on the Supreme Court decision before issuing a ruling. Known as the Living Infants Fairness Equality Act, it seeks to prevent abortions after a fetal heartbeat has been detected, typically six weeks into pregnancy, except in special situations.

Lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights led the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in December 2019 to rule the law unconstitutional. The legislation, which the General Assembly passed earlier that year, had been scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

If the 11th Circuit decides to strike down Georgia’s abortion law in the case — SisterSong v. Kemp — Georgia could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which may then look at the law’s constitutionality and reexamine the precedent of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand.

“A Georgia judge struck down Republicans’ HB (House Bill) 481 last year because the court saw it for what it was — an unconstitutional infringement on the right to choose — and we hope the 11th Circuit Court agrees,” said Rebecca Galanti, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “Democrats will continue to fight at every turn to safeguard reproductive freedom and stop Republicans’ dangerous anti-choice agenda in Georgia.”

State Senate President Pro Tempore Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, disagrees.

“I’ve never subscribed to the idea that it’s unconstitutional to save human lives,” said Miller, who is running for lieutenant governor in 2022 and who also helped author the bill. “With today’s technology, it’s no longer possible to deny the clear humanity of unborn children, even at early stages of pregnancy. Upholding Georgia’s law would send a clear message that we as a society will protect our most vulnerable and defenseless.”

State lawmakers adjourned Nov. 22 after spending several weeks in special session, redrawing legislative and congressional district boundaries in accordance with new U.S. Census data. There was speculation that lawmakers would draft a new abortion law while in special session, but the issue never came up on either chamber’s floor. 

But the issue is almost certain to arise when legislators reconvene for their regular session in January, depending on the Supreme Court’s rulings on abortion bans in both Mississippi and Texas.

A court ruling is expected soon on Texas’ abortion law, which bans the procedure after roughly six weeks, a law that has been in effect since Sept. 1. The law bans abortion once cardiac activity is detected in the fetus, and makes no exceptions for rape or incest. 

Opponents of Georgia’s abortion law are fearful of a Texas-style law in Georgia, if the Supreme Court rules the law is constitutional.

“Texas is showing us what a world without Roe v. Wade looks like — one where wealthier people can travel to get reproductive care while poorer people are stripped of their rights,” said Georgia Rep. Kim Schofield, D-Atlanta. “We can’t let that happen.” 

“What happens in Texas won’t stay in Texas,” said state Rep. Beth Moore, D-Peachtree Corners. “Not every pregnancy is an immaculate conception or a Hollywood-produced drama. There is a limit to what government can impose, and the Republican Party wants to replace God with government.”

While the Georgia and Texas laws are alike in banning abortions once cardiac activity is detected, Texas is different in that leaves enforcement of the law to private citizens through civil lawsuits instead of criminal prosecution.

Miller has told Capitol Beat “everything is on the table” regarding the abortion issue in Georgia. 

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

White defendants found guilty in murder of Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery

Gregory McMichael (left) and Travis McMichael (right) were convicted Wednesday of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. (Glynn County Sheriff’s Office)

ATLANTA – A Glynn County jury convicted three white men Wednesday of murdering Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in February of last year near Brunswick.

Greg McMichael, his son Travis and William “Roddie” Bryan were found guilty of a range of murder charges by a jury made up of 11 white and one black juror after 11 hours of deliberation.

Arbery, 25, died when the three men chased him in two pickup trucks and cut off his escape.  

Travis McMichael, who pulled the trigger, was convicted on all nine counts. While the others were not found guilty on every count, all three face possible life in prison.

The case attracted national attention and led the General Assembly this year to repeal Georgia’s antiquated citizen’s arrest law, which the defendants used in their defense.

Georgia elected officials on both sides of the aisle praised the verdict.

“The loss of Ahmaud Arbery was a tragedy that should have never occurred,” Republican state Attorney General Chris Carr said. “Today’s verdict brings us one step closer to justice, healing and reconciliation for Ahmaud’s family, the community, the state and the nation.”

“Tragically, America is still a country where a Black man is not safe going for a jog,” added U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta. “We have much more work ahead so that little Black boys like my son Carter know that their Black lives matter.

“Although nothing can bring Ahmaud Arbery back, my hope is that his family can find some solace in knowing that those who murdered Ahmaud are being held accountable.”

The two McMichaels and Bryan also have been indicted on separate federal hate crime and attempted kidnapping charges. They are due to face trial in February in the federal case.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.