Georgia congressional delegation lobbies Air Force for new Dobbins mission

The C-130J aircraft is slated to replace the legacy C-130H model.

ATLANTA – Democrats and Republicans don’t agree about much in election season.

But Georgia’s congressional delegation joined forces Friday to push for a new mission for Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Cobb County.

All 16 Georgians in the U.S. House and Senate – eight Republicans and six Democrats – signed a letter urging Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall to make Dobbins the future site of upgraded C-130J aircraft.

Gov. Brian Kemp also sent a similarly worded letter to the Air Force secretary.

Dobbins currently houses one of the Air Force’s four C-130H Reserve units. The older C-130H aircraft are slated to be replaced by more modern C-130Js to fly global logistical support missions.

The letter cites Dobbins’ long history as a regional landmark and jobs center as well as its proximity to the Georgia Tech Research Institute, which conducts more than $700 million of research annually for government and private industry.

The base also is adjacent to Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of a variety of military aircraft including the B-47 Stratojet, C-141 Starlifter, C-5 Galaxy, F-22, F-35, and the C-130 Hercules, a four-engine military transport plane.

“There is no place else in America with closer ties, both operational and industrial, to the historic and indispensable C-130 and all its variants than the Marietta and North Atlanta community,” the Georgia lawmakers argued.

The Air National Guard received the first of eight C-130Js last November to modernize its transport capabilities.

The C-130H models have been operational since 1992. The last aircraft was retired in September of last year.

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

Carr, Jordan clash over abortion rights

Democratic State Sen. Jen Jordan (left) is challenging Republican incumbent Attorney General Chris Carr (right). (Official Senate office and Attorney General office photos)

ATLANTA – Despite their differences, the two candidates for Georgia attorney general share one important commonalty: Both were trained at the University of Georgia law school. 

Incumbent Republican Chris Carr, who graduated from UGA in 1999, touts his conservative values and his successes prosecuting gangs and human traffickers as reasons Georgians should vote for him for a second full term. 

Democrat Jen Jordan, a state senator from North Atlanta and a 2001 UGA law grad, has staked her claim to the top legal job on her strong defense of abortion rights. 

Jordan cemented her statewide political reputation in a fiery 2019 speech on the Senate floor opposing a Georgia law that banned abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. She described her personal experiences with multiple miscarriages and staked her pro-choice stance on a woman’s right to privacy. 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn a 1973 ruling guaranteeing a woman’s right to an abortion allowed Georgia’s “heartbeat law” to finally take effect this summer and pushed abortion to the center of this fall’s political debates. 

Carr has vigorously defended the Georgia law. He says that an attorney general must uphold all state laws. Just after the Supreme Court issued its ruling on abortion, he asked a federal circuit court to allow the Georgia law to take effect.

“It’s the job of the attorney general to defend and uphold the laws of Georgia passed by the General Assembly and signed by our governor,” he said. “That’s what I do. That’s what the state constitution requires.”

But Jordan disagrees. 

“I don’t think it’s constitutional,” Jordan said of the Georgia heartbeat law a few days after the Supreme Court decision. “I would not defend it because I don’t think it’s lawful.” 

Jordan’s position has garnered endorsements from national pro-choice groups—and drawn incumbent Carr’s ire.  

Beyond abortion, Carr touts his record prosecuting human trafficking and gangs as a top achievement. 

Carr created a Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit in 2019. So far, the unit has convicted six people and indicted more than 40. 

Carr also recently formed a Gang Prosecution Unit, said spokeswoman Kara Richardson. The unit currently is pursuing more than a dozen cases.

The incumbent Republican is also a strong supporter of gun rights. He joined coalitions of attorneys general calling on federal courts to overturn laws limiting magazine capacities in New Jersey and California.

Jordan says gang activity and gun violence have been on the rise during Carr’s tenure as attorney general and change is needed.

“I pledge to crack down on the illegal gun trade and work with law enforcement to tackle gun violence,” she said. “I will prioritize my efforts to combat gang crimes, and I will aggressively prosecute individuals implicated in such activity.”

A fundamental part of Carr’s legal philosophy is his opposition to what he calls “federal overreach.” His office filed five separate lawsuits against federal mask and vaccine mandates during the COVID pandemic.

“Chris is pro-vaccine personally, but he knew it was unconstitutional for the president [Biden] to turn private companies into the ‘health police’ against their employees,” his campaign website states. 

Carr also opposed a Biden administration ban on oil drilling permits on federal lands and advocated for reversing the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, claiming a ban would drive up energy costs and cause job losses. 

Jordan touts her campaign against a medical sterilization facility in Cobb County that was emitting carcinogenic air pollution as one of her top achievements.

“Although [the factory] is in operation, the fight isn’t over,” she said. “It is for this reason, and more, that I am running to be the next attorney general of Georgia.”

Jordan also authored a law this year that legalized fentanyl testing strips in Georgia. The test strips can help people identify fentanyl, an often deadly opioid, to better protect themselves and minimize risk. 

“This law will save lives,” she said. 

For his part, Carr has led Georgia through health-care settlements with large corporations that will return money to the state. Georgia is expected to receive around $636 million as part of a national opioid settlement and around $19 million as part of a settlement with vaping company JUUL. 

Carr – like other top Georgia Republicans – has been forced to steer a delicate path when it comes to the national political divisions created during the Trump presidency. He supported many Trump policies and – along with other Republican attorneys general – opposed the 2020 impeachment of the then-president. 

But after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Carr signed on to a letter to then-U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen condemning the riot.

Closer to home, Carr has defended Georgia’s voting laws. 

“My office won case after case that have targeted Georgia election laws because we followed the facts, not the political rhetoric,” he said. 

Jordan said she would be a strong defender of voting rights if elected the state’s top lawyer.

“I will respond swiftly to allegations of voter fraud or any claims of voter intimidation, and work to ensure every Georgian’s vote is counted,” Jordan said.

A galvanizing moment in Carr’s career came when young Black jogger Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed after being accosted by three white men in February 2020 in Brunswick.

After it emerged that local district attorneys had ties to the accused murderers and had fumbled the investigation, Carr appointed Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes – a Black woman – to lead the prosecution in the racially sensitive case.

Carr also asked both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the federal Department of Justice to investigate the matter.

“The loss of Ahmaud Arbery was a tragedy that should have never occurred,” Carr said when the three white men were convicted last year.

Jordan said law enforcement reforms are needed. Her campaign website says that the “overcriminalization of drug offenses” has led to “mass incarceration.” 

“As your attorney general, I will partner and work with law enforcement to strengthen police accountability mechanisms and to build community-led public safety strategies,” she said.

Martin Cowen, a Libertarian candidate, is also running for the attorney general position. 

The three candidates will debate Oct. 18 as part of the Atlanta Press Club Loudermilk-Young debate series. 

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

Warnock bill takes aim at requirements limiting EV tax credit

ATLANTA – U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., introduced a bill Thursday to calm foreign-based electric vehicle manufacturers’ fears that recent federal legislation would hurt them financially before a Hyundai EV plant near Savannah could start production.

Under a provision tucked into the Inflation Reduction Act Congress passed last month, EV purchasers would not qualify for a federal tax credit of up to $7,500 unless the vehicles – including their batteries – are made in North America.

That will be the case in 2025 when Hyundai ramps up production of EVs at a huge plant in Bryan County, a $5.54 billion project expected to create 8,100 jobs.

But in the meantime, Hyundai officials are worried the strict eligibility requirements for the new tax credit will hurt U.S. sales.

Warnock’s bill calls for delaying the made-in-North-America requirement until 2025 for batteries and 2026 for EVs themselves.

“I’m focused squarely on helping Georgia car buyers save money and helping car manufacturers who do business in our state thrive,” Warnock said Thursday.

“The Affordable Electric Vehicles for America Act will lower costs for Georgians and provide consumers more options when purchasing an electric vehicle, while also supporting good-paying jobs across our state and bolstering Georgia automakers like Hyundai.”

Warnock’s bill faces long odds in the Senate because of time constraints. Members of Congress are in a rush to get home and hit the campaign trail ahead of the November midterm elections.

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

State board meeting at Okefenokee Swamp draws mining project critics

Okefenokee Swamp

ATLANTA – Opponents of a proposed titanium mine near the Okefenokee Swamp used the monthly meeting of the Georgia Board of Natural Resources this week to raise concerns about the project.

“We’re talking about one of the greatest treasures of Georgia, one of the most ecologically valuable swamps in the world,” Rhett Jackson, a hydrology professor at the University of Georgia, said during a news conference outside the board meeting site at Stephen C. Foster State Park in Charlton County. “This is not the place to be doing mining.”

Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals is seeking permits from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) to mine titanium dioxide at a site three miles from the swamp.

Jackson said the mining operation would pull water out of the largely rain-fed, drought-sensitive swamp.

“Water levels in the swamp will drop,” he said. “Droughts will become more frequent and more severe.”

Bill Clark, board chairman of the nonprofit Okefenokee Swamp Park near Waycross, said the swamp is too valuable as a tourism resource to risk putting a mine nearby.

Clark said the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is preparing a request to the U.S. Department of the Interior that could lead to the swamp’s selection as the 13th United Nations World Heritage Site in the U.S., a step that would draw tourists from around the world.

“It’s going to be an amazing economic development opportunity for us if this happens,” he said.

The project’s opponents are asking the state Board of Natural Resources to pass a resolution opposing the mine, an action the board took in 1997 that helped stop a titanium mine DuPont was seeking to build near the swamp.

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the General Assembly this year to ban mining near the swamp failed to make it through the Georgia House of Representatives, despite the backing of some of the chamber’s most powerful members.

“The Okefenokee Swamp is a natural gem, unlike any other place on the planet,” state Rep. Darlene Taylor, R-Thomasville, the House bill’s chief sponsor,” said in a statement released this week. “Its beauty is obvious, but it is the underground water flow, which supports the ecological integrity of the swamp, that is vital and must be protected from [Twin Pines Mineral’s] dangerous project.”

The EPD is still reviewing the company’s permit requests. A 60-day public comment period and one or more public hearings will follow once a draft land-use plan for the project is completed.

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

Ian shifts east, unlikely to land direct hit on Georgia

Map courtesy of Gov. Brian Kemp’s office

ATLANTA – Tropical Storm Ian has shifted to the east and is not expected to make a direct hit on the Georgia coast, Gov. Brian Kemp said Thursday.

Weakened from the Category 4 hurricane that slammed into Southwest Florida Wednesday, Ian is now expected to make a second landfall Friday in South Carolina, the governor said during a briefing in Savannah.

However, two to four inches of rain still are possible in East and Southeast Georgia Thursday and Friday, accompanied by three to five feet of storm surge and gusty winds of up to 40 miles an hour.

A tropical storm warning, storm surge warning, hurricane watch, and flood watch are in effect along Georgia’s entire 110-mile coast through Friday, while a wind advisory is in effect for much of North and Middle Georgia.

The order Kemp issued earlier this week declaring a state of emergency for all of Georgia’s 159 counties took effect Thursday morning.

The state Department of Transportation closed the Sidney Lanier Bridge in Brunswick Thursday morning, but the Houlihan Bridge over the Savannah River is closed only to boat traffic.

While Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport remains open, the Georgia Ports Authority has cleared the Port of Brunswick of all vessels until the storm passes. The Port of Savannah has cleared any waiting ships but will continue operating until 6 p.m. Thursday.

State emergency management officials said plenty of hotel rooms remain available in Georgia to house Floridians traveling north to get out of the worst effects of what was Hurricane Ian.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development has activated the Explore Georgia hurricane information webpage to help evacuees find rooms and other resources.

Kemp encouraged Georgians in low-lying areas or at-risk floodplains – particularly those who live in vulnerable housing – to consider moving temporarily to higher ground.

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