Welcome to a very busy midweek edition of Progressives Everywhere! The President of the United States is going full fascist dictator by sending secret police into cities to round up protestors, over 1100 people died of COVID-19 today, the economy is a week away from collapse, QAnon is planning its comeback, and Georgia really could flip this year. So, let’s get to it!
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Georgia’s Burning Again, But There’s Hope
Thanks to a governor who is now actively doing everything within his legal power to ensure that as many people die as possible, Georgia is now a flaming COVID-19 epicenter.
Gov. Brian Kemp is still insistent on asserting his authority over mayors who want to protect their citizens, and after a second judge recused themselves due to ties to the administration, a hearing on his lawsuit to block local mask mandates was set on Wednesday for July 28. The fate of at least 21 different municipalities’ COVID-19 precautions hangs in the balance; if Kemp has his way, Georgia will be doing less to protect its citizens than Alabama, whose governor signed a mask mandate last week.
Thanks to a ridiculous GOP gerrymander, Republicans have controlled the state legislature for more than a decade. But the party’s grip on power is beginning to loosen; Democrats flipped over a dozen State House seats in 2018 and need to flip 15 more this year to win back the chamber. While that seems steep, the party’s candidates earned more primary votes than Republicans in 14 districts controlled by the GOP. With Joe Biden polling well in the state and two big Senate races on the ballot this November, it’s truly possible that Democrats could have the turnout required pull off the upset. And if they do, the GOP gerrymander will be a thing of the past, leading to even more Democratic wins.
Below, I’ve listed some of the Democrats’ best flip opportunities this November, including one seat in Congress and seven in the legislature. If you can spare just a few bucks, your money will go a long way towards ending the GOP’s reign of terror in the state.
Congressional House District 7: This was the closest House race of 2018, with just 433 votes separating GOP Rep. Rob Woodall and his Democratic challenger, Carolyn Bourdeaux. A professor and former congressional aide, Bordeaux also served as the budget director for the Georgia State Senate during the 2008 recession. She came so close to defeating Woodall that the Tea Party Republican decided to retire after this term instead of having to face Bourdeaux again. Instead, she’s facing a doctor named Rick McCormick, who has been registering his concern on behalf of that batshit St. Louis couple who waved AR-15s at protestors.
State Senate District 9: Two Democrats will compete in the runoff to take on GOP Rep. PK Martin, who won his race by less than 4% in 2018 and then immediately went and said some awful, bone-headed stuff in the 2019 session of the legislature.
During the debate over the fetal heartbeat abortion ban that has since been blocked by a federal judge, Martin said the following: “Arguments about the rights and freedoms of women are compelling and they're not without merit. But they are incomplete and result in injustice and the oppression of the weakest people.”
To be clear, the “weakest people” to whom he was referring were fetuses that are about six weeks old. Accordingly, he should not be representing actual humans in the legislature. Democrats Nikki Merritt and Gabe Okoye, who both topped 2018 nominee Cheryle Moses in the initial primary, will feature in the runoff in August.
State House District 43: Rep. Sharon Cooper and Democrat Luisa Wakeman will square off again after their race was decided by less than 800 points in 2018. Wakeman was one of the legions of political newcomers to run for office in 2018, having been moved to get involved after Trump’s surprise victory in 2016, and this time around, she’s got the experience and infrastructure to finish the job and flip the district blue. Wakeman, who works as both a nurse and a flight attendant, converted her campaign into a COVID-19 rapid response early on in the pandemic; we spoke to her more about it in an interview this past March.
State House District 109: This one was decided by just 828 votes in 2018. Both candidates are returning for a rematch, with Democrat Regina Lewis-Ward returning after warding off a primary challenge to face State Rep. Dale Rutledge. The most interesting thing about Rep. Rutledge is that his wife’s aunt hates him so much that she primaried him in 2016.
State House District 138: Democrats have a new candidate in a district that was decided by just 531 votes in 2018. This year, Marc Arnett will be trying to unseat GOP State Rep. Mike Cheokas, who was once a Democrat, having switched parties in 2010.
State House District 152: Another rematch of a very close 2018 race (decided by less than 1200 votes) pits Republican Rep. Deborah Silcox against returning challenger, Democrat Shea Roberts. We interviewed Roberts earlier this year, which you can read here. She too was a political newcomer in 2018 and jumped into the race a week before the filing deadline, denying Silcox another uncontested run. Roberts says it was the Parkland shooting that finally put her over the edge and now she’s just a few points away from serving in the state legislature.
State House District 35: There are two Democrats facing off in an August runoff election to decide who will take on Republican Rep. Ed Setzler: Kyle Rinaudo, who lost in the 2018 primary, and Lisa Campbell, a consultant who is the frontrunner in the race.
State House District 164: Republican Rep. Ron Stephens has been in office since 1997 and I honestly couldn’t tell you a blessed thing about him. The guy doesn’t have any social media presence and it seems like he’s mostly just obsessed with casinos and tourism. He’s being challenged in this Savannah district by Democrat Marcus Thompson, another political newcomer, who does not support casino gambling or horse racing.
Here’s the current State House map:
Labor and Workers’ Rights
We are days away from the expiration of the expanded unemployment benefits provided by the CARES Act. Experts overwhelmingly agree that the extra $600 a week given to unemployed workers has kept the economy from fully tanking and sending tens of millions of people into poverty. So what do Republicans want to do? Cut them down to $100 a week — an 84% reduction — and phase them out soon after that.
House Democrats extended the $600 a week (and in some places beefed it up) in May’s HEROES Act, but that was dead on arrival in the Senate. Once Mitch McConnell got his $4.5 trillion for corporate debt bailouts, he had very little incentive to negotiate in anything resembling good faith.
Unfortunately, we’re not dealing with a Democratic Party that is fully devoted to helping workers, either. During a high-dollar fundraiser, Joe Biden told big-time donors from Blackstone, the world’s most evil private equity fund, that they wouldn’t have to sweat any big changes when he becomes president:
“I come from the corporate state of American, many of you incorporated here,” said Mr. Biden. “It used to be that corporate America had a sense of responsibility beyond just CEO salaries and shareholders.”
“Corporate America has to change its ways. It’s not going to require legislation. I’m not proposing any. We’ve got to think about how we deal people back in."
Look, I desperately want Biden to win in November. But I’m not going to delude myself into thinking that his election will fix everything or that his administration won’t have to be pushed to do the right thing day in and day out. It’s good to be as clear-eyed about allies as opponents.
David Dayen, the incredible executive editor of The American Prospect, has a new book out about the rise of corporate monopolies and how they are choking the economy. It just came out so I haven’t read it yet, but here’s a taste of how corporate concentration is hitting overdrive during the pandemic. It’s pretty terrifying — these massive, hidden monopolies are choking the economy and our healthcare system in a myriad of ways. Again, read this.
COVID-19 and Related Drama
As of tonight, over 3.95 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19 and at least 142,000 have died of the virus. When the country hits the 4 million mark tomorrow, it will be a grim milestone achieved at record speed; the US was at 3 million cases just two weeks ago. Over 1000 Americans died of the disease today, which tracks with the fact that infections began to skyrocket about three weeks ago.
Despite what President Trump and conservative media figures blather on about, the spike in cases has nothing to do with the increase in testing, as you can see below (graph via the NY Times):
Trump is now giving daily COVID-19 briefings again, presumably because he thinks not being on TV enough is the reason why he’s getting trounced in the polls. To be fair, he got elected in large part because he was given unlimited free TV time, but now that people are dying en masse, he’s not going to get the benefit of the doubt for being a shit-stirring troll. Plus, I’m not sure saying stuff like this is going to do him any favors now:This Trump answer is a lie: "As far as the coronavirus, as you say, I think we've done some amazing things. I think you'll probably see that if you compare our statistics to other countries. If you look at death rates ... You're going to see some very, very impressive numbers."
The numbers are impressive, all right.
With lawsuits and outrage growing, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is suddenly saying that he’s cool with schools delaying their opening by a few weeks so that teachers, parents, and children have less of a chance of getting sick in the worst COVID-19 hotspot in the nation. The fact that 140 more people died of COVID-19 in Florida on Wednesday, including a 9-year-old girl, makes it that much more urgent that DeSantis is forced to accept online learning for as long as necessary. This thing does not discriminate.
Georgia may now also greenlight a brief delay in school reopening that would push it to September 8th.
Progressive group Priorities USA won concessions on absentee ballots from Gov. DeSantis and Florida’s Republican Secretary of State.
The New York State Senate passed a raft of election-related bills on Wednesday, including automatic voter registration and an opportunity for voters to fix problems with their ballots. Nearly 20% of absentee ballots in the state were rejected during the June primary, often for reasons like bad postmarks, which voters cannot control.
If Godzilla — who literally has radioactive breath that can set cities on fire in an instant — can wear a mask, there’s no excuse for anyone to not wear a mask.
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