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WABE’s Week In Review: Money, Surrogates Coming To Georgia In Droves Ahead Of Senate Runoff

Former President Barack Obama speaks during a virtual event for Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
Former President Barack Obama speaks during a virtual event for Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
Credit CSPAN

Georgia remains the epicenter of American politics as former President Barack Obama campaigned for Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, the two Democrats in the U.S. Senate runoffs Jan. 5.

“Anybody who’s listening right now,  you need to understand this is not just about Georgia,” said Obama in the virtual rally. “This is about America. This is about the world, and it’s in your power.”

Saturday evening, President Donald Trump is set to rally in Valdosta for Republican candidates Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. The two races will decide the majority in the U.S. Senate.

The stakes are huge, and Georgia is the political darling. But as Georgia stays in the spotlight, more baseless claims of fraud emerge.

“You have a big election coming up,” said Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who spoke to Georgia state lawmakers this week and made more claims of widespread fraud without evidence.  “I think you would be very ill-advised to use this company [Dominion Voting Systems] or their machines.”

Georgia’s new $100 million voting machines have a paper trail, and after a hand count of nearly 5 million ballots and a separate recount of the ballots, the machine count was correct.

False claims become dangerous… 

Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager for Georgia, called on President Donald Trump and others in his own party to stop the rhetoric and the false claims. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)
Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager for Georgia, called on President Donald Trump and others in his own party to stop the rhetoric and the false claims. (Emil Moffatt/WABE)

Earlier this week, an online post showed a noose captioned with the name of a Dominion Voting Systems worker — who was wrongly accused of manipulating election data.

Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager for Georgia and staunch Republican, called on Trump and others in his own party to stop the rhetoric and the false claims before someone goes too far.

“Someone’s gonna get hurt, someone’s gonna get shot, someone’s gonna get killed,” said Sterling. “This is elections. This is the backbone of democracy. And all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this. It’s too much.”

Death threats have come the way of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his family as well. Raffensperger is also a staunch Republican who released the results of the election, saying he was disappointed Trump didn’t win but that the results are valid.

By the way, Republicans in the state did really well. Maintained control of the Capitol and no “Blue Wave” pushed through Georgia or anywhere really, except in the presidential vote.

Still that hasn’t stopped Trump from the baseless allegations of fraud. And he has lashed out at Republicans who are supporters of him — the previously mentioned Raffensperger — and, more interestingly, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.

At the beginning of the week, Trump tweeted he was ashamed he endorsed Kemp in 2018 because now he said the governor had not done enough to question the results and overturn Raffensperger. Kemp said he couldn’t legally do that. But by the end of the week, Trump was singing Kemp’s praises.

It’s a complicated relationship for Republicans, especially those in Kemp’s camp. If Trump is still relevant in 2022, will Kemp get his support as he runs for reelection? The Political Breakfast crew broke it down in their latest episode.

Ad money helps Georgia commercial media struggling through the pandemic…

The reason the spending on ads in Georgia seems unlimited this year is because of the possible power shift in the U.S. Senate. (Caroline Amenabar/NPR)
The reason the spending on ads in Georgia seems unlimited this year is because of the possible power shift in the U.S. Senate. (Caroline Amenabar/NPR)

With so much hype on Georgia, money has poured in. With a month to go before the runoffs, already $300 million just since Election Day has gone to ads.

And a lot of rural media outlets are benefiting.

“I’ve been in this market for 20 years, and the money we’re seeing across our stations is more than the past 20 years combined,” said Joseph Brennan, who manages 11 radio stations for PMB Broadcasting in West Georgia.

“It’s a godsend,” said Charles Hubbard, who owns a country and a sports radio station in Jesup, Georgia. Hubbard says the campaign dollars for the runoffs help make up losses from the coronavirus pandemic, when some stations saw a 30% drop in ad revenue.

“It’s coming in at a good time for radio stations,” said Hubbard.

Most of the ads come from Political Action Committees (PACs) for both Democrats and Republicans, according to Hubbard.

The reason the spending seems unlimited this year is because of the possible power shift in the Senate should the two Democrats win. And while Republicans won U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia in the past, this year Democrats are the energized party, according to  Emory University political scientist Andra Gillespie.

And station owner Hubbard hopes in the coming week, that involvement translates into even more spending.

“They amp up the buys as the election gets closer because they don’t want to be denied an election because they say I could have done this, I could have done that,” said Hubbard. “They want to say, ‘I’ve done everything I can to win this election.'”

Mercedes-Benz Stadium to host early voting… 

Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be an early voting site for the runoff races. (David Goldman/Associated Press)

Early voting for the Jan.5 U.S. Senate runoff races starts Dec. 14. And just like its giant neighbor, State Farm Arena, Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be an early voting site.

The two will trade off to account for the start of the Atlanta Hawks’ NBA season.

Before the general election in November, about 40,000 people voted at State Farm Arena.

State Farm Arena will host early voting from Dec. 14 to 19, and Mercedes-Benz Stadium from Dec. 22 to 30 once the NBA season begins.

Short-term congressman…

Kwanza Hall
Kwanza Hall will serve out the remainder of Rep. John Lewis’ term. (Courtesy of Kwanza Hall)

By the way there was an election this week with an announced winner. Kwanza Hall beat Robert Franklin to serve out the remainder of Rep. John Lewis’ term. Lewis died in July after representing the 5th Congressionl District for more than 30 years.

Hall will be a congressman for a little more than month before Nikema Williams, who won the general election for the seat, takes over in January.

Boosting confidence in vaccines… 

Vice President Mike Pence paid a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (John Bazemore/Associated Press)
Vice President Mike Pence paid a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. (John Bazemore/Associated Press)

Vice President Mike Pence called on leaders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help boost Americans’ confidence in potential COVID-19 vaccines.

Pence, who was at the CDC to get an update on its plans to help distribute two vaccines that could soon be available, said officials and experts there can play an important role in helping Americans trust COVID-19 vaccines.

“We’ve gone at a record pace, but we’ve cut no corners,” said Pence. “What we want to do is assure the American people there’s been no compromise of safety or effectiveness in the development of this vaccine.”

The Trump administration has been accused of undermining the CDC continually through the pandemic, including changing how data are reported, flaunting CDC guidelines and sidelining, silencing or ridiculing career scientists and experts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will consider two different COVID-19 vaccines for emergency approval later this month. Distribution could soon follow.

Polling has shown many Americans are skeptical of taking a vaccine and are concerned they’ll be approved too quickly because of political pressure.

Meantime, former President Jimmy Carter is urging all those who are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. He and former first lady Rosalynn Carter have been longtime advocates of vaccines through their work at the Carter Center.

And early this week, former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton all said they would take a vaccine once it is developed.

Funds in housing program could be cut in Atlanta… 

bunch of keys
Atlanta City Council is set to vote on whether to pull the money out. (Pixabay)

The administration of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is proposing reducing funding for an emergency COVID-19 housing assistance program in half — from $22 million to $11 million.

The city says the United Way of Greater Atlanta, which is in charge of administering the program, is having trouble spending the money allocated from the federal CARES Act before the required Dec. 30 deadline.

Atlanta City Council is set to vote on whether to pull the money out of the program Dec. 7.

Some 10,000 eviction notices have been issued in Atlanta since the pandemic began.