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Analysis: Georgia Democrats forced to take sides on 'wedge' issues during special session

Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

ATLANTA — The special legislative session that just ended wasn’t just an effort by Georgia Republicans to redraw political boundaries to preserve their majorities. State GOP leaders also seized the opportunity to force Democrats to take stands on divisive issues.

Over the seven-day session, Republicans engineered votes on a pair of resolutions that condemn the Oct. 7 terror attack by Hamas, praise Israel’s conduct in the war and offer unconditional support for the controversial Atlanta public safety training center.

Each passed by overwhelming margins with bipartisan support but caused considerable friction among Democrats. While only a handful of Democrats voted “no,” dozens more abstained. There was even talk in the Georgia House of a walkout in protest.

Gov. Brian Kemp and his allies also used the session to deploy plans to accelerate an income tax break, staging a Capitol press conference just before lawmakers convened that featured dozens of Republican lawmakers — and not a single Democratic official.

And that’s on top of the main focus of the special session, which Kemp called after a federal judge ruled Georgia’s political maps illegally weaken the power of Black voters.

The new boundaries, which put several Democratic incumbents in peril, were drawn with a goal to provoke a broader legal fight over the Voting Rights Act.

 

While some GOP elected officials insisted the resolutions were apolitical, seasoned strategists see them for what they are: an effort to force Democrats on the record over touchy issues that could come back to haunt them in next year’s election.

“Democrats are getting a taste of what they and the media have done to every Republican since 2015,” said Brian Robinson, a top deputy during Gov. Nathan Deal’s administration.

“We constantly get asked to respond to something Donald Trump said or did because our political opponents know that drives a wedge between MAGA voters and more traditional Republicans,” Robinson said.

Expect the votes to factor into 2024 races, when vulnerable Democrats will face stiff competition to keep their seats. Cody Hall, a top Kemp adviser, suggested the governor’s political machine could soon target Democrats who abstained.

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©2023 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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