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Politics, pandemic dominate Georgia news headlines in 2021

By Dave Williams
Bureau Chief
Capitol Beat News Service

ATLANTA – From upset victories by Democrats in two U.S. Senate runoffs in January to the December launch of a rare primary challenge of a sitting governor, politics dominated Georgia’s news landscape in 2021.

            Only the ups and downs of the coronavirus pandemic gripping Georgia for a second year vied for attention with the partisan fallout from the 2020 presidential election early in 2021 and the opening salvos of a Republican civil war that marked the second half of the year.

Here’s a look at the Top Ten Georgia stories from 2021:

            All year … The COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate the headlines, with Georgia suffering through a spike of the virus during the summer caused by the delta variant and a December surge in cases driven by the new omicron variant. Gov. Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr sue the Biden administration over federal vaccine mandates for federal contractors, health-care workers and businesses with 100 or more employees.

            January 5 … Democrats capture both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, as Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock defeat incumbent Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Ossoff and Warnock become the first Georgia Democrats elected statewide since 2006.

            January 6 … At the U.S. Capitol amid an attack launched by supporters of then-President Donald Trump, Georgia’s 16 Electoral College votes are cast for Democrat Joe Biden. The certification of the Georgia votes for Biden comes after Donald Trump fails to enlist the help of two fellow Republicans, Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, to overturn the results. Biden is the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992.

            March 25 … The Republican-controlled General Assembly passes a controversial overhaul of Georgia’s election laws. Senate Bill 202 replaces the signature-match verification process for absentee ballots with an ID requirement, restricts the location of ballot drop boxes and prohibits non-poll workers from handing out food and drinks within 150 feet of voters standing in line.

            April 26 … Initial numbers from the 2020 U.S. Census put Georgia’s population at 10.7 million, up about 1 million since 2010. That’s not enough growth to qualify for a 15th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, the first decade Georgia hasn’t gained congressional seats following a census since the 1980s.

            August 25 … University of Georgia football icon Herschel Walker enters the Republican primary for U.S. Senate at the urging of Trump, a friend of Walker since he signed with the United States Football League team owned by Trump in 1983.

            November 22 … The General Assembly concludes a special session to redraw Georgia’s congressional and legislative districts. While Georgia has become divided almost equally between Republican and Democratic voters, the new congressional map is projected to give the GOP a 9-5 advantage in the state’s congressional delegation and help Republicans maintain control of the legislature, although with smaller majorities.

            November 24 … A Glynn County jury convicts three white men of murder in the 2020 shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man, near Brunswick. Greg McMichael, his son Travis, and William “Roddie” Bryan are found guilty on multiple counts of murder by a jury made up of 11 white jurors and one Black juror after 11 hours of deliberation.

            December 6 … Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue announces he will challenge Gov. Brian Kemp in the 2022 Republican gubernatorial primary. The May contest will pit Perdue – a Trump ally – against Kemp, who angered Trump by refusing to cooperate with his efforts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential results.

            December 16 … Electric-vehicle startup Rivian announces plans to build a manufacturing plant off Interstate 20 east of Atlanta, a deal touted as the largest economic development project in Georgia history. The $5 billion investment is expected to create 7,500 jobs.

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

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