The top questions in Georgia politics for 2017

President-elect Donald Trump. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

President-elect Donald Trump. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

It’s been a wildly unpredictable 2016, but this year could well top it. A free-for-all Atlanta mayoral race. Another blockbuster legislative session. A budding race for 2018 statewide offices. And, of course, a President Donald Trump.

Here are nine questions in Georgia politics that your Insiders will be watching this year. (And check out our answers to last year’s questions here).

So, what exactly will President Donald Trump do? Yes, it’s the obvious question. And it’s also the one that will dominate the year. There’s much uncertainty about what a Trump White House will actually set out to accomplish, and how quickly he will do so. He’s promised to renegotiate free deals, scrap the Affordable Care Act, toughen immigration laws, dramatically lower taxes, push a sweeping new infrastructure spending plan and, more generally, “drain the swamp” in Washington. His decisions over the next year could bring sweeping change to Georgia, starting with a new debate over rising healthcare costs.

Will Gov. Nathan Deal get his education overhaul? The Republican governor made overhauling the school funding formula the centerpiece of his 2014 re-election campaign before pivoting to a divisive plan to allow the state to take control of failing schools. With that education initiative in tatters – it was soundly defeated at the polls in November – he is preparing a “Plan B” and could also revisit his plans to remake how K-12 schools are funded. But he could face an even tougher road than before, after a pair of controversial vetoes deepened the divide between him and GOP leaders, and a developing 2018 race for governor that could complicate his agenda.

Gov. Nathan Deal. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Gov. Nathan Deal. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Is the “religious liberty” debate going to make a comeback? Gov. Nathan Deal’s veto of the “religious liberty” legislation last year was one of the defining moments in the Governor’s Mansion, and seems destined to shape his remaining years in office. This year, though, there are signs that the contentious legislation won’t hog the spotlight. House Speaker David Ralston said it should be left up to federal lawmakers, while Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle – who last year was one of the fiercest supporters of the initiative – has said little about the plan.

Can Georgia Democrats regroup after an electoral disaster? Georgia Democrats spent the month after Hillary Clinton’s defeat licking their wounds. Sidelined for more than a decade, they were no closer to regaining control of the Georgia Legislature than they were two years ago. There’s no clear leader or unified direction. And warring factions in the fractious party are competing against each other for limited resources. Partisans note several silver linings – notably, Clinton’s flip of Cobb and Gwinnett counties – as they try to carve a path forward in the era of Trump.

Sen. Vincent Fort is among the contenders for Atlanta mayor. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Sen. Vincent Fort is among the contenders for Atlanta mayor. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Who will be Atlanta’s next mayor? The race to replace Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed may end up being one of the most-watched political contests in the nation in 2017, and it’s shaping up to be a free-for-all. About a dozen contenders are in the race, ranging from state Sen. Vincent Fort running as a Bernie Sanders liberal to Councilwoman Mary Norwood positioning herself as a business-minded conservative. In between are a range of former lawmakers, business leaders and councilmembers hoping to fight their way to a place in a runoff. Depending on how it shakes out, the city could have its first openly gay mayor, its first white mayor in a generation, a mayor who wants to extend Reed’s legacy – or one who openly reviles him.

How will the governor’s race shake out? It’s so far been a quiet start to the race to replace Gov. Nathan Deal, thanks to Donald Trump’s surprise victory. That shook up the race, with potential contenders like Rep. Tom Price and U.S. Sen. David Perdue (likely) opting to stay in Washington. Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is all but assured to jump in, but less certain are the other GOP contenders. On the Democratic side, House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams is gearing up for a run – and she’ll soon find out whether fellow Democrats clear the way for her.

What will Donald Trump’s healthcare policy mean for Georgia? Almost as soon as Trump’s victory, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle hoping to force a debate this year on Medicaid expansion were ready to concede defeat. How Trump and Georgia Rep. Tom Price – his pick for health secretary – plan to replace Barack Obama’s healthcare policy will affect Georgia’s fiscal bottom line, and lawmakers face a tremendous amount of uncertainty. As state Rep. Terry England, who heads the House’s budget-writing committee, said of what to expect from Trump: “We really have no clue.”

Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston.

Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston.

Who will replace Tom Price and run for the other down-ticket races? There’s an outside chance that every statewide office, except for the newly-installed Attorney General, is up for grabs in 2018. And there’s an ever-growing list of lawmakers, former politicians and self-proclaimed outsiders looking to fill them. But first, north Atlanta voters have to decide who replaces Rep. Tom Price in a conservative suburban district – a vote that will be among the first special elections after Trump’s victory.

Will gun advocates get their “campus carry” legislation? Gov. Nathan Deal was pretty unequivocal in his opposition to the “religious liberty” legislation, but he left the door a crack open for another bill he vetoed that would legalize firearms at all public colleges in Georgia. He nixed that proposal only after lawmakers defied his personal request for changes that would carve out a few exceptions to the expansion, and has yet to stake out any firm opposition to its revival. He could dangle it is a bargaining chip for his priorities – namely his education plan.

 

Reader Comments 0

101 comments
Daisy Elain Jones
Daisy Elain Jones

Can't wait to rid this nation of the number one muslim community organizer TERRORIST ...And ring in a NEW AMERICAN President TRUMP/PENCE

Yvette Marie Jacobs
Yvette Marie Jacobs

Nope especially since they still don't want to let the younger generation of voters in to work with them. And they don't listen to progressives at all. They are a dying party and only they seem not to know it.

Mary Fechtel Moseley
Mary Fechtel Moseley

And Jimmy Carter, a great man, and from Georgia, is the ONLY former President that will attend trump's inauguration. I love my home state of Georgia and one day, (and it's getting close), it will be in the BLUE :)

Stan Garrett
Stan Garrett

Democrats were done when they supported Clinton.

David K Wilson
David K Wilson

Can they lose the far left identity politics only agenda or can they do things to help middle class working folks?

Billy Strain
Billy Strain

I'm not sure that for Georgia Dems this election changed things that much for us here. The national level Dems, on the other hand, definitely needs to analyze what went wrong in the presidential and congressional elections.

Page Lassiter
Page Lassiter

Sure more people voted for him..California and NY clinched the popular vote for her.

Brenda Wheeler
Brenda Wheeler

Obama was most certainly repudiated by half the population of the country. Republicans certainly do care about ALL citizens. Obama's last actions as he goes out proves without doubt what a small petty little man he is, and was all along. Can't wait to see the good things 2017 holds....Market is up, actual hope is being felt all through the nation for the first time in eight years, small businesses & jobs will be created and others will be coming back after yrs abroad. If Congress does their job, and works with President Donald J. Trump, the economy will be booming before we know it! Hope is on the horizon!

Shelton Brown Jr
Shelton Brown Jr

Half!? Do you mean the less than 1/4 of the country that voted for Trump? Ha ha ha! It is funny to see the logic of the right. Do you know where the country was in 2008? I know you remember losing jobs every month, a declining stick market and consumer confidence at an all time low. In the last 8 years the market has doubled, consumer confidence restored, home prices restored, lowest number of uninsured I'm history, 15 million jobs created, 5.5 million open jobs now and the benefit goes to Obama. We've had a GOP house for 6 years and senate for 4 and they've done nothing. We have seen the policies of the GOP twice before and we see that they caused a decrease in wages, stock market depression and a decrease in the number of people in the middle class.

Brenda Wheeler
Brenda Wheeler

Typical Democrat response....name calling & bullying. Seems you prefer more of the same lame policies that have done nothing for middle class Americans, only the freeloaders love Obama's give away programs... them and all the illegals he's allowed to pour into the country. Interest rates less than one percent are killing the elderly's chance to live out their lives with any security, but Dems don't care about them. If you put as much effort into supporting good policies as you do in tearing into Donald J. Trump & his supporters, you could make a positive difference in your life & the world.

Shelton Brown Jr
Shelton Brown Jr

Brenda that's just it like the right we have a few fringe people on the left but by and large we are inclusive and unifying. We support common sense legislation that not only has helped this country grow but has ensured we have clean air and water. I know facts and figures are sometimes disregarded but by all metrics the country and the middle class does better under a Democrat.

Brenda Wheeler
Brenda Wheeler

I am in my seventies and have lived through many different administrations. I also was raised by parents and grandparents who lived through the "great depression," and will have to respectfully disagree with you. Your statement might have been more true a long,long time ago, but according to my parents etc, I doubt it. Btw, they were small farmers & hired workers, not rich by any stretch of the imagination. I do appreciate your civil comments, but I doubt either of us will change our minds, so I hope you will use your talents to help make America prosperous again, and I wish you a very Happy and Prosperous New Year! May God Bless America!

Phil Woodhall
Phil Woodhall

Not really. The top question is how soon Georgia's changing demographics will put the hyperconservative Republicans out of business for good.

Phil Woodhall
Phil Woodhall

True. It's about to flip for good, unless Republicans become better stewards of the state. The numbers are undeniable.

Larry Clark
Larry Clark

Majority rules, sir. WOrks for the repubs just like the Dems..........

Brenda Wheeler
Brenda Wheeler

Not going to happen. As more and more businesses move to Ga, this state will become more and more Republican...especially if President Donald J. Trump can repeal the oppressive rules & regulations Obama imposed, strangulating the business community. As the economy improves with good jobs, not fast food service jobs, more voters will recognize that Trump was right, and will continue to support him.

Phil Woodhall
Phil Woodhall

If Trump could do this, I"D vote for him. Too bad he"s a hoax.

Michelle James
Michelle James

Phil Woodhall , really, already bringing back jobs to the U.S. and not even officially in office yet. Also Georgia is ranked in the top 10 for businesses.

Phil Woodhall
Phil Woodhall

Trump falsely claimed responsibility for Carrier jobs, and the Carrier CEO confirmed this. Georgia's success has nothing to do with Trump. He's a con man and a moral degenerate, something a teenager could see.

Michelle James
Michelle James

Phil Woodhall yes about as degenerate as the democrats' platform that have made deals with the devil. It's not just carrier. Other companies have changed in what they see coming with Trump. Didn't say anything that Trump was the reason for Georgia's positive success for being business friendly but the Republicans have been in charge of Georgia. Also, when you want to persuade someone to your point of view. You don't call them deplorable like Clinton or compared to a middle schooler.

Phil Woodhall
Phil Woodhall

You're right about all the sarcastic language we hear. It is not a path to progress. At the same time, you have just called me "degenerate," which is about as far from my real character as you can get. Trump has been abusive and vulgar in his speech, he knows little about the Presidency. Short of his complete transformation, there is nothing you can say to make me respect him. He is racist and vulgar and untruthful. He has been married three times. His foreign wife refuses to live in the White House, costing the taxpayers of New York huge sums per day. If that's your hero, I'll include you in my prayers.

Shelton Brown Jr
Shelton Brown Jr

The counties Hillary won represented 67% of our nations economy. Where people are actually working, productive and tax paying they vote blue!

Tracy Martin
Tracy Martin

Brenda Wheeler Obama's oppressive and strangulating rules? Name a few, I'm dying to know how that works.

Marilyn Mitchell Davidson
Marilyn Mitchell Davidson

I think we Dems made inroads in 2016. I don't agree that the Obama agenda was repudiated. Georgia is fast going backward with the Repubs! Last in healthcare, for example, but Repubs don't care about poor people! More people voted for Hillary than Doofus.

Larry Clark
Larry Clark

Shelton Brown Jr Yeah, with untra liberal states of CA and NY.........................

Ben L Rainey
Ben L Rainey

You mean to say more idiots voted for Hillary than Trump

Shelton Brown Jr
Shelton Brown Jr

The numbers show we did even in Georgia and as a country with 2.7 million.

Bill Shields
Bill Shields

Inroads to the mental hospital. Unlike you we don't want the government stealing more of our earnings so your sorry butt can spend it

Robin Middlebrooks
Robin Middlebrooks

Bill Shields your gonna get less now that cheeta hole is in office doofus!

Bill Shields
Bill Shields

Deal with it Robin. I've never accepted a penny of taxpayers money. Unlike you I don't poke butts.

Christopher Channell
Christopher Channell

Illegal criminals votes do not count , neither do multiple votes or still counting a month later, hillary won absolutely nothing but treason charges.

Shelton Brown Jr
Shelton Brown Jr

Interesting now the idiots voted for Hillary. We know she won those with post secondary degrees but hey they just went to college and graduated no big deal. She also won 67% of the nations economy the people who are working and paying taxes voted for her.

John Lewis
John Lewis

@ Bill Nealey and Harry James comments decoded; If the Democrat party embraced the birther Trump Republican ideology of racism, sexism, homophobic, xenophobic, classicist, tax the non rich and cut taxes on the rich agenda, all of you non rich Republicans would vote Democrat ??? When you go down that road both political parties end up embracing the same agenda... A one party political system is a dictatorship... I assume birther Trump is the dictator....

Michelle James
Michelle James

All you democrats always embracing these isms against him. Been highly profiled in the public all of his life and all of a sudden he's racist for wanting to protect his country with common sense.

Shelton Brown Jr
Shelton Brown Jr

Michelle the only people who deny what a man says, does and is are those who are willingly ignorant. Please don't be ignorant in 2017.

Paul Spencer
Paul Spencer

No. Democrats think every one else is a stupid racist sexist rube.

Monte Poitevint
Monte Poitevint

The Democrats will have to get off their loony soapbox. The Obama agenda was soundly repudiated and rejected. Such absurd nonsense will lead to political extinction. Raving maniacs draw little support.

Shelton Brown Jr
Shelton Brown Jr

Yes by 2.7 million more votes. More GOP at state levels and those states are still suffering but hey blame the president. We'll see 2007 & 2008 again soon and you'll still find a way to blame the left. The country does better under a Democrat - look it up!

Robin Middlebrooks
Robin Middlebrooks

Denny Cain I didn't say Hillary! Anyone other than Trump or Pence!

Shelton Brown Jr
Shelton Brown Jr

Hostility means not wanting criminals to have guns? Ensuring that the phrase "well regulated" is not neglected. But lets be honest we came for all the guns during the Obama administration or did we?

Denny Cain
Denny Cain

Shelton Brown Jr as long as the Democrats keep up their hostility towards the 2nd Amendment they will ensure more lost seats. This is a deal breaker for many like me.

Sam Nicholas
Sam Nicholas

As long as Pubs keep up their hostility to diversity and obsession with people's genetalia, sexual partners, bathroom habits, marriage choices...they will ensure a defeat in 2018. I think Far Lefties and Blacks learned a lesson about pissing away their votes...it won't happen again. If a couple of NeverTrumper's vote with Democrats on an issue it shuts anything that you all want to do down. The great thing about, is as dumb as Trump is, he's really liberal socially which ought to piss a lot of the knuckledragger's off. As for gun rights, common sense says if you can't fly you can't buy and most NRA members and Republicans that aren't stupid, agree with that.

Donnie Self
Donnie Self

Shelton Brown Jr A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Neglected... see all those comma's. learn what they mean.

Robin Middlebrooks
Robin Middlebrooks

Denny Cain idiots like you always vote against their best interest! It's really ironic!!

Denny Cain
Denny Cain

Robin Middlebrooks Thank you for your nice insult. We will just have to agree to disagree. Hillary is certainly not in my best interest.

Denny Cain
Denny Cain

Robin Middlebrooks I was not crazy about any of the major candidates. My preference was the Veteran's Party candidate but he was not on the ballot in Georgia.

Shelton Brown Jr
Shelton Brown Jr

Donnie I think you need to go back and learn grammar. A comma doesn't negate the previous it adds to it the remaining statements. We don't want to take guns away from law abiding mentally stable citizens but we do want to ensure that it is difficult for those who seek to break the law to acquire the means to do so. I know its almost as if they shouldn't include seat belts in cars because cars don't kill people. Just SMH!

Brenda Wheeler
Brenda Wheeler

Shelton Brown Jr Hi, you do know that Chicago has some of the most stringent gun laws, and it is the homicide capital of America. There is currently more than enough gun laws on the books in every state. There is not a gun problem, but a people problem. Prayer was taken out of school and Roe v Wade was passed, thus elevating the status of soulless animals above that of a human baby! A baby can be murdered.....NO PROBLEM! God forbid an animal be mistreated, or even suspected of mistreatment..... OUTRAGE LIKE NEVER BEFORE SEEN! Like I say, a moral deficit in our society has led to no respect for anyone or anything! So sad......