Peaches and Politics: 2023 in review

(Design: Joy Walstrum)

In retrospect, 2023 proved to be an exhilarating, if not exhausting, year for politics. 

Georgia’s largest and most diverse group of lawmakers in recent memory convened under the Gold Dome. This year’s General Assembly had 155 men and 81 women, 151 of whom are white and 83 of whom were people of color, including immigrants from Nigeria, the Caribbean and Bangladesh. And there were bipartisan Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Hispanic caucuses for the first time.

Georgia’s 236-member assembly is the third largest in the country.

In a series of legal moves throughout this year, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has managed to checkmate —  so far — former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 Presidential election, a case that will continue well into next year. In the latest news, Willis has refused to postpone Georgia’s racketeering case against Trump until after the 2024 presidential election, according to Axios

Speaking of racketeering cases, Atlanta rapper Young Thug made headlines for his ongoing trial involving allegations of racketeering and gang charges, The Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers had to scramble to redo their electoral maps when a federal judge said the previous maps violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act. U.S. District Judge Steve Jones held a hearing on the new maps in December but has yet to complete his review. 

In a surprising move, Atlanta native and state Rep. Mesha Mainor defected to the Republican Party following blistering criticism from Georgia Democrats for her support of private school vouchers. During an interview with State Affairs, she said the Democratic Party doesn’t have the best interests of her constituents at heart.

Extreme weather conditions — a warm winter and two frosts in March – nearly destroyed Georgia’s peach crop this year. The state produces around 130 million pounds of peaches in an average year, but this year the yield was projected to be less than 10% of the average crop. 

A federal jury ordered Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and Trump’s former personal lawyer, to pay $148 million in a defamation case brought by two former Georgia election workers — Ruby Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss. The pair is taking Guiliani back to court “seeking a permanent injunction against Giuliani that, if granted, would bar him from speaking publicly about them ever again,” Axios reported.   

Here are other people and events that kept Georgia in the news this year:

  • The Carters. Georgia’s most famous politician, former President Jimmy Carter, entered hospice at his home in Plains in February. On Oct. 1, Georgians and dignitaries from around the world wished the nation’s 39th president a happy 99th birthday. A little more than a month later, the country went into mourning when the former president’s wife Rosalynn Carter died on Nov. 19.
  • Education grants. HOPE scholarships were fully funded for qualifying students for the first time since 2011.
  • Foster care. Earlier this year, lawmakers learned many of the hard-to-place children in Georgia’s foster care system – those with mental health challenges and other difficulties – were living in hotel rooms and offices because there was nowhere else for them to go. In February, Georgia’s own U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff launched an investigation into allegations of abuse in the state’s foster care system.
  • Differing views of the Israeli-Hamas war. Following the attack on Israel by Hamas, two state lawmakers publicly expressed different views. State Affairs interviewed both lawmakers, state Reps. Ruwa Romman and Esther Panitch.
  • Criminal justice. Fulton County, Georgia’s most populous county, drew national attention and outcry this year over conditions at its jail, where 10 inmates have died so far this year. The sordid conditions — which include allegations of drugs and poor living conditions – prompted a federal investigation in July. The state followed three months later by creating a study committee to look into the troubled jail. 
  • The county also has been at the center of a bitter feud over the proposed construction of a $90 million Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, also known as “Cop City.” Environmental and community activists say it will create further policing of communities while destroying forestry in the area. County officials, however, say it will help improve training, boost morale, and recruit and retain officers in a city that needs 500 more police officers.

Have questions? Contact Issac Morgan on X or at [email protected]. Reach Tammy Joyner on X @lvjoyner or at [email protected].

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