Three Governor-Mayor Standoffs Over Reopening Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - AUGUST 23: Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)
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April 24, 2020 5:17 p.m.
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Governors and mayors of major cities nationwide are at odds over when and how to reopen their states amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

So far, the standoffs have largely — but not always — mirrored the partisan divide: A Republican governor versus Democratic mayor, sometimes vice versa. 

These state-level battles are likely harbingers for more to come over the next month, especially as Republican governors seek to reopen business in their states, staunch the economic bleeding, and in some cases cozy up to President Trump, while Democrats warn of the health risks.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) vs. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms (D) 

Kemp declared huge swaths of the state’s industry open for business on Friday, including gyms, nail salons and bowling alleys. He is leading the pack on the reopenings, even earning President Donald Trump’s (coerced) disapproval: “I wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp,” he said Thursday.

Neither was Keisha Bottoms, mayor of Atlanta and one of the loudest voices pushing back on Kemp’s preemptive decision. 

“There is nothing essential about going to a bowling alley or getting a manicure in the middle of a pandemic. It’s necessary that we continue to distance ourselves,” Bottoms said Friday on “Good Morning America.” “We have been aggressive, especially in the metro-Atlanta area, and socially distancing and asking people to stay home.”

She has even alluded to possible legal action.

Kemp has stood by his decision, calling it a “measured step.” 

Predictably, Fulton County, which contains Atlanta, has the most cases of coronavirus anywhere in the state. As of Friday afternoon, it had 2,468 cases and 90 deaths, per the state health department. 

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Sitt (R) vs. Norman Mayor Breea Clark (D) 

Sitt is following a similar, though slightly slower, schedule to Kemp’s: he is allowing barbershops and nail salons to open on Friday, followed by another wave of movie theaters and restaurants on May 1. 

Clark, mayor of the state’s third largest city which is home to the University of Oklahoma, has had harsh words for the governor. 

“We don’t have enough testing. We don’t have a plan for contact tracing. This is entirely irresponsible and dangerous,” Clark said to the local Fox affiliate. “Where are the tests? What’s the plan for contact tracing? Is it a state level? Is it a county level? Is it a city level? Nobody’s told me.”

The mayors of Oklahoma’s other major cities have also pushed back, albeit more quietly. 

Oklahoma Mayor David Holt (R) is disregarding the governor’s announcement and keeping a shelter-in-place order effective until May.

“As was announced three weeks ago, and in the interest of public health, our city’s shelter in place proclamation lasts through April 30th, as does the closure of personal care services,” he wrote on Twitter. He added that he “dearly hopes” that the data allows city businesses to open up on May 1, as the governor has green-lit.

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum (R) said at his press conference Friday that the city’s shelter-in-place order will also not be lifted until the end of April, though he was more prepared to promise the opening of golf courses and tennis courts on May 1. 

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) vs. Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman (I)

Earlier this week, Goodman gave a series of truly bizarre interviews where she declared her desire for all casinos in the state to open (while candidly admitting that she had no plan for how to do that safely), asserted that businesses crushed by COVID-19 would just be the free market at work and offered up the city as a control group for relaxing mitigation efforts.

Gov. Sisolak responded the following day.

“I will not allow the citizens of Nevada, our Nevadans, to be used as a control group, placebo, whatever she wants to call that,” he said on CNN. “I will not allow that.”

The powerful Vegas Culinary Workers Union joined in the governor’s disapproval, calling Goodman’s comments “outrageous.” 

Bonus: Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) vs. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo (D)

On a slightly lower level of state governance, Patrick bawled Hidalgo out this week for mandating that all Texans in her county wear masks in public places for 30 days starting Monday. Her order comes as Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is planning to relax restrictions in the state, promising a coming order to open restaurants, churches and movie theaters. 

“Her abuse of the use of executive orders is the ultimate government overreach. These kind of confused government policies fuel public anger – and rightfully so,” Patrick said in a statement.

Harris County is the most populous in Texas and includes Houston. Per the state department of health, it has so far had 5,330 cases and 82 deaths.

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

TPM’s COVID-19 hub.
Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.
COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).
Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world).
Worldometers.info (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).
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