by Xander Norris
The South is a big, complicated place. The irregular happens regularly, and many of the nation’s most important debates and happenings seem to either start or end somewhere within our borders. That’s why every Saturday morning, the Overby Center is committed to bringing you a rundown of this week’s most prominent southern news stories, all in one easily-digestible place. So grab a cup of coffee, settle into your most comfortable chair, and prepare to get caught up on what’s currently happening… Around the South.
- Sen. Mitch McConnell was reelected as Republican leader Wednesday, quashing a challenge from Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the Senate GOP campaign chief criticized after a disappointing performance in the midterm elections that kept Senate control with Democrats. McConnell, of Kentucky, easily swatted back the challenge from Scott in the first-ever attempt to oust him after many years as GOP leader. The vote was 37-10, senators said, with one other senator voting present. McConnell is poised to become the Senate’s longest-serving leader when the new Congress convenes next year. “I’m not going anywhere,” McConnell said after the nearly four-hour closed-door meeting. He said he was “pretty proud” of the outcome but acknowledged the work ahead. “I think everybody in our conference agrees we want to give it our best shot.”
- Texas Republicans, who have been some of Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters, had mixed reactions to the former president’s announcement that he will once again run for the White House in 2024 — reflecting a national mood of GOP apprehension toward Trump and the search for a potential other candidate to seek the nomination. Die-hard supporters like Attorney General Ken Paxton and Agricultural Commissioner Sid Miller were quick to tout enthusiastic support for Trump as the 2024 Republican presidential nominee. But the state’s two U.S. senators, Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, have signaled an openness to other GOP candidates, and Gov. Greg Abbott and other state officials, who were endorsed by Trump in their own elections, have yet to make a statement about Trump’s third bid for president.
‘What’s your plan, watch Rome burn?’: Politicians continue to reject solution to growing Mississippi hospital crisis
- Mississippi’s only burn center has closed. The Delta’s only neonatal intensive care unit has closed. A Jackson hospital that serves vulnerable populations is gutting key services to balance its budget. One of the state’s largest hospitals is months, if not weeks, from shutting its doors for good. Mississippi hospitals are in crisis, struggling to keep up with rising industry costs and cover care for the sixth-most uninsured population in America. Six hospitals have closed across the state since 2005, and countless more have reduced services and staff. Even more sobering, the state’s top health care leaders warn that a dozen more hospitals across the state are in imminent danger of closing.
- The final weeks of the runoff campaign for Senate in Georgia will coincide with the first weeks of former President Donald J. Trump’s 2024 re-election bid. The overlap has left some Republicans with a lingering question: Will Mr. Trump visit the Peach State to campaign for Herschel Walker, the Republicans’ Senate nominee? A Trump rally in Georgia could further complicate an already difficult Senate campaign season for the party. Republicans have lost control of the chamber and much of the energy they could put toward supporting Walker in his runoff against Senator Raphael Warnock has gone instead toward an internal fight among Senate Republicans in Washington — namely, between Senators Rick Scott and Mitch McConnell — over how this cycle was managed.
- In the wake of the aircraft collision in Dallas on Saturday, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are now gathering evidence in order to paint a broader picture of what happened during the midair plane explosion that left six people dead. On Monday, agency members retrieved an electronic flight display from the B-17 Flying Fortress and GPS unit from the P-63 Kingcobra, which could provide insight into the event that involved two vintage war planes. The investigation could take up to two years, if not more, said former NTSB investigator Jeff Guzzetti about the accident at the Wings Over Dallas show at Dallas Executive Airport. Over the next 30 days, the agency must release a preliminary report about the crash.
- Charles Robinson has become the first Black chancellor of the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. The UA board of trustees unanimously voted for him to take on the role during its meeting Wednesday following a months-long debate. Robinson has served as interim chancellor since August 2021 when he took over for acting Chancellor Bill Kincaid who was named to that post after the resignation of Chancellor Joe Steinmetz on June 18, 2021.
- A Fulton County judge in Georgia has overturned the state’s six-week ban on abortion, ruling that it violated Supreme Court precedent and the US constitution when it was passed in 2019. The law, known as the LIFE (Living Infants Fairness and Equality) Act, passed the state senate and house and was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019. The law was initially blocked for violating the then-constitutional right to abortion, but was reenacted in July after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling that struck down federal abortion rights. This, Judge Robert McBurney writes, was erroneous.
- Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti is investigating consumer complaints about chaos during the presale of tickets to Taylor Swift’s concert tour. Skrmetti said in a press conference today that antitrust violations “could be an issue” regarding Ticketmaster and Live Nation Entertainment Inc. The two control more than 70% of the primary ticketing and live event venues market, according to consumer groups, and Skrmetti said he’s concerned a lack of competition has led to a poor experience and higher prices for consumers. So far, Ticketmaster and Live Nation have not been accused of misconduct.
- Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey said Thursday that SEC football plans to eliminate the two-division structure for football scheduling once Texas and Oklahoma join the conference on July 1, 2025. The SEC currently consists of two seven-team divisions, East and West. Oklahoma and Texas, which will become two of the westernmost schools in the conference, make continuing that system a challenge. Sankey said the SEC is waiting on other factors like potential College Football Playoff expansion and the Big Ten media agreement to make final scheduling decisions. Sankey said the 2025 schedule and beyond will likely be conference-wide, allowing for programs that have never met to play.
- Just over half of churchgoing American Protestants went into the tense midterm elections believing that the people in the pews around them would vote the same way they did. A Lifeway Research online survey in September found that 50% of those in its national panel agreed with the statement, “I prefer to attend a church where people share my political beliefs, while 55% agreed that “My political views match those of most people at my church.” At the same time, 10% were not sure about the first question and 22% the second.