Stephen Fowler

Political Reporter

Stephen Fowler is an award-winning reporter and photographer for GPB News covering state and local politics. His work focuses on voting and elections, state government, legal issues and the 2020 election.

He got his start with GPB's All Things Considered in Atlanta, where he helped create live shows everywhere from a brewery to a baseball game to a rooftop midway, was part of award-winning hurricane coverage and (occasionally) filled in as the afternoon news host. In college, he served as the Executive Digital Editor of The Emory Wheel and was part of the inaugural cohort of the Georgia News Lab, a yearlong investigative journalism program.

His reporting takes him many places, like a chicken processing plant in southeast Georgia, fishing in the Flint River, a soul food restaurant in the mountains and protests in the streets of downtown Atlanta. His stories have appeared on Marketplace, Here and Now, All Things Considered and NPR’s national newscasts, as well as ProPublica and the Columbia Journalism Review.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Georgia lawmakers have spent the past week in hearings learning more about the governor's proposed $28.1 billion spending plan, which includes several hundred million in new spending to boost teacher pay, and several hundred million in cuts to streamline other agencies.

Gov. Brian Kemp told the state House and Senate Appropriations committees the budget includes common-sense savings that don't drastically cut services for Georgians.

But some agency heads say they will be hit extra hard. GPB political reporter Stephen Fowler sits down with Morning Edition host Leah Fleming to break down the discussions.


Stephen Fowler / GPB News

Concerns over mental health services dominated the final day of budget hearings Thursday at the state capitol.

Department of Behavioral Health and Disabilities Commissioner Judy Fitzgerald told lawmakers that cuts to her agency would negatively impact the more than 200,000 people they serve.


Stephen Fowler | GPB News

A new rule passed Wednesday by the State Election Board will require poll workers to remind voters to review their paper ballots before casting them. The directive is one of many proposed rules that will govern the new ballot-marking device voting system being rolled out statewide.

The changes address issues ranging from early voting to absentee ballots, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said, adding that many of them would be amended to incorporate feedback given by public commenters and other voting rights groups.
 

“This will be a process; we'll take a few iterations," he said. “We want to continue to improve elections in Georgia and we want to continue to take input from all the key voters and stakeholders in the election process in Georgia.”

Ga. House of Representatives stream

Gov. Brian Kemp told lawmakers Tuesday his $28.1 billion budget includes millions in savings that don’t require drastic cuts to services Georgians need while some agency heads said slashing spending would not be easy.

Speaking to the joint House and Senate Appropriations committees, the Republican talked about his spending plan and the listed several examples of streamlining operations.


Stephen Fowler | GPB News

The youngest daughter of Martin Luther King Jr. said the country needs to take the principles her father espoused and enact them year-round, moving from a “day on” during the holiday to a constant state of fighting for civil rights.

“We must act now before it's too late because we are teetering on the edge of losing our collective soul and opportunity to build the beloved community,” Bernice King said. “We cannot afford to operate as if we have the luxury of time. At some point, that window of opportunity will close. And our tendency to act only in times deemed as great crises will have failed us.” 


Governor's Office of Planning and Budget

Gov. Brian Kemp’s latest budget proposal would increase state spending to $28.1 billion for the next fiscal year, largely driven by increases in formula-based funding for education and health care plus a pay raise for public school teachers. 

The proposal comes as many other state agencies have been asked to cut back.

The governor’s budget report released Thursday kicks off the next phase of budget discussions at the state Capitol, where lawmakers have been greeted with the news of tepid tax collections as the larger economy continues to grow.

The amended budget proposal for fiscal year 2020, which ends June 30, has been revised down slightly from $27.5 billion to $27.4 billion as the governor’s office projects only a slight growth in the amount of money collected from taxes and fees.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Speaking on the state House floor in front of representatives from Georgia’s executive, legislative and judicial branches, Gov. Brian Kemp said the state of the state is strong.

“And folks, we’re just getting started,” he said.

The governor, entering his second year in office, painted an extended metaphor of the state as a house under construction.

John Bazemore / AP

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp told lawmakers during his State of the State address Thursday that his budget proposal for the next fiscal year includes an additional $2,000 pay raise for teachers and school employees, completing a campaign promise to boost teacher pay and adding another layer of complication to a tight budget discussion.

In his second annual address to lawmakers, Kemp also said the General Assembly should continue to fully fund the state’s education formula.

“Let’s fully fund public school education for the third year in a row, accounting for growth and resources needed to properly educate,” he said.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

More than 2,600 lawmakers and business leaders filled a ballroom at the Georgia World Congress Center Wednesday to hear several top politicians share their perspectives on the state’s economy.

The overall message of the morning was that business is booming in Georgia: from low unemployment rates to more companies expanding their operations across the state. But state officials have difficult decisions to make regarding proposed budget cuts as slowing tax revenues don't match up with larger growth seen elsewhere.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Georgia’s Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said his priorities for the 2020 legislative session include healthcare, foster care and boosting Georgia’s role as a technology hub.

Speaking to reporters in his office Monday, the first-term Republican said that he learned a lot during his first 12 months in office and is ready to continue working with the governor’s office and lawmakers.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

The Georgia General Assembly gaveled in for Day One of the 2020 legislative session Monday. The day began with a pair of remembrances for lawmakers who recently passed away, and started the clock on a contentious few months of debate over funding the state budget as revenues lag.


Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Standing at the edge of a DeKalb County loading dock, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger joined several reporters and elections staff as a nondescript white truck slowly backed up to unload its cargo.

The truck was loaded with battery backups that will help power 2,839 ballot-marking devices used by DeKalb voters in future elections. It was the first of many shipments arriving that day.

While the holiday season has made coordinating deliveries to local officials tricky, Raffensperger said that more than 25,000 of the 33,100 BMDs are tested and in the state’s control and 32 of Georgia’s 159 counties have received nearly all of their new voting machines and accessories.


Rep. John Lewis
NPR

Rep. John Lewis (D-Atlanta) says he has been diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer but plans to stay in office.

The longtime Congressman and civil rights icon said Sunday that "he has never faced a fight like this" throughout his life.

“This month in a routine medical visit, and subsequent tests, doctors discovered Stage IV pancreatic cancer. This diagnosis has been reconfirmed," he said in a statement. “I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life."

Grant Blankenship / GPB

A federal judge says he does not have the jurisdiction to order the state to add back about 98,000 voter registrations that were moved to canceled status last week but expressed "serious concern" about the issue raised in the complaint.

In a 32-page ruling, Judge Steve Jones denied the request brought by voting rights group Fair Fight Action that sought to reinstate registrations canceled after voters did not respond to communications from elections officials after about seven years of not voting.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

2019 has been a consequential year across Georgia’s political landscape, from the inauguration of a new governor to fierce debates over voting and reproductive rights to national attention over the state’s potential to flip from Republican to Democrat.

GPB political reporter Stephen Fowler sat down with All Things Considered host Rickey Bevington to recap some of the biggest moments.


GPB

2020 is shaping up to be a busy year for Georgia politics.

The economy is doing well, but the state government is making some significant budget cuts.


John Bazemore/AP

The Georgia secretary of state’s office is adding 22,000 previously-canceled voter registrations back to the “inactive” voter list ahead of a scheduled federal court hearing over the issue Thursday.

In a press release, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the registrations belong to Georgians who last had contact with elections officials between January and May of 2012.

Andrew Harnik / AP

Just under 4,500 Georgia voters acted to keep their voter registrations from being purged this week, a small percentage of more than 313,000 registrations set to be canceled for inactivity and failure to respond to election officials.

308,753 registrations were moved from “inactive” to “canceled” status Monday night as part of federally-required voter list maintenance, according to an updated list from the Georgia secretary of state’s office.

Grant Blankenship/GPB

A federal judge has ruled that Georgia can move forward with a planned purge of more than 300,000 inactive voter registrations Monday night.

However, U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones has scheduled a hearing for Thursday to determine whether some of those registrations must be reinstated to the inactive voter list.

At issue is a provision of Georgia law that removes voters from the rolls for not voting or having any contact with elections officials, often known as no-contact or “use it or lose it.” 


Stephen Fowler | GPB News

Nearly half of Georgia’s 159 counties are getting more voting machines than allotted in the original request for proposals, according to the latest numbers from the secretary of state’s office.

Georgia has purchased 33,100 Dominion ballot-marking devices as part of the largest single implementation of a new voting system in U.S. history, with 31,826 of them slated to be delivered to counties ahead of the March 24 presidential preference primary.

Sara Tindall Ghazal

A longtime voting rights advocate and former voter protection director for the Democratic Party of Georgia is challenging a Republican incumbent from Cobb County in the state House.

Sara Tindall Ghazal announced she is running for House District 45, which covers parts of East Cobb and Sandy Springs. The seat has been held by Republican Matt Dollar (R-Marietta), who was first sworn in in 2003.

Stacey Evans

Former Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Evans has announced she will run for a soon-to-be vacated House seat in Atlanta. 

Evans served for seven years in a Cobb County-based House district and lost to Stacey Abrams in the gubernatorial primary. 

She's seeking to replace Rep. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta), who has held the District 57 seat since 2001.

Stephen Fowler / GPB News

A federal judge says Gov. Brian Kemp must answer some questions about his time as Georgia's top elections official as part of a wide-ranging lawsuit challenging how elections are administered.

U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones ruled last week that the governor will need to answer two hours' worth of questions about comments he made about increasing minority voter turnout and his actions as chair of the State Election Board.


Rep. Tom Graves
Rep. Tom Graves

Georgia Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger) announced Thursday he will not be seeking re-election in 2020. 

In a letter to his constituents, the northwest Georgia lawmaker said "the time has come for me to pass the baton" and leave after nearly a decade in the House.

Georgia Secretary of State's Office

The Georgia Secretary of State’s office has unveiled a new education program to help voters acclimate to a new $104 million election system that prints out a paper record of your vote that is then scanned and stored for counting.

Secure The Vote” is a website and awareness campaign that will show Georgians how the Dominion Voting Systems ballot-marking devices work, including a streamlined check-in process using iPads, the touchscreen machines where you make your selections and the printed ballot with a summary of your selections that is then inserted into a precinct scanner.

Mary Grace Heath, Office of the Governor

The wait is finally over: Gov. Brian Kemp has formally announced his pick to replace retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Kelly Loeffler is a political newcomer and longtime Republican donor who has decades of experience in the financial services sector. She will be the second Georgia woman to serve in the Senate, and, if she wins a special election next November, she would be the first woman elected to the Senate.

Her appointment comes as President Trump and others urged Kemp to appoint someone else, and as Democrats look to flip the state in 2020.


Elijah Nouvelage / AP

Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday named Atlanta businesswoman Kelly Loeffler as Georgia’s next U.S. Senator as the Republican party in Georgia seeks to maintain control of two Senate seats, the state House and its presidential vote heading into the 2020 election cycle.

Loeffler will be the second-ever woman to represent Georgia in the Senate, and, if she wins a special election next fall, she will be the first Georgia woman elected to the Senate. In her remarks, she acknowledged that it will take work for her become known to voters in Georgia.

“But here’s what folks are gonna find out about me: I’m a lifelong conservative, pro-Second Amendment, pro-military, pro-wall and pro-Trump,” she said. “And I make no apologies for my conservative values, and will proudly support President Trump’s conservative judges.”


Ranking Member Rep. Doug Collins accompanied by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler speaks as Attorney General William Barr does not appear before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Andrew Harnik / AP Photo

When the House Judiciary Committee takes up the impeachment inquiry into President Trump, expect Georgia Congressman Doug Collins to lead the Republican messaging.

As ranking member, the Gainesville Republican tells GPB News that he’s heading into tomorrow’s proceedings ready to push back against “what is actually going to be very much a waste of American taxpayers’ time.”


isakson.senate.gov

Sen. Johnny Isakson is set to deliver his farewell speech Tuesday afternoon from the floor of the U.S. Senate.

The three-term Republican is the only Georgian to be elected in the state House and Senate and the U.S. House and Senate and has served for 45 years in elected office.

Stephen Fowler | GPB News

After months of speculation, hundreds of resumes submitted and a holiday weekend Twitter war mentioning jellybeans and jorts, Gov. Brian Kemp is set to finally announce who Georgia’s next U.S. Senator will be.

 

Kemp will be joined by members of Georgia’s Congressional delegation, state lawmakers and party leaders, grassroots activists and his appointee at 10 a.m. Wednesday in his ceremonial office.

Pages