Political Insider

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Emory protects pro-Donald Trump chalkings on campus

Chalk one up for First Amendment rights: An Emory University panel concluded that the person who scrawled "TRUMP 2016" around campus earlier this year was protected by the school's free speech policies.

In case you forgot, Emory president James Wagner tried to placate students who protested outside his office saying they felt threatened by the chalked messages supporting the GOP front-runner. That led to a wave of negative national attention - and prompted Wagner to chalk a message of his own.

The 12-page report from Emory University Standing Committee for Open Expression was asked to delve deeper into whether the chalkings violated the school's policy. It found there was "no reason to presume an intent to intimidate" by the chalked messages, and rejected claims that it caused emotional stress to students.

You can read the report here.


Here's a key passage:

In any event, a statement like “Trump 2016” is core political expression. If any expression is protected under the Policy, clearly this includes expressions of support for or opposition to candidates or their policies. This is true whether the statement is made honestly, ironically (e.g., “Billionaires for Bush”), or with any other subjective intent. Therefore, whether the chalkings were made to intimidate or “merely to advocate for a particular candidate” is not relevant to whether they are protected expression under the Policy.

And another:

The knowledge that someone supports Donald Trump and is willing to express his feelings in chalk is not a threat, and is not a reasonable cause for fear in this context.

Wagner talked with our AJC colleague Janel Davis this week about the aftermath of the chalkings:

"With the chalkings: Students protested, I listened as best I could, I learned that there was genuine hurt. I wrote that this was genuine, that Emory stands for free expression and listed some of the things underway already on campus because of the Black Lives Matter movement. Ultimately we had people wrestle with the reality that there is no such thing as free expression unless you take everybody into the conversation. That’s where Emory ended up, but it took a couple of painful weeks for us to get there."


Georgia Democrats will take another step toward selecting delegates to their Philadelphia convention this weekend, and we can safely assume there won't be any of the dizzying maneuvering that swept the Republican meetings.

The party will vote on 13 PLEO delegate slots -- that stands for party leaders and elected officials -- for the convention. Nine will go to supporters of Hillary Clinton, who won Georgia by nearly three-quarters of the vote.

Among the contenders for the spots are Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, former Rep. John Barrow and Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall. The remaining four slots are betrothed to Sanders supporters. They're set to go to state Rep. LaDawn Jones, state Sen. Vincent Fort, state Sen. Lester Jackson and Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry.

Another vote is set for next month for the party's at-large delegate slate.


We'll soon have the results of our own exclusive poll to share with you, but in the meantime here's some figures about Gov. Nathan Deal's approval ratings from The Morning Consult.

The firm found the two-term Republican's likability stayed pretty steady from November, ticking up by a percentage point to 58 percent. His disapproval decreased three points to 27 percent.

We don't have the crosstabs, but we can speculate as to why: His approval may have taken a hit among Republicans for his vetoes of "religious liberty" and "campus carry" legislation, but support from Democrats and independents may have offset it.

Other interesting tidbits from the poll of 66,000 registered voters across the nation: Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has plummeted further than any other U.S. politician the firm tracked in the past year due to the water crisis in Flint. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's approval dropped four points to 36 percent since he suspended his presidential campaign.


The polling firm 20/20 Insight conducted a separate poll for the Democratic-leaning Better Georgia advocacy group. Among the findings of the poll of 1,016 likely Georgia voters:

  • Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are deadlocked within the margin of error, with Clinton at 43 percent and Trump at 45 percent.
  • Fewer than a third of women have positive views of Trump
  • A slim majority - 51 percent - of voters support Gov. Nathan Deal's veto of the "religious liberty" bill.

See the top lines here.


And businessman Jim Pace, a contender for the Third District seat being vacated by Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, has his first ad on air in Columbus broadcast and cable markets. Take a look at the Republican's ad here:

Here's the transcript:

“Career politicians in Washington are putting their ambition first, jeopardizing the future of our children who hold the hope of tomorrow. As a man of faith and family, I believe we have a moral obligation to finally secure the border, to destroy radical Islamic terrorism and to abolish Obamacare. Because our families’ futures depend on immediate action, there’s no time to waste.”


It looks like Donald Trump’s tough talk on immigration has prompted a call to action among Latinos.

The Washington Post reports that the billionaire’s candidacy has led to a record increase in voter registration and citizenship applications among Latinos:

Activists, lawmakers and political consultants around the country say Hispanics are flooding into citizenship workshops and congressional offices and jamming hotlines on how to become U.S. citizens or register to vote. Many say they are primarily motivated by the rise of Trump, who has proposed deporting 11 million undocumented immigrants and building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Post also reported that the increase of Latino voter registration in Georgia in this year’s presidential primaries was larger than the increase among whites or blacks.

Read more here.


Former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney took to Facebook yesterday to blast this year’s frontrunner Donald Trump for refusing to release his tax returns. The former Massachusetts governor said Trump’s actions were “disqualifying”:

“It is disqualifying for a modern-day presidential nominee to refuse to release tax returns to the voters, especially one who has not been subject to public scrutiny in either military or public service. Tax returns provide the public with its sole confirmation of the veracity of a candidate's representations regarding charities, priorities, wealth, tax conformance, and conflicts of interest. Further, while not a likely circumstance, the potential for hidden inappropriate associations with foreign entities, criminal organizations, or other unsavory groups is simply too great a risk to ignore for someone who is seeking to become commander-in-chief.

Mr. Trump says he is being audited. So? There is nothing that prevents releasing tax returns that are being audited. Further, he could release returns for the years immediately prior to the years under audit. There is only one logical explanation for Mr. Trump's refusal to release his returns: there is a bombshell in them. Given Mr. Trump's equanimity with other flaws in his history, we can only assume it's a bombshell of unusual size.”

This is, of course, not the first time Romney has voiced his disdain for the billionaire. Romney lit up social media in March during a stunning speech in which he called Trump a “phony” and a “fraud” and urged Republican voters to back the candidates in each state who were most likely to defeat Trump.


Days after returning to Washington from his failed White House bid, Ted Cruz filed for reelection to the U.S. Senate, reactivating his Ted Cruz for Senate campaign committee. His Senate term expires in 2018.


State Sen. Mike Crane snagged an endorsement from conservative radio host Erick Erickson, less than two weeks before voters hit the polls in the Third District congressional primary.

The Crane campaign said Erickson recently encouraged listeners of his WSB show to “go out and vote for Mike Crane; a solid state senator.” (WSB and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution share the same parent company.)

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.