The Week: Debate over Rebel monuments moves into governor races

As an issue, Confederate monuments continue, like a certain Gen. Thomas Jackson, to stand “like a stone wall.”

Whether the monuments should stay or go has become a driving factor in Tuesday’s gubernatorial election in Virginia, and it's looking like it could hold similar sway in deciding Georgia's governor's race a year from now.

Republican Ed Gillespie, who was once the chairman of the Republican National Committee, has leaned heavily on the monument issue to apparently narrow the gap in his race in Virginia against Democrat Ralph Northam. Gillespie, a guy from New Jersey, says the statues, obelisks, plaques, etc., should stay, in the words of CBS News, “in an appropriate historical context.” Northam says they should to go to museums, but it’s really a matter for localities to decide.

A similar faceoff is already brewing in Georgia.

Stacey Abrams, a Democrat who hopes to become the first black female governor in U.S. history, has proposed blasting the images of iconic figures from the Confederacy off the face of Stone Mountain. That would include the aforementioned Jackson.

“We’ve been really busy in the House since last session looking at ways we can take this success, this economic climate, all over Georgia,” the Blue Ridge Republican said, citing a transit study and economic development efforts in rural Georgia. “We have an awful lot of work to do.”

Despite what Ralston says, others have devoted a lot of thought about such legislation, which has commanded lots of attention during several recent legislative sessions.

Religious liberty supporters see a need for legislation that would defend against what they view as a siege on Christian values. Opponents, including powerful business boosters and gay rights groups, say religious liberty bills amount to legalized discrimination, and they point to executives from dozens of big-name companies who threatened boycotts if Georgia adopted such legislation.

It’s that type of thinking that concerns Gov. Nathan Deal’s chief of staff, Chris Riley. He has urged Republican candidates in the governor’s race to take a cautious approach to social measures, out of concern they could harm Georgia’s efforts to land the $5 billion investment and 50,000 jobs that would come with Amazon’s second headquarters.

For a little perspective, in the 2009 race, the three top competitors totaled about $5.8 million. In 2001, Shirley Franklin took in about $4 million in her run to victory.

At least six candidates in this year’s race have collected or loaned their campaigns more than $1 million, and several have opened their wallets to help finance their bids.

Former state Sen. Vincent Fort has formed an alliance with Killer Mike, thanks to a connection they share to Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

But Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms has the support of two hip-hop stars: rapper/actor Tip “TI” Harris and Ludacris.

Bottoms always had a bit of an advantage, thanks to a closer musical connection. Her father was soul singer Mayor Lance.

Some see Perdue, who sits on the committee that’s vetting former U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett of New Jersey for the job, as a swing vote.

Garrett is popular with the “drain the swamp” wing of the GOP because as a congressman, he strongly opposed renewal of the charter for the bank he could now run. Groups such as the Club for Growth and Heritage Action oppose the bank, and at least some detractors say it enables corporate welfare, benefiting businesses such as Boeing and General Electric.

But business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and its local affiliates see a lot of value in the bank, which provides loan guarantees to U.S. companies that sell goods overseas. They fear that Garrett could hobble it.

The Georgia Association of Manufacturers recently wrote to Perdue urging him to vote against Garrett “given his longstanding hostility to (the bank’s) mission and his past actions to try to eliminate the agency.”

Boosters of the Ex-Im, as it’s called, say it fosters some $4.7 billion in export sales from more than 200 Georgia companies, in the process supporting nearly 30,000 jobs.

Perdue remains a question mark. The last time the Ex-Im came up for reauthorization, Perdue voted no but said it was on procedural grounds because the matter had been coupled with a highway bill. The former Fortune 500 CEO also has expressed concerns about the bank’s structure and taxpayers assuming financial risk.

The State newspaper in South Carolina identified the man as Jason Kenneth Bell. The newspaper reported, based on an official filing with the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, that Bell called the office of U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., “to express his disapproval with Scott’s recent condemnation of President Donald Trump’s statements after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.”

  • Candidates, endorsements, etc.:

— State Sen. Michael Williams shows no signs that he'll step down from the Legislature as part of his bid for governor. The Republican from Cumming just sent out a fundraising email reminding his supporters that state lawmakers cannot raise campaign funds during the legislative session, or roughly a three-month period. “That makes our fundraising totals for November extremely important!” he wrote.

— Democrat Jen Jordan has won the support of the Daily Kos. That’s the same organization that backed Jon Ossoff earlier this year in his losing bid to capture the 6th Congressional District. The Daily Kos launched a fundraising campaign on its website that helped Ossoff draw $30 million in campaign contributions. It has also rallied behind Democrat Stacey Abrams in her race for governor.

— Republican Tricia Pridemore has filed paperwork to run for a seat on the Public Service Commission that Stan Wise is vacating. Pridemore, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2014, was Gov. Nathan Deal’s choice to head the state Republican Party in 2011. His administration has also appointed her to several key posts. Wise is expected to quit early next year so Deal will get to appoint his replacement, who will then have to face voters in the fall elections.

— Flagpole magazine reports that Republican Houston Gaines has raised nearly $200,000 in his race for state House District 117. He’s outpacing Democrat Deborah Gonzalez for the Athens-area seat by nearly 4-to-1.

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