If Republican Roy Moore wins Alabama’s special election to the U.S. Senate next month, and if fellow senators choose to expel him from the chamber over accusations of sexual misconduct involving the candidate and teenagers when he was in his 30s — so a couple of huge “ifs” — Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson could be a key cog in the process.
As chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, Isakson would take a lead in the proceedings.
While some senators have approached the idea of expulsion — including Colorado Republican Cory Gardner, the head of the Senate GOP’s re-election effort — it rarely happens. The Senate last expelled members in 1862, during the Civil War.
The Senate Ethics Committee also appears headed for investigations involving two Democratic senators. First, there’s Sen. Bob Menendez, whose bribery and corruption case was just declared a mistrial in New Jersey. It also could probe allegations of sexual misconduct by Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota.
In Moore’s case, Isakson would rather just see the candidate take the advice of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Declaring Monday that he believes Moore’s accusers, McConnell said he thinks the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court should withdraw from the race less than a month from the Dec. 12 election.
The Marietta Daily Journal reported that Isakson said Monday at a Rotary Club meeting that “the allegations seem a lot more credible than any defense (Moore) has put up.”
“Something like that,” Isakson said, “is inexcusable and should be intolerable.”
U.S. Rep. Jody Hice is also no longer backing Moore. The Covington News reports the Monroe Republican said “based on the inconsistencies in his explanations regarding the allegations, I cannot continue to support his candidacy.”
- White voters had edge: The numbers aren’t final, but it appears that white voters outnumbered black voters in the first round of the Atlanta mayor’s election.
Veteran Democratic analyst Chris Huttman found that about 49 percent of the nearly 100,000 voters were white and 46 percent were black. Not included in the data is a section of DeKalb County, a majority-white area.
Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, who is black, led the first round of voting with about 26 percent of the vote, followed by Councilwoman Mary Norwood with 21 percent. Six other contenders split the remaining 53 percent of the electorate.
Bottoms and Norwood, who is white, now face each other in a Dec. 5 runoff.
Huttman’s analysis also found turnout among likely white voters was about 5 percent higher than turnout among likely black voters, which could have helped account for Cathy Woolard’s strong third-place finish. She picked up 17 percent of the vote, dominating a sweep of majority-white east Atlanta precincts.
- LGBTQ shows some clout: Woolard is now a power broker who will help determine the ultimate winner.
But that’s only part of the political muscle the LGBTQ community is flexing in the region.
Tharon Johnson at InsiderAdvantage points out that two gay people, Alex Wan and Keisha Waites, are now candidates in runoffs for president of the Atlanta City Council and chairman of the Fulton County Commission, respectively.
“With two LGBTQ candidates on the ballot in Atlanta and one former LGBTQ candidate wielding the support of most of that community’s support,” Johnson writes, “the election on Dec. 5 represents a unique opportunity for our city and county. LGBTQ Americans are vastly underrepresented in government, but Atlanta and Fulton could make two small steps in changing that.”
- Experienced hands on board: Republican businessman Clay Tippins may be late to the governor’s race — he only formally launched his campaign Wednesday, while Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, former state Sen. Hunter Hill, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and state Sen. Michael Williams have been running for months in pursuit of the GOP nomination — but he's lined up a number of pros to help him.
His general consultant is Leigh Ann Gillis, who worked in campaigns for both Sonny and David Perdue. Also on the team are Fred Davis, a prominent ad man; Ron Butler, another Perdue campaign staffer who also worked for U.S. Rep. Karen Handel and will be in charge of direct-mail efforts; and pollster Dave Sacket and digital expert Jacob Hawkins, who both worked for Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens.
- Still looking: The secretary is gone, but the investigation lives on.
Following allegations of improper use of corporate flights, former U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Roswell walked out on his job in President Donald Trump’s Cabinet. But Politico.com says a probe into the former secretary of health and human services and his flights on private jets has not been grounded. In fact, it appears to have expanded its scope.
“The inspector-general probe is likely to put a spotlight on HHS Assistant Secretary for Administration John Bardis, the official designated in department rules as overseeing the travel approval process along with the HHS general counsel’s office,” Politico reports.
Additional reporting from Politico identifies Bardis as a Georgia-based entrepreneur who did so well in selling his metro Atlanta medical supply company, MedAssets, in 2015 that his nickname within HHS is “the billionaire.”
“Before joining the federal government,” Politico reports, “Bardis used his own corporate jets to fly executives, sometimes for charity missions, which may have made him more indulgent of Price’s requests for one, according to one individual who’s worked with him.”
- This is for the “captive ratepayers”: Ryan Graham, a Libertarian running for the state Public Service Commission, said in a press release that construction should only continue on two new reactors at Plant Vogtle near Augusta if “Georgia Power and its partners can secure funding from sources other than captive ratepayers.”
“Investors should voluntarily take on the risk, holding Georgia Power and contractors accountable for completion of the project on time and on budget,” said Graham, who is running against Republican incumbent Chuck Eaton.
- Concerns change: The days of “It’s the economy, stupid” have apparently passed, according to a Gallup organization.
“Americans’ concerns about the U.S. economy are, by one measure, the lowest in 18 years,” Gallup reported. “Fifteen percent of Americans mention an economic issue when asked to name the most important problem facing the country. The percentage mentioning the economy has been lower only once in Gallup’s 25-year trend — 13% in 1999 during the dot-com boom. It was similar, at 16%, in late 2006 and early 2007, before the recession and during the Iraq War. …
“As Americans continue to shift their attention away from economic matters, their opinions about the most important problem facing the U.S. increasingly center on non-economic issues, chiefly what they perceive as poor government. Twenty-three percent now mention dissatisfaction with government, significantly more than mention any other issue.”
- Candidates, endorsements, etc.:
— U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, announced that he is seeking a seventh term in Congress.
— Atlanta Councilman Kwanza Hall, who took about 4 percent of the vote in last week’s mayoral race, is endorsing Bottoms in the runoff.
— Cindy Zeldin, a health advocate running as a Democrat for state insurance commissioner, has won an endorsement from Kathleen Sebelius, who served as the secretary of health and human services during the Obama administration.
— Two of Georgia’s first Republican members of Congress — Fletcher Thompson and Ben Blackburn — have endorsed David Shafer, a GOP candidate for lieutenant governor. Both were first elected to Congress in 1966.
The week in Georgia politics
Here’s a look at some of the political and government stories that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s staff broke online during the past week. To see more of them, go to http://www.myajc.com/georgia-politics/.