Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

It could have been Saxby Chambliss...

You have to know that, somewhere in D.C., Saxby Chambliss is shaking his head, perhaps murmuring, “There but for the grace of God….” From the Associated Press:

JACKSON, Miss. — National tea party groups are divvying up the nuts and bolts of campaigning as they rush to boost Republican Chris McDaniel’s effort to deny Sen. Thad Cochran a seventh term representing Mississippi.

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The activist-focused FreedomWorks will run a door-to-door, get-out-the-vote operation ahead of the June 24 runoff. The anti-tax Club for Growth is ready to air even tougher television ads. The Tea Party Express will rally supporters with a bus tour through Mississippi next weekend.

That frees up the cash-strapped McDaniel campaign to replenish his nearly empty campaign accounts for a three-week sprint to yet another Election Day.

 “I’ll be brutally honest with you: Our campaign is almost out of money,” McDaniel wrote in a fundraising plea.

His allies, however, are not.

McDaniel led Cochran in Tuesday’s primary voting by fewer than 1,400 votes but fell short of a majority, forcing the two men into an intraparty runoff that could prove costly and messy.

Outside groups, which helped the 41-year-old McDaniel mount a more-viable-than-expected challenge to the 76-year-old incumbent, were huddling to figure out how they might pick up a win, which has proved elusive for tea party-styled activists this election year.

Cochran’s allies, meanwhile, have been more muted, even as they promise to stand by the senator.

McDaniel has been out of the spotlight since Tuesday. Cochran toured a defense contractor’s manufacturing plant Thursday with no media allowed inside. The most frenzied action came from those technically independent from the candidates.

“We can’t coordinate with campaign. We can coordinate with super PACs and obviously we can coordinate with activists,” FreedomWorks chief Matt Kibbe said in an interview.

There is “an ongoing conversation among outside groups” about how to help McDaniel, Kibbe said. “Everyone feels like they’re in the same boat on this one.”

Even before Tuesday, the group’s network knocked on 100,000 doors, distributed 40,000 yard signs and passed out 10,000 bumper stickers. In all, the group counted almost 275,000 conversations with potential supporters before Tuesday’s voting began— again reminding its foes of its clout among rank-and-file conservatives.

 FreedomWorks has ordered 20,000 more yard signs and 40,000 more red-white-and-blue pieces of pro-McDaniel fliers to leave at voters’ doors.

Separately, Club for Growth Action already spent almost $2.5 million to help McDaniel and urged Cochran to drop out of the runoff or else face even more spending. On Thursday, the group promised tougher criticism.

“Whoa,” Cochran said after visiting a Raytheon Co. facility about 50 miles east of Jackson. “They can relax. … I have no intention of dropping out. I have every intention of winning the election.”

Outsiders already have been a major factor in the Mississippi race. Cochran raised about three-quarters of his cash from Mississippi voters and a quarter from non-Mississippi voters. It was the inverse for McDaniel, who raised three-quarters of his cash from outside the state.

Third-party groups spent about $8.4 million in the primary, mostly on TV ads. McDaniel enjoyed a 2-to-1 tilt in his favor in outside spending.


Chalk up one more member of the G-9 for Jack Kingston. U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, today endorsed his congressional colleague in the Republican runoff for U.S. Senate. From the press release:

“In my three years in Congress, I have come to know Jack Kingston as one of the most conservative Members in the House, but more importantly, I have come to know him as one of the most effective members of the House.”


One of our number, Monsieur Daniel Malloy, currently of Normandy, France, ran into U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Decatur, at this morning’s D-Day ceremonies.

Johnson was one of 15 members of Congress in attendance. With a variety of Sousa marches playing in the background, he said:

“It’s an honor to be here. I’ve been able to meet and thank probably about 40 veterans, many of whom actually landed on one of these beaches on June 6 of 1944. I’m in awe of what they were able to accomplish here despite all odds. It was a helluva fight to take this beach.”

Our man in Normandy noted that the trip must be a welcome break after a hard-fought primary against former DeKalb County sheriff Tom Brown. Johnson didn’t flinch:

“That is so far behind me at this point, and it’s so miniscule in comparison to today’s ceremony – it makes me want to live the kind of life that these veterans would find respectable. I want to live up to the ideals that they fought so brilliantly and bravely for.”


The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed the nomination of Sylvia Mathews Burwell as secretary of health and human services, making her responsible for delivering health insurance to more than one-third of all Americans.

In two separate committee hearings, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson made clear that he was unhappy with one of Burwell’s last decisions as director of the Office of Management and Budget – i.e., to tap the brakes on federal funding for the dredging of the Port of Savannah.

A flurry of one-on-one negotiations between Isakson and Burwell occurred in April and May. Isakson was apparently satisfied. Burwell was confirmed by a vote of 78-17. All the no votes were cast by Republicans – but neither Isakson nor U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss were among the dissenters. Both voted for Burwell.


Michelle Nunn, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, likes to tell of the days at Manuel’s Tavern when “we literally passed around empty beer mugs and asked people to pitch in what they could to help us start Hands on Atlanta.”

But Georgia Tipsheet today notes that Republicans are picking at the origins of Nunn’s biggest bragging point, leaning on a Washington Beacon piece – which in turn points to this AJC article from 2009, noting that Hands On Atlanta was the brainchild of Elise Eplan:

The 12 volunteered as a group. If an agency needed a weekly volunteer, rather than one person having to make a weekly commitment, the group worked together to fill that slot. That gave them flexibility. They also offered to work weekends, promising agencies they could supply a number of people.

The idea, which began in that informal meeting in Eplan’s Atlanta apartment in 1989, has turned into the largest volunteer coordinating agency in the U.S.

Nunn, as the article explains, was brought aboard shortly after the founding of Hands On, and led the organization through its nationalization in 1992 and the agency’s merger with the larger Points of Light Foundation in 2007.

What neither Tipsheet nor the Beacon mention is the fact that one of the Hands On founders quoted in the 2009 article, Kent Alexander, is now Nunn’s chief of staff for her Senate campaign. Which doesn’t point to any rift over Hands On history.

Updated at 12:40 p.m.: The Nunn campaign has released this statement, acknowledging the presence of beer as a factor in Hands On Atlanta's founding, from Eplan, Alexander and Gayle Barnes (née Adams):

These political attacks on the organization Michelle built from the ground up are ridiculous. Michelle was integral to the founding of Hands On Atlanta and it’s growth into a worldwide organization dedicated to service. We needed a leader with the vision and talent to take what was then only an idea and build it into a force for good. That's why we asked Michelle to become Hands On Atlanta's first executive director.

At one of our first public meetings, which we held at Manuel's, Michelle joined us as we passed around an empty beer mug to collect our seed money. Over the course of 25 years, we’ve worked with Michelle as we built what is now the world's largest organization dedicated to volunteer service -- an organization that touches the lives of countless individuals across the world. We could not be more proud of the work she has done and we could not have done it without her.


The Republican Governors Association isn’t limiting its attacks on Jason Carter to the airwaves. The RGA sent thousands of mailers out to Georgia voters, including to several Democratic tipsters who forwarded it to us.

The Republican Governors Association’s anti-Jason Carter mailers.

The mailer, like the ad, focuses on Carter’s willingness to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, a phraseology that the GOP prefers not to use. And it’s a charge Carter isn’t running away from.


The news that the state is nearing another seven-figure payment to a former ethics official led Democrat Jason Carter’s campaign to rekindle its call to review the 2010 complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal’s campaign.

“Gov. Deal and his office orchestrated a cover-up of an investigation into his campaign,” said Bryan Thomas, Carter’s spokesman. “It’s no surprise that he wants to settle this case to avoid another public trial.


Former state senator Tom Coleman of Savannah has died at age 85. From the Savannah Morning News:

Coleman started the Bonitz of Georgia Inc. specialty subcontracting company in 1954 and remained as board chairman until his death.

He began his political career as a city of Savannah alderman during the Malcolm Maclean administration in 1962-66, was elected chairman of the Chatham County Commission from 1972-1976, then to the Georgia Senate in 1980 where he served for 14 years before deciding not to seek re-election in 1994.

After leaving the Senate, then-Gov. Roy Barnes called on him to take over the troubled state Department of Transportation. He served as director from June 6, 2000, to Aug. 31, 2003, serving both Barnes and former Gov. Sonny Perdue.

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