Political Insider

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

David Ralston: Local control of Confederate history would be ‘divisive’


We are precisely one month away from the start of the 2018 session of the General Assembly. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, has been making the rounds to local media outlets in anticipation.

In Georgia, a 2001 compromise that brought down a segregation-era state flag also gave the Legislature control of Confederate monuments across the state, regardless of whether said markers were the property of local governments.

The DeKalb County attorney this week gave the county commission the green light for the relocation of a Confederate marker near the old courthouse in Decatur. A pair of Democratic state legislators, Elena Parent in the Senate and Mary Margaret Oliver in the House, have introduced legislation to return control of such markers to cities and counties across Georgia.

But in an interview with Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM), the leader of the House appeared to throw a bucket of cold water on that latter project. Ralston clearly didn’t want his chamber to become mired in that swampy topic. Said the speaker:

“If we are a state, then we share the same history. The history of Georgia is the same whether you live in Blue Ridge or whether you live in Bainbridge or whether you live in Decatur. And so to allow that history to be controlled depending on the jurisdiction you’re in strikes me as being divisive in and of itself.

“So, I think we have to be very careful as we go forward. You know there’s much about our history as a state that is dark. We share that with other states. But we also are growing, and we have made a lot of progress. And so I would hate to see us become so fixated on looking back that we lose our focus on looking forward as a state.”

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In this polarized political climate, right and left often look at the same event and walk away with entirely different interpretations. Not so with the Thursday announcement by U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., that he would resign from the chamber – after being accused of boorish behavior with women.

Democrats and Republicans are using different words, but both recognize preparations for a 2018 campaign theme when they see it. From Vanity Fair magazine:

The decision by Senate Democrats to sacrifice one of their own was both principled and strategic. The Democratic Party, which has made believing victims, empowering women, and cracking down on sexual harassment a cornerstone of its platform, had little choice but to take a tough line on Franken.

And from today’s Wall Street Journal editorial:

The truth is that Mr. Franken is being run out of town by fellow Democrats in large part for their own political purposes. They want him banished so they can claim to have cleaned their own stables so they can attack Republicans who support Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and Donald Trump. Mr. Franken is political ballast who had to go.

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Al Franken’s departure means the Senate Ethics Committee, which is headed up by Georgia’s Johnny Isakson, won’t need to continue its investigation into the Minnesotan. Isakson has been tight-lipped about that probe since it was announced last month. (Tamar Hallerman)

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Let us not forget that Thursday also saw the resignation of U.S. Rep. Trent Frank, R-Ariz., under the curious charge of suggesting surrogate pregnancy to his female staffers -- on behalf of the congressman and his wife. Very Handmaid's Tale-ish.

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Amid the #MeToo tumult, the Gallup organization reminds us that another issue still lingers out there:

Fifty-six percent of Americans say the federal government should be responsible for making sure all Americans have healthcare coverage, up slightly from 52% last year and the highest level in 10 years.

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Our number-crunching friends still won’t let go of Tuesday’s mayoral runoff in Atlanta. One reliable digit fiend made these points about Keisha Lance Bottom’s victory over Mary Norwood:

-- Norwood did better in DeKalb County but worse in Fulton County, when Tuesday’s performance is compared with her 2009 loss to Kasim Reed.

She won DeKalb by 133 votes in 2009 and by 1,376 votes on Tuesday. But 847-vote loss in Fulton in 2009 more than doubled to a 2,135-vote loss in Fulton this week.

-- But this may be the more surprising part: Norwood ran about 650 votes worse in Council District 8 than she did in 2009. Which accounts for most of her 759-vote deficit on Tuesday.

District 8 covers much of northwest Atlanta, which should have been Norwood’s wheelhouse. But you’ll remember that Peter Aman, who was eliminated in the Nov. 7 round of voting, also targeted that area of the city. And apparently loosened the ground for Bottoms four weeks later.

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Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones is calling on Democratic reinforcements from across the state line. The Washington Post reports that Jones is finalizing plans to bring in several high-profile black elected officials, including U.S Reps. John Lewis and Sanford Bishop of Georgia, as part of a final push to turn out African-American voters. Jones faces Republican Roy Moore in Tuesday's special election, a vote with national implications. (Greg Bluestein)

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Congress on Thursday quickly passed a two-week stopgap spending bill in order to stave off a government shutdown today. All Georgia Republicans supported the bill. The only Democrat to back the effort was Atlanta moderate David Scott. (TH)

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In Washington, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus was not impressed with the White House's criticism of U.S. Rep. John Lewis and a fellow Democratic colleague' decision to skip out on the opening of a new civil rights museum in Mississippi this weekend.

“It’s laughable that the White House is criticizing John Lewis and Bennie Thompson for not attending the opening of a civil rights museum that honors the sacrifice of ....wait..... John Lewis, Bennie Thompson, and many others," said U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La.

Lewis and Thompson, both CBC members, said they would abstain from the ribbon-cutting because they objected to sharing a stage with President Donald Trump. (TH)

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Republican Hunter Hill signed a pledge to support term limits for members of Congress, saying it was a way to help "take our country back from Washington." The gubernatorial candidate's call did not extend to state lawmakers or statewide officers. (GB)


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About the Author

Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.