Political Insider

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

Donald Trump could change what it means to be a Sixth District conservative

So far, the storyline of the Sixth District congressional race has focused on Jon Ossoff, and whether the young first-time candidate can consolidate his Democratic vote, tap the anti-Trump angst of  GOP women and independents, and win the north metro Atlanta contest outright on April 18.

But there’s a subplot that hasn’t been fully explored, in part because it’s still taking shape. And that is how a President Donald Trump has changed the way Republicans define conservatism. The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin takes a crack at it this morning:

Even as they try to win over the sort of conservative activists dedicated enough to participate in a rare April election, the Republicans are casting themselves more as can-do pragmatists in the spirit of Mr. Trump than unwavering ideologues. At [last week’s Atlanta Press Club] forum and in individual interviews afterward, three of the Republicans in the 18-person field invoked some variation of Ronald Reagan’s maxim that it is better to get 80 percent of what you want than nothing at all.


Few embraced the Tea Party moniker. And none of the highest-polling candidates pledged to join the Freedom Caucus, the hard-line conservative group whose uncompromising ideology helped derail Mr. Trump’s efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.


One of the few exceptions to this has been the conservative Club for Growth PAC, which was one of the conservative, Washington-based groups to align itself with the Freedom Caucus and lobby against the House Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- because it didn't go far enough.

Club for Growth has endorsed Bob Gray, a Republican and former Johns Creek city councilman -- but has gone out of its way to focus on one of his rivals, former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel. Until now.

Mailers sent out this week took a shot at both Handel and former state Sen. Dan Moody as a "two-headed tax-and-spend monster" backed by lobbyists. It's a sign that Moody is rising in the polls as Republicans compete for what could be one June 20 runoff spot against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Handel's husband, Steve, shot back at the group in a Twitter message:


If you’re one of the dozens of political consultants with a dog in the April 18 fight over the Sixth District, your eyes will be on Kansas tomorrow, when that state’s Fourth District goes to the polls to fill a congressional vacancy created by a different Trump administration cabinet pick.

The Kansas Fourth went heavily for Donald Trump last November, compared to 48 percent for Trump in the Georgia Sixth. Even if Democrats don’t flip the Fourth, both parties will be looking at the final margin on Tuesday to gauge the impact of any anti-Trump backlash in Georgia and elsewhere later this month. From the Associated Press:  

The nation's first congressional election since President Donald Trump's victory is taking place next week for a seat Republicans have held for two decades in a south-central Kansas district Trump carried with 60 percent of the vote.


But while the race in the heavily Republican district makes the state's GOP Treasurer Ron Estes the expected front-runner, his Democratic rival James Thompson, a civil rights attorney, is hoping Estes' ties to the state's unpopular governor will sway enough voters to pull off an upset. Also in the mix is a long-shot bid by Libertarian Chris Rockhold, a flight simulator instructor.


A last-minute ad buy this week of nearly $100,000 by the National Republican Congressional Committee may signal the GOP's anxiety over a House seat from the heavily Republican district.


Tuesday's election in Kansas will determine who fills the vacancy created when Trump chose former U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo as his CIA director.


A couple of interesting robo-calls are rippling hrough the voicemail inboxes of residents in Georgia's Sixth District.

The first is from Ending Spending, the conservative PAC backing Republican Karen Handel's campaign. Take a listen for yourself below, but try not to laugh. First the narrator mispronounces the candidate's name, twice calling her Han-del rather than Han-del. Then, there's the matter of DeKalb County. It's de-cab, not de-calb:


We don't have a copy of the second, but Gov. Nathan Deal has recorded a message urging Republicans to vote ahead of the April 18 election -- though he isn't endorsing a specific candidate.

One reason we're told the two-term governor was asked to wade into the contest: He polls higher among voters in the suburban Atlanta district than any of the 11 GOP contenders on the ballot.


You can't make this up:


Atlanta mayoral financial disclosures will soon be made public, and City Councilwoman Mary Norwood is out the gate with news of her financial haul for the two-month reporting period ending March 31.

Norwood, who narrowly lost to Kasim Reed in 2009, raised more than $250,000 since Feb. 1 and will report more than $530,000 cash on hand. That's a solid financial position for Norwood, who leads the polls in the crowded field to succeed a term-limited Reed.


If you want to get a rise out of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, mention Vincent Fort's name at his next press conference.

That's sort of what happened on Friday at Reed's announcement on Friday of the city's growing rainy day funds when a TV reporter invoked the mayoral candidate's name.

“You and I should bet a dollar on a dozen doughnuts that he doesn’t qualify for the office of mayor,” Reed told the reporter. He went on to describe Fort as a "disaster" in the state Senate who would be a "disaster" as mayor.

Fort took the opportunity to strike back in a lengthy statement:

"The mayor has been more interested in megaprojects and the needs of billionaire sports team owners than in the needs of our neighborhoods and the people who live in them. All one needs to know about Mayor Reed’s administration is this:  It is currently the subject of three criminal investigations that we know about."

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.