Political Insider

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Prominent Dem unloads on party for attacking Norwood


The Democratic Party of Georgia’s decision to plunge headlong into the nonpartisan race for Atlanta mayor has infuriated a prominent Democratic figure.

There’s more. A lot more. Labovitz, a Dentons attorney who was chief of staff to former Mayor Bill Campbell, called the six-figure expenditures on TV and radio ads a “gross misuse” of party funds. And he said it smacks of hypocrisy.

“The party apparently had no problem when Mayor Reed refused to endorse then Sen. Jason Carter for governor. The party did not stand up and condemn Gov. Roy Barnes' endorsement of Sen. Isakson last year,” he wrote. “In these cases, the party respected the relationships and intentions of our most prominent leaders. Tell me, do we apply different standards to different races?”

(Former City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, a Democrat who endorsed Norwood, responded to the email chain with a resounding amen. "We can be and do better than this," he wrote.)

Norwood has been besieged by claims she’s a closet Republican since her 2009 run for mayor. She’s responded to attacks from her rival, Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms, and others that she’s a proud independent who backed both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Porter, for his part, was unapologetic. Norwood stands to be the first non-Democratic mayor since 1881, he said, and the party's primary goal is electing Democrats.

"Everyone is free to pick their own candidate, we picked ours," he said, "and we’re confident that Keisha Lance Bottoms is the mayor Atlanta needs."

The party’s role in the Dec. 5 race has fast become an undercurrent of debate.

At a Tuesday debate hosted by Georgia Public Broadcasting, panelist Monica Kaufman asked Bottoms a pointed question: “Can you control the Democratic Party and their message which is becoming very racist?”

Bottoms responded by saying Norwood has essentially forced the party's hand. She said “racial conversations have become injected" into the campaign in part because of Norwood’s answers to questions at previous forums involving racial profiling and Donald Trump. (Greg Bluestein)

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It’s go-time for the tax bill in the U.S. Senate. Republican leaders are currently working overtime to secure the needed 50 votes to pass the legislation, but they aren’t spending any time sweating over Georgia’s two GOP senators. David Perdue and Johnny Isakson have both indicated they’re firmly in the ‘yes’ column.

Isakson spoke at Tuesday’s closed-door Republican luncheon with President Trump about how the tax bill is this Congress’ chance to cast a “generational vote,” using the opportunity to evoke his grandkids. “This is our time and it’s our challenge,” Isakson summarized in an interview a few hours later.

Perdue, meanwhile, was one of 12 Republicans to advance the bill out of the Senate Budget Committee on a party-line vote Tuesday, after which he called on his colleagues “to put aside any self-interests and operate with a sense of urgency.” He’ll be co-hosting a press conference with Republican colleagues, conservative outside groups and Trump’s congressional liaison later this morning to rally the troops. (Tamar Hallerman)

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This has fast become a favorite line for U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

Pressed on President Donald Trump's changing story about his vulgar comments about women in the "Access Hollywood" tape - he has told advisers it may not have been him on the tape after all - the Georgia Republican compared the president to the famous British statesman Winston Churchill.

From The New York Times:

“He’s nobody’s choir boy, but neither were people like Winston Churchill, for example,” said the senator. “This guy, I think, is a historic person of destiny at a time and place in America when we’ve got to make a right-hand turn here.” Asked if the truth still matters, Mr. Perdue said: “Oh, absolutely. Facts are what you base decisions on.”

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With the end zone in sight, outside groups have also revved up last-minute messaging campaigns to unite Senate Republicans behind the tax bill. Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, a Republican mega-donor and Trump acolyte, adopted the Isakson approach, urging senators in an Hill op-ed to think of their legacies as they cast their votes:

“Delivering long-overdue relief from overtaxation so that small businesses can become big ones and so hardworking families can keep a little more of what they earn is a legacy for which every U.S. senator should be remembered.

This legacy should top any personal animus toward President Trump.”

(TH)

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We caught up with Isakson yesterday for the first time since it became clear the Senate Ethics Committee he leads would be probing alleged sexual misconduct by Minnesota U.S. Sen. Al Franken and potentially Roy Moore should he win next month’s Alabama Senate race. Isakson refused to comment on any of the specifics surrounding the cases of Franken, Moore or New Jersey U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, whom Ethics will also be investigating. Nor would he bite when asked more broadly about his guiding principles as Ethics chairman now that sexual harassment has become a topic of national discussion:

“I cannot talk about any case that may be pending or is pending or could become pending before the committee, nor any hypothetical type of question. Because then people could try and draw conclusions… I think my (tenure on the Ethics panel) illustrates that our committee has done what was right every time and will in the future. But it’s not fair to somebody who may be coming before the committee to talk about something hypothetically or futuristically. When it’s over, that’s when everybody can talk.

My favorite quote is Mark Twain’s quote: when confronted with a difficult decision, do what’s right -- you’ll amaze a few and you’ll surprise the rest. We’ll just do what’s right. You go into those meetings saying we’re going to do the right thing. Let the chips fall where they may.”

(Isakson’s spokeswoman emphasized that the senator was speaking as an individual, not the head of the Ethics Committee.)

The remarks come as some good government groups train their focus on Isakson’s Ethics panel in the aftermath of the Franken and Moore sagas. Many say the committee has been lax in the past when it comes to enforcing the rules on its colleagues – or even determining when it can and cannot step in on ethical matters. “It is an open secret in Washington that this committee is an ‘ethics committee’ in name only. In the face of numerous allegations of sexual harassment against (Franken and Moore), the Senate and its ethics committee face a moment of truth,” Issue One Executive Director Meredith McGehee wrote in a recent op-ed in the Hill. (TH)

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Republican Brian Kemp quickly turned Stacey Abrams' frank discussion of her White House dreams into fundraising fodder. Calling the Democrat's comments to Cosmopolitan about a plan to potentially run for president in 2028 as "unbridled political ambition," Kemp asked donors to chip in $100 to support a candidate "who will put hardworking Georgians first." From the appeal:

For Brian Kemp, being governor is more than just a line on a spreadsheet. He's not looking to build his resume or find fame. Brian Kemp is running to ensure a bright and promising future for all Georgia families. Kemp is focused on doing the right thing - not on growing power, achieving prestige, or playing politics. (GB)

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A bevy of top Georgia Republicans have been subpoenaed as witnesses in the criminal trial of a citizen journalist who was roughed up in 2014 for filming at a GOP rally. Our colleague Chris Joyner reports from Dawsonville that Gov. Nathan Deal, former Attorney General Sam Olens, U.S. Sen. David Perdue and a host of other top state officials have or will be notified that they may be called on as witnesses in the case involving Nydia Tisdale. The officials were on hand at Burt’s Pumpkin Farm for the political event in 2014 where Tisdale was removed and arrested for filming. Tisdale faces a felony charge for allegedly obstructing a law enforcement and two misdemeanors for obstruction and trespassing on private property. Opening arguments in the case begin today. (TH)

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Deal's decision to tap Gretchen Corbin to head the Georgia Lottery system is another step in a whirlwind of appointments for his ally. Corbin has previously held several high-ranking jobs in his administration. She was deputy commissioner for global commerce at the state economic development arm, commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs and chief of the state tech school system. (GB)

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The Baltimore Sun reports that Facebook ads that ran in Georgia and Maryland in 2015 depicting Freddie Gray and two other black men killed in police shootings alongside the words "never forget" were paid for by Russia. The newspaper says the ads may have functioned as a dry run for the Kremlin ahead of it's social media influence campaign in last year's election. (TH)


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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.