Political Insider

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

In 'telephone' town hall, Johnny Isakson says he stood up to Mike Pence

When U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., up for re-election this year, announced his opposition to the health care repeal bill this month, an outside group launched a retaliatory attack.

America First Policies is run by a group of President Donald Trump loyalists that includes Nick Ayers, a Georgia GOP operative now in line to be Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff.

When the TV attack was launched, we heard that a number of -- then unnamed -- Republican senators voiced hard objections. It turns out, one of them was U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

We know this because during his Tuesday evening telephone town hall meeting, Isakson was asked by "Laura from Decatur" why he hadn't held the White House accountable for the divisive nature of politics in Washington. Isakson said he had:

"Two weeks ago, I had a luncheon in the Mansfield Room in the U.S. Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol. I questioned the vice president as to why they were using a certain type of advertising...against Dean Heller, one of our members who's up for re-election in Nevada, on the health care issue.


"I didn't think people in the administration ought to be running ads, one way or another, against an elected official, trying to force their position one way or another....

"I try to do it on a selected basis, but when it really means something."

Later in the conversation, "Joe in Atlanta," said he wished Isakson would be more vocal about the secretive nature of the Senate Republican attempt at repealing Obamacare. A new version is to drop Thursday -- again, without Democratic participation.

Isakson said he had raised his concerns: "I've said it publicly, in more ways than one. Not enough to start an argument, but enough to let them know where I stood," he said.


As we reported yesterday, the Rev. Joseph Lowery will endorse Council President Ceasar Mitchell today in the race to become the next mayor of Atlanta. The press release from the Mitchell campaign says that “civil rights icon will address Atlanta’s millennial voters and discuss a ‘city at a crossroads.’”

It’ll all happen on the Clark Atlanta campus at 2:30 p.m.


Newly elected state GOP chair John Watson has begun cleaning house. He’s tapped campaign veteran Carmen Foskey to serve as executive director.

Foskey, a native of Warner Robins, has managed Republican political campaigns across the state, including Republican Eddie DeLoach’s 2015 upset victory in the Savannah mayor’s race, and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins’ most recent re-election bid.

Watson also announced that Leigh Ann Gillis, veteran political fundraiser for both Sonny and David Perdue, will serve as the party’s finance director.

Gone are executive director Adam Pipkin, political director Brad Hughes, and the two leaders of the GOP’s minority engagement effort, Leo Smith and Lisa Kinnemore.


State Court of Appeals Judge John Ellington has bench-pressed $370,309 in his race to

replace the retiring Carol Hunstein on the Georgia Supreme Court.

That’s more COH than Attorney General Chris Carr ($356,919) and two Democratic candidates for governor – Stacey Abrams ($220,000) and Stacey Evans ($360,000).

But not as much as four candidates for mayor of Atlanta. Of course, their contest is in November. Non-partisan judicial races will be settled in the May primary.


Attorney General Chris Carr’s retinue of donors also includes lobbyist Brad Alexander, political operative Keith Mason, Southern Co. executive Hank Linginfelter and Intercontinental Exchange chief executive Jeff Sprecher.

The Tarbutton clan gave Carr at least $1,000. The family’s patriarch, Charles Tarbutton, is a Sandersville rail executive whose family has ties to Nathan Deal, former Gov. Zell Miller and other successful gubernatorial candidates stretching back the last half-century. He’s chairing Cagle’s campaign.

And the Wilheit family signaled its support with a pair of $1,000 checks from Phil Wilheit Jr. and his son. The Wilheits, owners of a Gainesville packaging firm, were Deal’s closest allies and have rallied behind Cagle in the 2018 race.

One of Carr's first donations was a $1,000 check from U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, his mentor and former boss. Two other one-time senators chipped into his campaign: Saxby Chambliss and Mack Mattingly.

Another tidbit: Former Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democrat, donated $1,000 to Carr.


Democrat David Kim, one of a gaggle of contenders challenging U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall in the Gwinnett-based Seventh District, will report this week raising about $260,000 in less than a month since announcing his campaign.


Get ready: An event that bills itself as the largest political convention of the year for the nation's progressives is coming to Atlanta next month. Netroots Nation, organized by the liberal Daily Kos advocacy site, will be held at the Hyatt Regency downtown starting on Aug. 10.

The lineup includes former Vice President Al Gore, civil rights advocate Bernice King and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the runner-up in this year's race to lead the Democratic National Committee.

Also among the speakers: Former Georgia House minority leader Stacey Abrams, one of two leading Democrats in the hunt for Georgia's open governor seat in 2018.

You might remember Daily Kos for another reason: The site helped Democrat Jon Ossoff raise millions of dollars - and propel him to national attention - in this year's 6th District race.


A man accused of threatening U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ staff is considered competent enough to stand trial, according to the Associated Press.

A judge had ordered a mental health evaluation for defendant Dante Antione Rosser after he was accused threatening the safety of Lewis’ aides during a visit to the Atlanta Democrat’s office and subsequent phone calls. From the AP:

Rosser made 46 calls over two days in February and demanded the congressman's staff seek "financial reparations" for his family, according to a sworn statement from a U.S. Capitol Police special agent. The statement says Rosser threatened to "splatter their heads all over the ground."


A federal grand jury in March indicted Rosser, saying he threatened to assault and murder a congressional employee.



U.S. Rep. Austin Scott’s new chief of staff has deep ties to Georgia Republicans and the National Rifle Association.

The congressional tracking site LegiStorm reports that the Tifton Republican has hired Jason Lawrence as his top aide. Lawrence was a lobbyist for the NRA for the last two years. Before that, he worked with several other current and now former GOP lawmakers, including former U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, U.S. Rep. Tom Graves and retired U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss.


The Heritage Foundation has hired CarterBaldwin, an Atlanta-based head-hunting firm, in its search for a new president, according to Politico.com.

The top job at the conservative think-tank has been vacant since May, when the Heritage Foundation’s board of directors unexpectedly sacked former South Carolina senator Jim DeMint. He had led Heritage since 2012.

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.