Political Insider

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

The Jolt: Brian Kemp makes course corrections for November


With a gubernatorial nomination in hand, Republican Brian Kemp has begun sharpening his approach on a few key issues. Call them course corrections, if you prefer.

Let’s start with voting machines. The secretary of state has long said he wants to replace Georgia’s outdated electronic voting system and that he’s open to paper ballots. He launched a review of new voting systems back in April and by June hardened his support for replacing the system with one that uses paper for verification.

But that stance is getting new attention as he faces a lawsuit demanding the state immediately switch to paper ballots.

The Associated Press, treating it as a more abrupt shift than it actually is, asserted that he’s “coming round to a position critics say he’s resisted for eight years” and quoted a government watchdog advocate who claimed he pulled a “180 on paper ballots” as he runs for governor.

Whatever the impetus, a growing number of Georgia lawmakers back some form of paper verification. So does Democrat Stacey Abrams, who said she backs efforts to “make voting easier and more transparent, including paper ballots.”

Kemp has also begun to identify himself more closely with Gov. Nathan Deal. We had a familiar pattern in the primary: The governor would announce a new jobs deal, and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle followed up with a barrage of press releases and social media posts crediting GOP policies. 

He was, after all, positioning himself to be the heir apparent to the governor. And now that Kemp has dispatched Cagle, the secretary of state is employing the same tactic.

After Jaguar Land Rover revealed plans Wednesday to create 75 jobs in Savannah, Kemp trumpeted Deal and Georgia’s “internationally-recognized business climate.” 

And Thursday’s release of a study that showed Georgia’s film industry generated $2.7 billion in direct spending and a $9.5 billion impact in 2018 led Kemp to praise the “vision and leadership” of Deal -- and Sonny Perdue, who signed the initial bill into law. (That latter mention was an interesting shout-out.)

Kemp also reaffirmed his support for the film tax credit that spurred the industry - one of few tax breaks that he’s openly supported. Abrams, too, has also praised the break. 

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Over at the New York Times, opinion columnist Michelle Goldberg takes a look at “debt shaming” and the Georgia race for governor between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. A taste:

Republicans think they can damage Abrams by going after her on the issue of her personal debt, which totals more than $200,000. Last week, an ad from the Republican Governors Association hit her for lending money to her own campaign while owing $54,000 to the Internal Revenue Service, describing her as “self-serving” and “fiscally irresponsible.” Kemp himself made a baseless suggestion that Abrams might have violated the law: “Instead of paying more than $50,000 in back taxes, she gave $50,000 to her campaign. If that’s not criminal, it should be.”

This line of attack throws a pernicious political dynamic into high relief. The financial problems of poor and middle-class people are treated as moral failings, while rich people’s debt is either ignored or spun as a sign of intrepid entrepreneurialism.

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Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue still won’t confirm that he helped steer the president toward endorsing Brian Kemp in Georgia’s race for governor. Perdue, now secretary of agriculture, said he was only willing to chat about forestry issues when one of your Insiders approached him following a D.C. event about wildfire prevention on Thursday.

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On the other hand, Sonny Perdue is very willing to talk tariffs -- as a healthy form of self-discipline. On Wednesday, during a discussion of President Donald Trump’s trade battles with China, the European Union and others, the agriculture secretary compared tariffs to weight loss.

“If you’re overweight and you go on a diet, it’s kind of painful to start with but you’re healthier in the end,” the former Georgia governor told Fox News.

Perdue, for what it’s worth, said the analogy is one he can “personally identify with.”

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With his head down and lips zipped. That’s the way the Wall Street Journal describes Chris Wray’s style in its story marking the Atlanta attorney’s one-year anniversary leading the FBI:

Some agents have described Mr. Wray’s style as so low-key that employees aren’t always sure of his expectations.

Others said it has served the bureau well as it faces intense political pressure from its handling of high-profile investigations, including Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, which began as an FBI investigation and still uses FBI agents and resources.

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Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, who is taking on GOP incumbent Rob Woodall in Georgia’s Seventh District congressional race this fall, won the endorsement of former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin on Thursday. Franklin’s predecessor Andrew Young has also backed the GSU professor’s bid for the suburban Atlanta seat.

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