Political Insider

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The Jolt: Confederate group hires a lobbyist for a 2018 fight over statues


The Georgia chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has sent an email to its members, letting them know that it has hired “a professional lobbying firm” for an upcoming session of the Legislature that is likely to be faced with the thorny question of Confederate monuments in changing communities.

The email from Tim Pilgrim, the Georgia division adjutant, did not identify the lobbying firm.

Two Democratic state lawmakers, Sen. Elena Parent of Atlanta and Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver of Decatur, have already said they intend to introduce legislation that would permit local governments to determine the fate of Confederate monuments on their ground.

A 2001 compromise to remove the 1956 state flag and its Confederate battle emblem, hoisted during the fight over integration, included a provision giving all authority over such monuments to the Legislature.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans message directed members to a web site that offered lobbying tips and established priorities. To wit:

-- Always be polite and professional. We are all fed up and angry with what's going on. There are diplomatic ways of expressing that anger, just don't get nasty. That will hurt our efforts.

-- Stress that you are against any efforts to remove or alter any Confederate veterans' monuments and flags.

-- Stress your concerns over the vandalism that is happening to all of our nation's monuments by these lawless mobs and cowards in the night.

-- Indicate  that  you  are  against  the  state  giving  any  authority  to  the liberal mayors, city council members and county commissioners to remove any monuments in the name of "public safety" or if they deem them to be "offensive.”

-- Ask  them  to  support  tougher  monument  protection  laws  that  makes  it  a felony when violated. That will give citizens standing to sue these entities.

-- Ask them to oppose any changes to Georgia's Stone Mountain Confederate Memorial Park.

That last one is an interesting use of language. Stone Mountain state park is overseen by the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, a state board. The word “Confederate” isn’t part of its title.

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State lawmakers won’t gather in Atlanta until the second Monday in January, but whether or not they tackle the issue of Confederate monuments could be influenced by what happens in Virginia on Tuesday.

In the governor’s race, Republican Ed Gillespie has promised to protect the many Confederate monuments in that state. Democrat Ralph Northam would let local communities decide.

That race could also determine Donald Trump’s legacy within the GOP. From the New York Times:

For all the talk of Republican divisions, the party of President Trump has largely rallied around Mr. Gillespie’s confrontational candidacy in what is probably the most consequential election since Mr. Trump took office. While Mr. Gillespie kept the president out of Virginia, the only Southern state Mr. Trump lost, he has run a campaign that gave Mr. Trump much to admire.

“He’s closed an enthusiasm gap by rallying around the Trump agenda,” said Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s former strategist. “And I think the big lesson for Tuesday is that, in Gillespie’s case, Trumpism without Trump can show the way forward. If that’s the case, Democrats better be very, very worried.”

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President Donald Trump is in Asia, but the Russia probe keeps churning. From Bloomberg News:

A Russian lawyer who met with President Donald Trump’s oldest son last year says he indicated that a law targeting Russia could be re-examined if his father won the election and asked her for written evidence that illegal proceeds went to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

The lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, said in a two-and-a-half-hour interview in Moscow that she would tell these and other things to the Senate Judiciary Committee on condition that her answers be made public, something it hasn’t agreed to.

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The state Public Service Commission today will hold its first hearing on whether Georgia Power and other utilities should be allowed to continue construction of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle. It’s likely to be a long session, so we offer some alternative reading from the Charleston, S.C., Post & Courier:

COLUMBIA — Westinghouse Electric squandered millions of dollars on unnecessary supplies in its failed attempt to build two nuclear reactors in South Carolina, including tens of thousands of hand-machined nuts that cost $114 apiece when a sturdier $2 alternative was available, a Post and Courier investigation found.

Internal cost analyses and interviews with four engineers who worked on the project highlight how poorly vetted designs, questionable purchasing decisions and improperly stored materials contributed to millions of dollars in needless spending by Westinghouse, the project's primary contractor.

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We’ve already pointed you to state Sen. Renee Unterman’s interview with Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM) on the topic of the opioid crisis and Medicaid expansion. But there was an additional nugget in there.

O’Hayer asked the chairman of the Senate health committee if – in the midst of the Amazon headquarters contest – the state Legislature is likely to tackle “religious liberty” legislation again. Said Unterman, who has voted for such measures in the past:

“I think it’s going to be a very short session. I don’t think these complicated issues are going to have time to get resolved. We are in the business of running the state of Georgia and doing it to the best of our ability, to put Georgia at the forefront.

“We’re No. 1 in the nation for site development. We’ve been that way for five years now. We’re very proud of our record. Are we going to derail that record on one specific issue? The answer is no. I’m not going to. I don’t think the leadership is going to.”

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Several voting rights groups, including the Coalition for the People’s Agenda and the NAACP, are asking Cobb County to match Fulton County’s 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. voting hours, pointing to a key state Senate race that straddles both counties. From their letter:

Cobb County’s decision to close polls at 7 p.m. on Nov. 7 will have a disproportionate impact on voters of color in the Senate District 6 special election. Nearly 80 percent of the voters of color that live in SD 6 live in Cobb County. Eighty-four percent of voters who will be able to vote until 8 p.m. are white; 49 percent of voters who will only be able to vote until 7p.m. are people of color.

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These lines are part of a Modesta Bee account of Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s visit to California over the weekend:

Perdue said he has tried to show [President Donald] Trump the importance of NAFTA. He added that his boss is “very bombastic sometimes on things that he believes ... but he also has the essence of a good leader who is willing to listen.”

The secretary said farmers could benefit from Republican tax proposals, including one that would phase out the estate tax.

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Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders made a final push for Vincent Fort's bid for Atlanta mayor, calling him the only candidate who can "make Atlanta work for everyone, not just the 1 percent" in a robocall sent Sunday to thousands of voters. Listen here:

Fort is relying on support from Sanders and former Gov. Roy Barnes to help rally supporters to the polls on Tuesday. (Greg Bluestein)

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We told you a while back that state Sen. Michael Williams of Cumming, a candidate for governor, was the only Republican in the pack who favored local cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes. But it looks like he's ready to start selling that position now.

Williams has a 7 p.m. gig tonight at Manuel's Tavern in front of NORML, a marijuana legalization group, and a 7 p.m. Saturday "rally for cannabis eligibility for veterans with PTSD" in Decatur.

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Stacey Abrams, a Democratic candidate for governor,  opened up a new pitch to small business owners with a roundtable discussion in Augusta about the struggles of an entrepreneur in Georgia and a campaign pledge to expand access to capital and job training. Many of her rivals have sensed a similar opening: Secretary of State Brian Kemp, for one, often talks about making Georgia the "No. 1 place in the nation for small businesses." (GB)

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Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren boosted state Sen. Josh McKoon's bid for secretary of state at the Cobb GOP breakfast on Saturday. "I've got mixed emotions about this and I'll tell you why: There's no doubt in my mind he's going to be a good, outstanding secretary of state. But he is an excellent state senator. I hate to see him leave," Warren said.(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.