Political Insider

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

The Jolt: David Perdue snatches Tech student’s smart phone


For the second time in two weeks, a social media video has surfaced highlighting a confrontation between U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and critics.

But instead of a D.C. airport, where the Republican was recently cornered by a group of women angered by his support for Brett Kavanaugh, the latest exchange took place at Georgia Tech, Perdue’s alma mater. 
Perdue was on campus for the Saturday football game, and to boost the campaigns of Brian Kemp and Geoff Duncan in races for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively.

The junior senator was shaking hands and snapping photos with supporters when a group of students affiliated with the Young Democratic Socialists of America approached. An edited cell phone video posted to the group’s Twitter account begins with an off-camera student asking Perdue, “How can you endorse a candidate that’s—”
Things quickly escalated from there. Watch the video posted here by the Associated Press:

“No, I’m not doing that,” Perdue responds, appearing to snatch the phone as the video momentarily cuts out. 
The frame then comes back into focus, with the student saying, “You stole my property. You stole my property. Give me my phone back, senator.” 
“You wanted a picture? I’m going to give it to you,” Perdue can be heard responding before he walks away -- with aide Ben Fry, as best we can tell.

The student, seemingly reunited with his phone, then followed Perdue, accusing him of attempting to duck a question about Kemp, whose office has placed more than 50,000 voter registrations have been on hold because because of a lack of exact matches with other sources of data, according to the Associated Press.

A large percentage of the pending registrations are those of African-American voters.

“The senator clearly thought he was being asked to take a picture, and he went to take a selfie as he often does. When he realized they didn’t actually want to take a picture, he gave the phone back,” a spokeswoman said.

One of your insiders talked with the student who shot the video and another who witnessed the exchange. The former asked not to be identified out of fear of public retribution

 The latter, Matt Wolfsen – whose social media postings had previously landed him on Tech’s radar – said he and a friend had asked Perdue about climate change minutes before the Kemp confrontation. The senator had been answering their questions, Wolfsen said, until he noticed they were recording him. The Republican asked them to stop recording, which they did. 

Soon after, the student who shot the video approached Perdue with two friends and asked the senator to pose with them for a photo, with the thought that he could ask his Kemp question and record the encounter. Perdue, he said, asked for his phone to take a selfie, which the student refused to hand over. 
“And then I started recording,” the student said. That’s when Perdue “snatched my phone with the intent of stopping me from recording,” he added. 

The student said the footage was edited to stitch together two different videos but that he did not remove any part of the encounter. He said his group is deciding whether it’s worth filing a police report.

Perdue’s staff looked to stay out of the fray this weekend as several national news outlets reported the encounter. But a spokeswoman also did not apologize for what occurred on Saturday. 
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Stacey Abrams is leveraging the flap over those “pending” voter registrations to further energize the Democratic base. But so is Republican Brian Kemp. On the same day Abrams was castigating Kemp on NBC’s “Meet The Press” and on CNN, Kemp walked into the newsroom of the Valdosta Daily Times. 

"This is a politically motivated, manufactured story, and we will prevail in court," he told a reporter.

Kemp has also begun accusing Abrams of jeopardizing the integrity of the election by seeking to allow people in the country illegally to vote -- jumping on a portion of the lawsuit that urges the court to demand the counting of all “provisional ballots cast by Georgia voters who are in pending status because they have been flagged as a potential ‘non-citizen.’”

The Abrams camp says it wants no such thing, and that the attacks are a sign of desperation.

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Our WSB Radio colleague Jamie Dupree has a sinking feeling that the recovery from Hurricane Michael in Florida could “get a lot more political in coming days.”

The same could be said about Georgia, which also suffered extensive damage from the monstrous storm.

President Donald Trump is set to visit both states on Monday to survey the hurricane’s damage, and a slew of Georgia Republicans will be on hand to take him around.

It’s not clear whether Brian Kemp will join him, but the Republican gubernatorial candidate spent Saturday visiting hard-hit southwest Georgia communities with a mission of helping them prepare for Monday’s start of early voting.

Still, look for any hint of political posturing from Trump or the candidates during today’s visit.

Democrat Stacey Abrams, meanwhile, will also be in the vicinity. Her bus tour will launch Monday with a swing through middle Georgia – not far from where Trump is set to arrive.

***

Former acting U.S. attorney Sally Q. Yates plunged into the race for Georgia governor over the weekend with a fundraising plea for Democrat Stacey Abrams. Here’s the interesting part: In the email, Yates identifies herself as a “former deputy attorney general,” the position she held during the Obama administration. She eschewed a description of the job she briefly held as President Donald Trump assumed office.

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U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who is gearing up for a likely 2020 presidential bid, has released a DNA test that suggests she has a distant Native American ancestor, according to the Washington Post -- an answer to President Donald Trump, who has questioned her claims about her heritage by dubbing her “Pocahontas.”

***

Earlier this year, the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety spent $1.2 million to help its former surrogate Lucy McBath secure the Democratic nomination in the Sixth District congressional race. Now the Michael Bloomberg-founded group is pouring an additional $1.8 million into ads to help the first-time candidate topple U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, according to National Journal’s Ally Mutnick: 

The news comes after McBath reported raising nearly $1 million in the 3rd quarter. Sure, that’s not Jon Ossoff-level fundraising, but that’s big money for a House challenger.

***

Our AJC colleague Alexis Stevens has some background here on Marsy’s Law, a nationwide attempt to insert victims’ rights into state constitutions. The measure is opposed by the Georgia chapter of the ACLU, which has been pointing readers to materials that include this:

Marsy’s Law is premised on the notion that victims should have “equal rights” to defendants. This opening salvo is a seductive appeal to one’s sense of fairness. However, the notion that victims’ rights can be equated to the rights of the accused is a fallacy. It ignores the very different purposes these two sets of rights serve.

The U.S. Constitution and all 50 state constitutions guarantee defendants’ rights because they are rights against the state, not because they are valued more by society than victims’ rights. Defendants’ rights only apply when the state is attempting to deprive the accused – not the victim – of life, liberty, or property. They serve as essential checks against government abuse, preventing the government from arresting and imprisoning anyone, for any reason, at any time.

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Georgia’s four Democratic U.S. House members are also looking to get a piece of the voting registration fight that has jumped up in Georgia’s race for governor. U.S. Reps. John Lewis, Hank Johnson, David Scott and Sanford Bishop wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions late last week urging the Justice Department to use its authority under the Voting Rights Act to “immediately fulfill its historic, neutral role to protect the integrity and security of our home state’s elections.” 

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