Political Insider

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The Jolt: Democrats want Brian Kemp to return his state paycheck


The Democratic Party of Georgia opened a new front in the race for governor on Monday, calling on Secretary of State Brian Kemp to return his salary as he runs for the state’s highest office.

Party chief DuBose Porter stopped short of calling on Kemp to resign from the office, which supervises elections and the state’s business licensing. But Porter criticized Kemp for the “audacity” of drawing a full-time salary as he focuses most of his time on a statewide campaign.

In a bit of wordplay, the chairman latched on to Kemp’s constant use of the phrase “hard-working Georgians.”

"We need leaders who will keep money in the pockets of hard-working Georgians through a living wage, an earned income tax credit, and other smart investments,” said Porter, “but Kemp is cheating hard-working Georgians.”

Kemp’s campaign didn’t immediately respond, but we can trust they will reject the idea. Even so, look for Democrats to ratchet up the pressure in the next few days.

Democrats who have called for Kemp to remove himself from oversight of the elections often point to Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Max Cleland - two former secretaries of state who resigned to run for higher office. 

Those decisions to step down are often made early in the campaign, in part so candidates can avoid restrictions on raising cash during sessions of the Legislature.

Though the secretary of state is often seen as a stepping stone to higher ground, the office’s track record is mixed. Three of Kemp’s last four predecessors launched unsuccessful campaigns for governor. Cleland ran a successful campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Not all resigned from office during their bids.

Lewis Massey stayed in office during his 1998 run for governor. He lost in a Democratic primary to Roy Barnes. And Cathy Cox remained in her post in 2006 as she ran in a heated Democratic primary against then-Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, who ultimately prevailed. 

Even so, Cox told us she considered returning her taxpayer-funded salary until she was advised it was statutorily set and thus she “did not have discretion to reduce it.”

Still, she said, she stepped back from any oversight of elections so “as not perceived as gaining information from complaints that were filed or taking any actions” that could favor her campaign. 

In her stead, she had her assistant secretary of state chair the State Election Board meeting. 

“Of course, I also did not proceed beyond the primary so I didn’t have that call to make for the full year,” she added.

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Stacey Abrams returned to the late-night circuit Monday to pitch her book – and plug her campaign for Georgia governor - to a national audience.

On Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” she told host Trevor Noah her appeal to disenchanted African-American voters who rarely cast ballots can be summed up in 10 words.

“You’re either at the table or you’re on the menu.” She continued:

“I’m going to win this election because I revere the right to vote ... For me the real important piece of this – and I think why people get confused – I want every vote. But I’m going to center the vote on those who are the least likely to vote – and that tends to be people of color.”

Watch here:

Abrams has leveraged her national profile to raise millions of dollars in cash from out-of-state donors in her bid for governor against Republican Brian Kemp. In late June, she appeared on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” with much the same message.

In Monday’s show, she refrained from mentioning Kemp by name but said she faces a “remarkable architect of voter suppression.”

She added: “My mission is to tell folks he doesn’t matter. You do.”

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Don’t expect much daylight between Stacey Abrams and Sarah Riggs Amico. 

The Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor was asked her views on Abrams’ support for allowing “Dreamers” to apply for the Hope scholarship and removing state-owned Confederate monuments. 

“Any policy where we have large sections of our community who feel threatened or left out or devalued, where leaders refuse to facilitate at least the conversation about how to right that wrong, is a failure in leadership,” Amico said. 

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Over at Georgia Health News, Andy Miller reports that WalletHub has ranked Georgia 43rd among the states when it comes to health care issues:

Dragging the state down in the new analysis are its rankings of 48th in percentage of insured adults, 43rd in percentage of insured children and 41st in the number of physicians per person.

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Maria Saporta of the Saporta Report – try and say that five times very fast – today quotes Charlotte Nash, chairman of the Gwinnett County Commission, as saying a transit referendum was set in March in order to achieve unanimity among the panel’s membership. Pro-transit forces had wanted the one-cent sales tax proposal to be on the November ballot, when a high turnout is expected. From Saporta:

“I think there is enough pent-up demand for transit that it will pass no matter what date the referendum is held,” Nash said.

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NBC News reports this morning that the Trump administration is primed to issue a proposal in coming weeks that would make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens or get green cards if they have ever used a range of popular public welfare programs, including Obamacare. The move is attributed to White House senior adviser Stephen Miller and his plan to limit the number of migrants who obtain legal status in the U.S. each year, and would not be subject to congressional approval.

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Ted Metz, the Libertarian candidate for governor, announced Thursday that he would be in favor of improved education. From the press release, quoting Metz:

“We should be providing our youth with reasoning skills that enable true discernment, not enabling them to pass federally-mandated tests. Education should be based off factual and truthful science and history, and be balanced with health and nutrition, physical fitness, classic philosophy, math, logic, art, theater, music and vocational training to produce happy, healthy, motivated citizens.”

Now, who could argue with that?

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