Political Insider

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

The Jolt: Johnny Isakson’s advice for reeling suburban Republicans 


As Democrats pummeled Republicans in metro Atlanta’s suburbs earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson watched the fallout with a sense of disbelief - and a tinge of familiarity. 

The veteran lawmaker was first elected to the Legislature in the mid-1970s, toppling a Democratic incumbent in east Cobb County to become one of the only Republicans serving in the Georgia House at the time.

Now a three-term U.S. senator, Isakson saw the GOP’s suburban swoon as essentially the inverse of his own experience more than 40 years ago. And in a Wednesday interview, he offered some advice for Republicans looking to stay competitive in Atlanta’s diversifying northern suburbs.

“We’re a growth state, so you’ve got to expect as a Republican you’re going to have a growth in the electorate,” said Isakson, who breezed to another term in 2016. “And if you’re going to win you better cater to your electorate, which is what a lot of our guys didn’t do.” 

Without naming names, Isakson said some “got fat and happy” in their jobs and didn’t lay the groundwork necessary to win. And he said Republicans ignore immigrant, Latino and African-American communities at their own peril.

“I think there’s a lot of outreach that could be done and it ought to be done,” he said, adding: “It still gets down to hard work and raising money and doing the job when you get it, which is something a lot of people forget about doing.” 

Republicans have plenty of ground to make up. 

The GOP lost about a dozen statehouse seats along with the vaunted 6th District - and came within a whisker of losing the neighboring 7th - as Democrats carried once-solidly conservative Gwinnett and Cobb counties by big margins. 

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Isakson said he plans to support a criminal justice overhaul that’s dividing the Senate GOP.

He said he saw the proposal as a federal extension of some of the work Gov. Nathan Deal has done on the state level.

“I’m going to vote for it,” Isakson said in an interview Wednesday. “Because Nathan did a great job in Georgia and it’s patterned after Georgia’s plan. I think it does need reform and I think it’s the right thing to do.” 

Isakson’s Senate colleague David Perdue has also sounded positive notes about the pending proposal but said he still has several concerns he wants addressed before he commits to voting “yes.”

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The Cobb GOP got some egg on its face after a Facebook mishap.

It happened after Layla Shipman, a veteran Republican volunteer, posted a comment on the social media site critical of the county party’s new leadership.

In a response from the party’s official Facebook account, Shipman was berated and cursed. 

After screenshots of the back-and-forth were posted on Twitter, party chair Jason Shepherd apologized for what he described as an inadvertent post from a member who had access to the account.

“That member’s account access has been immediately suspended and the offending posts have been removed,” he said. 

We reached out to Justin Tomczak, a veteran Cobb Republican who pointed to Ronald Reagan’s so-called 11th Commandment - “thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” 

“This kind of behavior has no place in civil public discourse,” he said, “and runs counter to the values of the Republican Party."

(We would make a Trump joke, but why bother.) 

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Conservative pundit Erick Erickson took special note of paragraph 18 of Stacey Abrams’ voting rights lawsuit which criticizes the “cuts to early voting” hours.

Writes Erickson, a radio host at WSB, which is also owned by the AJC’s corporate overlords:

Abrams alleges the state curtailed the duration of early voting in Georgia, which made it more difficult for people. But Abrams actually co-sponsored that legislation. She did not just vote for it, but actively added her signature as a sponsor.

This topic played a major role at the May debate between Abrams and Stacey Evans during the Democratic primary. Here’s the summary of that clash from a story at the time: 

Evans queried Abrams about her decision to co-sponsor a bill that reduced early voting in Georgia from 45 days to 21 days. The gist of Abrams’ argument: Smaller, poorer counties could not afford the longer period, and she was able to add a day of Saturday voting.

And while she did vote for the measure, “I did not co-sponsor a bill for early voting,” Abrams said.

Evans’ reply: “We will be posting a bill with your signature online so that voters can see for themselves.” Within seconds, an aide tapped a few keys, sending the image out on Twitter.

Abrams apparently understood the situation required immediate defusing.

Several questions later, she diverted herself from the topic at hand to say this:

“As House Democratic leader, I am proud of my reputation for transparency, for honesty, and for responsibility. In that light, I’m actually going to correct something I said earlier. That, yes, I was not one of the original sponsors of the voting bill, but I did sign it at the end. That is true.”

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Georgia’s two GOP senators voted in favor of advancing the judicial nomination of Thomas Farr on Wednesday.

The North Carolinian moved forward on the narrowest of margins after Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote.

Democrats, civil rights groups and former Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams all pushed for senators to reject Farr, whom they alleged has supported voter suppression tactics. A final confirmation vote is expected in the days ahead.

Isakson and Perdue on Wednesday also voted together against a resolution calling for an end to U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen. The legislation ultimately advanced on a bipartisan 63-37 vote over the opposition of Trump administration officials.

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