Political Insider

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The Jolt: A key Abrams ally tries another run for her Georgia House post


Call it the revenge of the Abramites.

One year ago, Stacey Abrams’ top deputy in the Georgia House, Minority Whip Carolyn Hugley, lost her bid to lead the House caucus after Abrams resigned to run for governor. And later today, the chamber’s Democrats will decide whether she deserves another shot.

She’s challenging Bob Trammell, a low-profile attorney in a west Georgia district that Donald Trump carried. He beat Hugley last year in part because he positioned himself as a voice who can help revive the deteriorating coalition of rural, working-class voters who once formed the party’s backbone.

A newly-enlarged House Democratic caucus will decide their fates. Democrats netted 11 seats in November, sweeping a swath of suburban metro Atlanta even as the party lost three districts in more rural parts of Georgia.

What’s left of Abrams’ potent campaign machinery after her near-miss is lining up behind Hugley. Abrams’ campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo tweeted that Hugley, a Columbus Democrat, is the “Leader we need to carry on this good work to defend these wins and pick up seats in 2020.”

She also promoted a graph showing how the joint efforts of the Abrams campaign and the Democratic Party of Georgia spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on digital ads, mail pieces and calls in the House districts that flipped.

The not-so-subtle message Groh-Wargo was trying to send was that Abrams – and not the House caucus she once led – was the main force behind the victories. Figures that show Abrams ran ahead of Democratic down-ticket contenders in many of those districts help reinforce her point.

Trammell, however, wants to make the case that the Democratic gains are thanks both to Abrams’ strong campaign and also because of his caucus’ recruitment efforts.

Some of the arguments he’s making to House members: Six of the races the party flipped this year didn’t boast a Democratic challenger in 2016. And Democrats boasted 120 challengers – thanks partly to a swirl of frustration over Trump – a number that far exceeded earlier elections.

There’s no denying that Trammell isn’t the prolific fundraiser that Abrams was. A PAC linked to the House caucus raised roughly $200,000 this cycle. But Trammell also hopes a personal touch will pay dividends: He donated much of his campaign contributions to Democratic challengers.

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Gov. Nathan Deal will get at least one more shot at a high-profile appointment.

That’s because Public Service Commissioner Doug Everett, an 81-year-old veteran of the regulatory panel, announced he would step down at the end of the year.

Everett, a former House member, was elected to the commission in 2002 and twice won new six-year terms by huge margins. His successor will have to run statewide in 2020 but must come from a sprawling district that encompasses most of south Georgia.

Among the names we’ve heard are state Rep. Chad Nimmer of Blackshear and state Rep. Jason Shaw of Lakeland.

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The other day we mentioned that Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue was considered a swing vote on a prison reform effort that was recently endorsed by President Donald Trump. The first-term Republican sounded positive notes about the legislation being pushed by Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in an interview on Friday but also said he wanted to see more before committing to it. “The devil’s in the details, obviously, but this is President Trump’s attempt to try to bring equity and a reasonable approach to our justice system,” he said.

Perdue said he was happy with the legislation’s Georgia-inspired provisions aimed at reducing recidivism, as well as proposed changes to drug laws aimed at cutting down on sentencing disparities between white and minority offenders. But he said he would likely be “less supportive” of other changes to mandatory minimums.

Perdue had helped torpedo a bipartisan criminal justice overhaul in 2016 that he worried would be too lenient on violent felons and serious drug traffickers. 

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At some point, it’s not an oversight.

We noticed Stacey Abrams’ “count every vote” ads still running in the metro Atlanta market after she gave up her race for governor.

But then it also continued to run all day Saturday and Sunday, airing during the Georgia football game and Sunday news shows.

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Georgia’s congressional delegation is ramping up its push for more federal funding for the Savannah port deepening. The state’s 14 House members penned a letter to White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney last week asking for a record $132 million for the project in the upcoming 2020 budget and another $54 million in yet-to-be-allocated 2019 funds as construction work nears its final stages. 

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A group affiliated with conservative megadonor Charles Koch is launching a Thanksgiving-themed ad campaign in Georgia, part of a multimillion-dollar national effort to encourage Congress to unite to promote free trade, criminal justice, limiting government spending and other issues. Americans for Prosperity is underwriting mailers and digital ads this week, including one thanking Cassville GOP Congressman Barry Loudermilk for his efforts tamping down on federal spending: 

“Pumpkins grow on vines. Potatoes grow in the ground. Turkeys grow on farms,” the mailer reads. “But thankfully, Rep. Barry Loudermilk knows: Money doesn’t grow on trees.” A spokeswoman for the group’s state chapter said it is targeting Georgians who “identify strongly with these policies.”

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The Macon-Bibb County Commission could advance a resolution tomorrow aimed at removing a major hurdle for a federal bill that would quadruple the size of Ocmulgee National Monument, the Macon Telegraph reports. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue have sought to fast-track the bill through the U.S. Senate for years but have faced objections, including from Oklahoma Republican James Lankford, who has raised questions about the bill’s costs. The local resolution would have the county cover a major expense: the demolition of blighted structures on the property.

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