Political Insider

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

The Jolt: It’s kiss-and-make-up time for Georgia Republicans


Many questions face Georgia Republicans at tonight’s kiss-and-make-up rally, a “unity” gathering designed to move past the poisonous language of the primary runoff.

The smallest may be whether Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle will give his effusive praise to Secretary of State Brian Kemp after Tuesday’s thrashing -- and renounce his contention that Democrat Stacey Abrams would have the advantage in a November showdown with Kemp.

Cagle formally endorsed Kemp in the aftermath of his campaign’s collapse on Tuesday night, but there are still holdouts, according to Johnny Kauffman of WABE (90.1FM). State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, wants an apology from Kemp campaign manager Ryan Mahoney before she’ll step aboard.

Unterman, a strong Cagle ally, was part of a heated tiff over Kemp’s performance as secretary of state -- during which Mahoney dismissed her as “mentally unstable.” Hence the demand for an apology. Writes Kauffman:

“[I]t’s not an apology for me,” Unterman said. “It’s an apology for women in general, because when you insult one woman and their personal journey you are insulting 51 percent of the population.”

The largest hanging chad will be whether the race for the No. 2 job will be tidied up by 7 p.m., when Republicans begin gathering at the Hilton Atlanta NE in Peachtree Corners. The answer: Probably not.

Former state Rep. Geoff Duncan topped state Sen. David Shafer by 1,742 votes out of 556,754 cast in Tuesday’s GOP runoff for lieutenant governor. Shafer hasn’t conceded.

State Sen. Josh McKoon, a Shafer supporter, said state officials told him that thousands of provisional ballots have yet to be counted. He said some voters told him they had problems casting a ballot because their driver’s licenses had been recently renewed. 

“It appears to me the number of provisional ballots is substantially greater in the runoff than primary. I suspect a lot of them will be counted. In my opinion, there are enough outstanding ballots to put the current result in doubt.”

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Then there’s the question of energy. Our AJC colleague Mark Neisse reports that about 10 percent of Georgia’s registered active voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s Republican runoff for governor.

Despite the entry of President Donald Trump into the contest, that’s down from the 2010 GOP runoff for governor. That cage match, which featured Nathan Deal and Karen Handel, drew 12 percent of registered voters.

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You can do a lot of things with a million-dollar donation from George Soros. The Democratic Party of Georgia on Friday will launch a feel-good ad touting gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams -- an effort to strengthen the candidate’s identity before Republicans attempt to trash it in the weeks ahead. Health care and education get an emphasis. Watch it here:

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Tuesday was a good night for members of House Speaker David Ralston’s chamber.

State Rep. Brad Raffsenperger, R-Johns Creek, easily earned the GOP nod for secretary of state. He’ll face Democrat John Barrow in November.

More important: As mentioned above, Geoff Duncan, a former House member, has claimed victory over David Shafer, a veteran member of the Senate, in the race for lieutenant governor. The House and Senate are often at loggerheads, but with Duncan presiding over the Senate, House members could have a friend in a powerful position when the Legislature convenes in January.

Then there’s the fact that many House Republicans supported Brian Kemp over Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in the runoff -- which could give them another leg up. (On that same note, keep an eye on state Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, one of the only members of his chamber to endorse Kemp.)

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It was quiet, but Hillary Clinton made a return to Georgia politics this week. Via Twitter, the 2016 presidential nominee congratulated Lucy McBath for securing the Democratic nod in the Sixth District congressional contest.

We also understand that Clinton recorded a robocall on McBath’s behalf that went out to Democratic voters earlier this week.

All of it was surprisingly hush-hush for someone who is still popular among Georgia Democrats. The robo-call wasn’t publicized, and the Twitter endorsement came only after McBath was declared the winner. (McBath, you may remember, stumped for Clinton in 2016, including at the Democratic National Convention with other mothers who lost children to gun violence.)

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More on the Sixth District: The re-election campaign of U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, on Wednesday greeted Democrat Lucy McBath with a broadside that revived the Republican’s “stranger danger” line of attack on Democrat Jon Ossoff from last year.

Among the paragraphs attributed to campaign manager Mason Rainey:

“Karen Handel has deep roots in our community and a record of actually delivering results for the working families….

“Ms. McBath, on the other hand — like Jon Ossoff last summer — has been bought and paid for by money from out-of-state donors with no connection to our community...

“The voters of the 6th District are not going to turn over this seat to an occasional area resident that works for a special interest, dark money SuperPac and couldn’t be bothered to vote in last year’s election or for years before…”

One very specific word was missing from the Handel press release: “Trump.”

On Wednesday, I asked McBath if she would be bringing President Donald Trump into the November contest. She said no -- sort of: “I’m focused on Karen Handel. Karen Handel represents Trump.”

So Handel will be portrayed as a creature of Trump, and McBath a Clinton acolyte. Which means the Sixth District contest could become something of a rematch of the 2016 presidential contest.

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Speaking of Jon Ossoff, he also took to Twitter yesterday to endorse Lucy McBath. The former Sixth District candidate sat out of this year’s Democratic primary fight after he passed on a second bid for the seat

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U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe,  has signed onto an effort to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Spearheaded by some of his House Freedom Caucus colleagues, the articles reprimand Rosenstein for failing to cooperate with Congress on document demands related to FBI investigations of Clinton and Russia. The Justice Department has vehemently denied those claims.

Hice said there “has been a culture of stonewalling and misdirection” from the senior level at the Justice Department and FBI, “most especially under the failed leadership of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and former FBI Director James Comey.” From Hice:

“It is the duty of America’s law enforcement agencies to rise above the fray, and it is our duty in Congress to root out corruption in our government when it presents itself. While we have acted in good faith and given DAG Rosenstein every opportunity to comply with Congressional requests, he has evaded our attempts to conduct oversight time and time again. Now, the only recourse we have left in order to fulfill our vested duty is to hold Rod Rosenstein accountable – before the American people lose all trust and confidence in these agencies.”

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Atlanta attorney Stefan Passantino is planning to leave his position as a White House ethics lawyer after a year and a half in Washington. Politico reports that Passantino, who has served as the White House’s No. 2 attorney under counsel Don McGahn, could depart by the end of the summer. Passantino has been commuting between D.C. and Atlanta, where his family still lives. 

He’s tasked with enforcing ethics rules within the administration. Via Politico: 

Passantino has been an aggressive force for defending the Trump administration’s practices, its training programs, and its oversight over officials within the executive branch.

In various public letters, Passantino has tangled with Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics from 2013 to July 2017, and the Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. That committee once asked McGahn specifically to look into Passantino’s conduct.

A counsel to Newt Gingrich during his 2012 presidential run, Passantino advised many prominent Republican politicians and headed up the political law division for the mega-firm Dentons before his White House appointment. 

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Here are the opening lines of an obituary for Tom Crawford, the veteran political journalist who died last week at age 67, written by Candice Dyer for Atlanta magazine:

Tom Crawford’s editors used a vivid verb to describe how he worked. They said, admiringly, that he “vomited a story,” meaning he was a fast writer who never blew a deadline.

“As a writer, Tom was the ultimate utility infielder,” says Charlie Hayslett, who worked with Crawford at the Atlanta Journal. “Most folks I’ve known have been good at one or two things but struggled with others. Tom could do it all—straight news, in-depth, complicated analysis, really well-argued opinion pieces, short stuff, long stuff. Didn’t matter. Tom did it all, and really, really fast and really, really well.”

A wake for Crawford will be held at 6 p.m. next Tuesday at Manuel’s Tavern, a regular haunt of the journalist.

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