Political Insider

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

The Jolt: Nathan Deal, Georgia Power, and a clout-heavy game of musical chairs


If you’ve been stricken with doubts about Georgia Power’s continued influence in the state, let a press release sent out Wednesday by Gov. Nathan Deal put your mind at ease. 

The governor announced he had tapped the utility’s chief executive, Paul Bowers, for a coveted spot on the governing board of the Georgia Ports Authority. That required Bowers to give up another influential spot -- his place on the Board of Regents. 

The governor didn’t have to look far to find Bowers’ replacement. He tapped Chris Cummiskey, a Georgia Power vice president who was once Deal’s economic development commissioner, to that post. 

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The Marietta Daily Journal this morning reports that state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, who is retiring from the Legislature after 30 years, will become CEO of Taylor English Decisions LLC, a government strategies and business consulting firm. Updated: Ehrhart contacted us to say that he wouldn’t be lobbying in Georgia.

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As a rule, doing the right thing should be its own reward. Like your mom always said, “I should thank you for not robbing a bank today?”

But occasionally, especially in this low-bar climate and on this topic, good behavior should be acknowledged. On Saturday, a group of neo-Nazis plan to rally in Newnan. An “antifa” group plans to confront them. Law enforcement will be plentiful.

On Wednesday, all five members of the Coweta County legislative delegation, composed of four Republicans and one Democrat, issued a joint statement condemning those determined to celebrate Adolf Hitler’s birthday (which is actually Friday) in their community. U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-LaGrange, was even quicker on the draw. “The racist views of neo-Nazis are completely abhorrent,” the congressman said two weeks ago.

No hedging. No hints that there might be “some very fine people on both sides.” Just a simple message: Nazi = Bad.

So well done.

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A progressive commentator is under scrutiny over her appearance on Russian-backed media programs. WABE reports that Anoa Changa, who helps run a blog called “Progressive Army,” appeared on two Sputnik programs during the 2016 election - before federal authorities labeled the network part of “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine.” The station reports she has continued to appear on the programs.

From the story:

The two shows where she’s a regular, “By Any Means Necessary” and “Loud & Clear,” are a place where she’s comfortable talking about issues important to her, like police brutality, voter suppression and corporate influence in the Democratic Party. The shows, Changa said, are independent. She trusts their hosts and producers.

“If there’s a space available to occupy and get that voice across,” said Changa, “then we should take it.”

Changa is well-known in Georgia progressive circles and is a vocal supporter of Stacey Abrams’ bid for governor. She helped organize a protest last year at the Netroots Nation convention to drown out Abrams’ rival Stacey Evans with chants of “trust black women” and “support black women.”

She took to Twitter to dispute the WABE reporting, which she said played into “fear mongering” tactics. 

“How do you suppose me addressing Trump’s recent EO on economics on an independently sourced and produced show is going to be used to ‘undermine’ the US?”

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With last week’s dismissal of sexual harassment charges by his state Senate colleagues, David Shafer has returned to the business of collecting endorsements. Late last week, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor was endorsed by the NRA, which also endorsed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in the race for governor. (Note that, in both cases, the gun rights group waded into GOP primary situations – which is somewhat unusual.)

On Wednesday, the Family Policy Alliance of Georgia – a social conservative organization with ties to Jim Dobson and the Family Research Council – also endorsed Shafer, citing his support for “religious liberty” legislation.

The same group has endorsed Michael Williams in the Republican race for governor.

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Republican John Hitchins was slapped with an ethics complaint this week, claiming the Republican candidate for the state Public Service Commission violated transparency rules by failing to file a campaign finance disclosure. Hitchins, who is mounting a primary challenge to recently appointed incumbent Tricia Pridemore, submitted his campaign report Wednesday -- more than a week after the deadline. (It shows he’s raised about $5,000 and has less than $1,000 on hand.) Hitchins cited his “campaign inexperience” for missing the deadline that “thus made my biggest fear of running a campaign come true - an ethics violation.” 

“I had entered all the records up to March 31 just did not submit final report,” he said. “So until it was brought to my attention, I was unaware. This is an error that has been rectified.” 

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Lucy McBath, a Democratic candidate for the Sixth District seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Ga., has picked up an endorsement from The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a nonprofit advocacy group in Washington. The coalition’s pick is not much of a surprise, as McBath became a prominent gun control activist shortly after the death of her 17-year-old son Jordan Davis, who was gunned down outside a Florida convenience store six years ago.

McBath has indicated she plans to keep her family’s story front and center on the campaign trail. Read our article about how the race for Handel's Sixth District seat has been pulled into the national gun safety debate here. (Jeremy Redmon)

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During a conversation with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson on Wednesday, we asked for his first impressions of Ronny Jackson, the personal physician to Donald Trump who is now the president’s nominee to head the U.S. Veterans Administration.

Jackson has a confirmation hearing before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee next week. And as its chairman, Isakson said he was obliged to keep his opinions about the nominee to himself -- for now.

“He’s an impressive guy, an admiral in the Navy, experienced. I look forward to the confirmation hearing process, and I think he’ll probably fare well,” Isakson said. “But you never know. Until the questions are asked and the answers are given, you never know what’s going to happen.”

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However, you can consider Johnny Isakson a “yes” vote when the Senate takes up the nomination of Mike Pompeo to become the new secretary of state. The Georgia Republican, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and leads the subcommittee that oversees the State Department, said Wednesday that he was “very impressed” with the current CIA chief and that he would provide the country’s top diplomatic agency with a much needed “boost of enthusiasm.”

Pompeo’s nomination is currently in jeopardy after a slew of Senate Democrats announced their opposition this week. The White House embarked on a round of full-court press to win over moderate Democrats, some of whom have expressed frustration with Pompeo’s previously undisclosed meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Of that Easter weekend meeting, Isakson said, “I’m glad somebody’s talking to ‘em.”

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Isakson’s Senate colleague, David Perdue, meanwhile, took to the op-ed pages of FoxNews.com to voice his support for Pompeo’s nomination and the Trump administration’s North Korea strategy. Georgia’s junior senator said the Pompeo-Kim meeting was an “important step to lay the groundwork” for the Trump-Kim meeting later this year.

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In another Cabinet-level battle, U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson and John Lewis, both Ds from Georgia, signed onto an effort with nearly 170 other Democrats in the House and Senate urging embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to resign.

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Atlanta is a finalist for the home of a new command center focused on modernizing the U.S. Army. The Army Futures Command is part of the military’s efforts to restructure how it researches, develops and acquires new equipment. U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue said they learned about Atlanta’s selection this week. The other competitors: Austin, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, Raleigh, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. (Redmon)


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