Political Insider

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

The Jolt: Stacey Abrams has a decision to make  


This is what a trial balloon looks like. Late last night, the gubernatorial campaign of Stacey Abrams, struggling to reach a runoff against Republican Brian Kemp, suggested that it might lay down a final card. From the AJC report by Greg Bluestein and Mark Niesse:

The Democrat’s campaign is considering a long-shot legal challenge under a law that allows losing candidates to contest the election in the case of misconduct, fraud or “irregularities.” She would face a tremendous legal burden to prove her case…

Abrams’ campaign has long tried to make the case that Kemp used his role as secretary of state to suppress the vote. But to have a chance in court, Abrams would have to definitively prove there were enough Georgians blocked from voting to close the gap.

Her campaign has said it has heard from 25,000 voters who had problems casting their ballots, but several of those voters it has made public have still been able to vote. It has not produced a list of Georgians who were unable to vote.

The Abrams campaign has been a most disciplined one when it comes to communication. Think about the last time her operation telegraphed a legal move before it came about. You can’t.

Abrams is on uncertain, unprecedented ground, and wants to know whether Democrats will follow her if she proceeds. Do nothing, and the race is likely to be called at 5 p.m. Friday. Kemp officially becomes governor-elect.

Mount a fundamental, odds-against-you challenge to the 2018 race for governor in court, and you immediately put at risk two Democrats who have survived to fight again in Dec. 4 runoffs: John Barrow, who faces Republican Brad Raffensperger in the race for secretary of state, and Lindy Miller, the challenger to Republican incumbent Chuck Eaton for a seat on the state Public Service Commission.

For the next 18 days, Republicans would use an Abrams refusal to concede in the governor’s race as a cudgel against the pair, and some very real Democratic gains might be squandered.

There is merit to Abrams’ argument that Kemp and other Republicans in the state Capitol for years have deliberately tried to shape the Georgia electorate in their favor, from the demand for voter IDs to purges of hundreds of thousands of voters from the rolls for the sin of not voting often enough. Legal arguments that stretch out for months might bear that out. The courtroom stage would be a prominent one.

But at some point, a candidate with staying power also becomes a party leader. Broader responsibilities impose themselves. This is where Abrams is now, and there’s a decision to be made.

***

Heads up, people: In addition to two statewide runoffs, Georgia’s first congressional recount in recent memory could be coming down the pike. 

Four-term Republican Rob Woodall appeared to skirt disaster last night in the Seventh District, coming out 419 votes ahead of his Democratic opponent Carolyn Bourdeaux after Gwinnett County certified its election results.

But that leaves Bourdeaux well within her rights to call for a recount, which could stretch Georgia’s last remaining congressional race into Thanksgiving territory. 

Bourdeaux on Thursday wouldn’t say what her plans were, but she previously implied she’d ask for a recount. But she would have to wait to make her request until after the state certifies its election results. 

***

Rob Woodall’s apparent win is undoubtedly a relief for Georgia Republicans, who got shellacked last week in Atlanta’s northern suburbs. 

But the Lawrenceville congressman’s relatively weak showing -- he cruised to victory with 60 percent of the vote just two years ago -- will undoubtedly put a giant target on his back come 2020. 

Ahead of the elections, Republican officials were privately sweating Woodall’s low-tech, nonconfrontational style. But Woodall insisted in an interview earlier this week that he wouldn’t go negative or change his tactics just to score political points in future campaigns. 

“Folks value relationships over 30-second commercials,” he told us Tuesday. 

***

The state Capitol was abuzz Thursday with news of an attempted end-run. 

The Fulton County delegation, in GOP control until January, was poised to appoint former City Councilwoman Mary Norwood as chair of the county’s elections board. 

But Democrats quickly objected, accusing Republicans of trying to railroad Norwood through a delegation meeting with little notice. We’re told the attempt has been postponed, if not abandoned. 

The timing is important: The GOP’s suburban shellacking gave Democrats control of Fulton’s House delegation. But that won’t go into effect until January, when new legislators are seated.

Norwood’s appointment would be somewhat ironic. Following last year’s runoff for mayor of Atlanta, Norwood refused to concede to Keisha Lance Bottoms for three weeks -- backed by a Republican team of lawyers fresh from Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office.

***

When he addressed the state Senate earlier this week, Lt. Gov.-Elect Geoff Duncan told chamber members he looked forward to connecting with each person in the chamber. In that vein, our AJC colleague Maya Prabhu reports that Duncan is expected to stop by caucus gatherings of both Republicans and Democrats this morning.

“It’s an opportunity on the Republican side to say ‘thank you and we look forward to working with you and getting to know you guys better,’” said Chip Lake, who will serve as Duncan’s chief of staff. “On the Democratic side, it’s not ‘thank you,’ but when you’re lieutenant governor, you’re lieutenant governor for the entire state and the entire body.”

***

We told you last week about U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ support of Nancy Pelosi’s bid for House speaker. Now the party elder is making the hard sell to some of his skeptical Democratic colleagues.

In a “dear colleague” letter to House Democrats – conveniently blasted out by Pelosi’s office, Lewis argues the California Democrat “has demonstrated the proven, tested leadership we need to confront the issues before our nation.”

“I do believe we are facing a clear and present threat to our democracy at this time,” Lewis wrote. “We cannot afford to come up short. Rep. Nancy Pelosi has been one of the most dependable and reliable members of Congress.”

***

Never miss a minute of what’s happening in Georgia Politics. Subscribe to PoliticallyGeorgia.com


Reader Comments