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The Jolt: What’s on Karen Handel’s mind? ‘Pennsylvania’


Those who want a window into what U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, is thinking as she stares down her first reelection battle need only look at her latest fundraising note to supporters.

The subject line of Thursday’s message contained a single word: “Pennsylvania.”

Democrat Conor Lamb, a former Marine and prosecutor, registered a slim but surprising victory on Tuesday in a special election against a Trumpian Republican in a southwest Pennsylvania congressional district that Donald Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016.

“There’s no denying that the Democrats are fired up this year. They want nothing more than to strike a blow to President Trump and our House majority,” Handel explains. She raises the specter of Nancy Pelosi as U.S. House speaker no less than three times in her note.

But she also says this: “Their path to a House majority includes our district right here in Georgia.”

Many Republicans are indeed treating the Pennsylvania upset as a warning against complacency. And Handel is right to worry: Donald Trump carried her Sixth District by a single percentage point in 2016. Four Democrats, three with money, have lined up to challenge her.

Yet Handel’s Sixth District isn’t considered crucial ground, and isn’t on most lists of the 23 vulnerable GOP seats that Democrats might target in November to gain control of the U.S. House. Neither is the Seventh District, currently occupied by U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville.

In fact, come November, if you see either Handel or Woodall going down in defeat, it’s almost certain that the Republican majority in that chamber has already been lost. 

Updated: The Cook Political Report, an election handicapper, this morning shifted nine more U.S. House races into the “likely Democratic” column. None of them were in Georgia.

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Carolyn Bourdeaux, one of six Democrats vying to unseat U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall this fall, scooped up the endorsement of former U.S. senator Max Cleland on Thursday. Cleland touted Bourdeaux’s health care and economic platform in his endorsement. The GSU professor also has the backing of U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, and former U.N. ambassador Andrew Young. 

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Just as we were finishing this note, we received word from the Georgia chapter of the ACLU, announcing that it was headed for federal court to overturn a specific security provision that Savannah officials have laid down in preparation for Vice President Mike Pence’s attendance at Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities. From the press release:

The lawsuit seeks emergency injunctive relief to prevent the city of Savannah from enforcing an unconstitutional ban on displaying hand-held poster signs in view of Vice President Mike Pence along the St. Patrick's Day Parade route.”

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The Savannah Morning News today reports that portions of the Cumberland Island National Seashore could be evacuated a dozen times a year to accommodate rocket launches from a proposed commercial spaceport in Camden County. The report cites a draft environmental impact statement by the FAA.

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File this under things that you thought had already happened: When Maj. Gen. Gary M. Brito assumed his post on Monday, he became the first African-American commander of Fort Benning in its 100-year history, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports.

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The Georgia-Missouri link goes far beyond a new SEC rivalry. 

The political network launched by Georgia GOP operative Nick Ayers has deep roots in the Show Me State. Now the top aide to Vice President Mike Pence, Ayers helped elect Gov. Eric Greitens. And two other close Georgia allies, Austin Chambers and Edens Davis, have entangled themselves deeply in Missouri politics. 

Chambers ran Greitens’ campaign and hired Davis as an inaugural planner. And though Greitens signed an order banning executive branch employees from lobbying when they left government, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports Davis registered as a lobbyist three weeks after the governor was sworn in. 

Edens told the newspaper he registered as a lobbyist “out of an abundance of caution” and that he didn’t receive taxpayer money when he was planning the inaugural. 

“During my time helping with inauguration activities I was not a registered lobbyist in the state of Missouri,” he told the Post-Dispatch. “I was also never offered — nor did I accept — taxpayer-funded compensation in any way.”

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Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle still has a commanding lead in the governor’s race, but an internal poll released this week by former state Sen. Hunter Hill’s campaign shows he’s in the thick of the hunt for second-place.

The poll was paid for by Hill’s campaign and as such its findings should be taken with an extra dose of skepticism. It showed Cagle leading with 33 percent of the vote, trailed by Hill at 17 and Secretary of State Brian Kemp at 9. More than a third of GOP voters hadn’t picked a candidate yet.

The numbers get more interesting when factoring in the leanings of the voters that consider themselves undecided. Hill’s numbers shoot up to 21 percent -- and Cagle is within striking distance of an outright win at 48. 

The automated poll of 547 voters was conducted by Clarion Research Group and has a margin of error of 4.5 percent. Take a look for yourself here.

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