Political Insider

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Trump’s ex-campaign manager picks a side in Georgia’s special election

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski will campaign next week for Republican Bruce LeVell, as he burnishes his pro-Trump credentials in the race to represent the suburban Atlanta district.

LeVell, a Dunwoody jeweler who headed Trump’s diversity coalition, said Monday that Lewandowski’s March 29 appearance in Alpharetta is an indication the “Trump team is rallying around my campaign.”

“Corey and I have been brothers-in-arms fighting for President Trump since June of 2015,” he said.

In the 18-candidate April 18 special election, LeVell is positioning himself as Trump’s biggest ally in the race. But he’s facing stiff competition from other pro-Trump Republicans in the race, including former Johns Creek councilman Bob Gray, whose TV ad featured him with a water pump prepared to drain a swamp.

They are taking calculated risks that tying themselves to Trump won't sink them in a ruby-red district that Trump barely won in November. Many of the other Republicans - there are 11 GOP candidates in the race - hardly mention Trump's name or stress the need for an independent check on the White House in Congress.

Lewandowski is a divisive figure in his own right. After he was fired in June 2016 as Trump's campaign manager, he took a job as a CNN commentator while continuing a role as an informal adviser to the Republican. Since then he's launched a lobbying and consulting firm that advertises his ties to the president.

Republicans are increasingly fighting over what appears to be one slot in a likely June 20 runoff between the two top vote-getters. Democrat Jon Ossoff, with a “Make Trump Furious” campaign and more than $3 million in contributions, seems to be consolidating support among left-leaning voters.

Trying to gain ground, LeVell and former state Sen. Judson Hill have both attacked Gray for Facebook posts that criticized Trump in early 2016. Gray’s campaign said the social media posts were false and that the criticism was an indication of how desperate his opponents are.

The increasingly barbed attacks from the rivals reflect a fast-changing calculus in the race to replace former Rep. Tom Price. A zPolitics poll released Monday showed Ossoff at 41 percent – and Gray deadlocked with former Secretary of State Karen Handel at 16 percent.

Many GOP analysts now see Ossoff as a shoo-in to land the most votes in the special election for the seat, which stretches from east Cobb to north DeKalb. That's prompted the 11 Republicans to sharpen their attacks on each other - and Ossoff.

More: Republicans, Democrats target Ossoff in Georgia special election

More AJC coverage of the Sixth District race:

How outside forces play an outsized role in Georgia’s 6th District race

Bob Gray's pro-Trump credentials under fire

Ad blitz for Georgia's Sixth District race already tops $3.7M

House GOP health care plan divides Sixth District candidates

Jon Ossoff rattles conservatives in race for Georgia’s Sixth

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.