Political Insider

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When it comes to MARTA rail, three Sixth District Republicans are precisely imprecise

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul embedded a not-so-subtle message about Republican priorities in his Wednesday endorsement of Karen Handel in Georgia's special election.

"The Sixth District is very diverse. It has differing opinions on Obamacare, on guns, on taxes," said the mayor, a major advocate of MARTA rail expansion into the area. "But if there's one thing we can agree on is that our infrastructure is woefully inadequate."

He said Handel's most important mission, should she win the congressional seat, is increasing mobility in the district: "Our infrastructure is unbelievably vulnerable and we need the Department of Transportation to be a partner."

Handel replied that she would work to streamline federal regulations and secure more funding and flexibility for transportation projects.

Yet when it comes to endorsing more specific solutions, Handel and two other top Republicans in the Sixth District contest have been consistently – and one presumes, purposely – vague.

Democrats, including Jon Ossoff, and some Republicans, including David Abroms and Bruce LeVell, embraced the idea. But three Republicans higher up in the polls were all very precise in their waffling.

Said Handel: “My job is to coordinate with elected leaders and not to tell them what to do and how to solve the problem.”

Said Judson Hill: “We should send those dollars back to the state and give the ability to the states to make the best decisions.”

And Dan Moody: “Look at the opportunity that MARTA management has to convince the people in the Sixth District that this is a viable alternative to driving to their destination. They need to show people they can get there safely and on time.”

Bob Gray, the former Johns Creek city councilman, was more forthright. And he is opposed to heavy rail expansion. “Atlanta is the least densely populated city of the 50 largest cities in the world…You need to look at heavy rail within the densely populated areas, and then you have to look at more cost-effective solutions like bus rapid transit and autonomous vehicles,” he said.


Over at Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball website, Kyle Kondik has the deepest analysis of Georgia’s Sixth District race we’ve seen. Click here to read it all, but here’s a taste:

[T]o sum it up, the GA-6 special is indeed special: It uses an election format that hardly any other 2018 races will use; it features only one prominent Democrat who has used his unique position to harness an immense fundraising base while a giant Republican field fights for scraps; it is taking place in a district that changed dramatically at the presidential level from 2012 to 2016 in the Democrats’ favor; and it is an open seat.


This is all a way of saying that those who project the GA-6 outcome, whatever it is, onto the still-distant 2018 midterms do so at their own peril.


House Speaker Paul Ryan is angling to make his voice heard in Georgia’s Sixth District race.

The Washington Post reports that the Wisconsin Republican has taped a get-out-the-vote robo-call for Republican voters in the region. He’s not expected to endorse any of the 11 Republicans in the contest.

Ryan raised a record $22 million last quarter for House Republicans. The lion’s share of that money went to the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to the Post, a group that’s dropped millions so far in Georgia.

Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee is also weighing in with a late attack add:


CNN has weighed in on Sixth District candidate Bob Gray, a Republican who supports cutting immigration into the United States by half:

Gray… has said in multiple interviews that the H1-B visa was frequently abused by companies. The visa is meant to allow employers to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations when there is a shortage of qualified Americans.


Yet three companies where Gray has been an executive have applied for and received H1-B visas, according data provided by the Department of Labor. Two of them, Keane and NTT Data Corporation, requested and obtained hundreds of H1-B visas for foreign employees. The third, Maine Point, employed two H1-B employees.


In an interview with radio host Chuck Wilder, Gray was asked about his position on the many American visa programs. Gray has repeatedly referred to the H1-B incorrectly as H1-B3, a visa for fashion models.


Under a withering TV assault from the rival GOP campaign of Dan Moody,  noting her several attempts at public office, Republican Karen Handel's campaign has fired back with mailers claiming GOP rival Dan Moody "lied to us" about a pledge not to take money from special interests while a state senator. The Moody campaign dismissed the attacks as a misguided smear. Here's the charge:



A postal response to a TV assault speaks volumes when it comes to financial resources.

It's also another sign that Moody, who was within the margin of error in polls just weeks ago, has swiftly risen to near the top of the Republican field. He's aided, of course, by nearly $2 million of his own cash in the campaign and overt support from U.S. Sen. David Perdue and his formidable political network.


Atlanta mayoral candidate Peter Aman is the first in the crowded field to go on TV on Thursday with a pair of introductory ads. The business executive and former city chief operating officer is positioning himself as an outsider in a field of veteran politicians, though he has struggled in public polls.

“I believe Atlanta can be safer, better connected and more inclusive than it has ever been,” Aman said in one.

It's part of a new phase of his campaign that led him to hire a top strategist and overhaul his messaging. 


House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams has been crisscrossing the state for months, holding town hall meetings and gearing up for a likely gubernatorial bid. But we've rarely seen her as fired up as she was in this speech this week at Spelman College, where she received an honorary doctorate.

Watch the whole speech here, but tune in to the 16-minute mark for the fireworks:



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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.