A new Sixth District topic: Georgia Power’s nuclear troubles at Plant Vogtle

Georgia Power’s deeply troubled effort to build two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle just made a quiet debut in the Sixth District congressional race.

Club for Growth, a D.C.-based conservative group trying to bolster the Freedom Caucus in Congress, has endorsed former Johns Creek councilman Bob Gray in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Tom Price.

With the race down to its final week, Club for Growth has focused on the two other Republicans, Karen Handel and Dan Moody, who stand between Gray and a spot in a June 20 runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

A weekend mail piece attacking Handel and Moody has now been followed up with a Club for Growth air-time buy of more than $200,000, pushing this TV ad:

We haven’t yet pinned down the sourcing for Club for Growth’s allegations against Handel, and so will not address them here. But it accuses the former chairman of the Fulton County Commission of "crony capitalism" -- and then extends the accusation:

“Moody did it, too. Voted for $2 billion in higher taxes and fees to benefit a utility company.”

In type so small that it is barely visible to the naked eye, the Club for Growth ad lists this as its source: "AJC 3.1.09; S.B. 31." This is the March 1, 2009 AJC article that was referenced:

Moody was one of 38 senators, mostly Republican, who voted for the measure. To continue:

SB 31 allows Georgia Power to charge customers an estimated $1.6 billion in financing charges and an additional $400 million in related taxes between 2011, when construction of two nuclear reactors begins, and 2017, when the reactors are done.

The reactors are not done. Far from it. In fact, completion of the project is now in doubt. From a recent piece by the AJC’s Russell Grantham:

A day after its key contractor filed bankruptcy, Georgia Power said Thursday it is looking at all options for what to do with its unfinished Plant Vogtle nuclear project.


“Every option is on the table,” Georgia Power attorney Kevin Green told members of the Georgia Public Service Commission, which regulates the Atlanta-based utility.


Westinghouse Electric, which is supplying the reactors and overseeing construction of two new reactors at Plant Vogtle near Augusta, filed for Chapter 11 Wednesday, largely as a result of billions in losses on the Vogtle project and another in South Carolina.

We’re betting this isn’t the last time Plant Vogtle makes it into a campaign ad.


Roll Call reports that, with a robo-call, President Donald Trump has waded into the Fourth District congressional race in Kansas, which wraps up today:

Trump recorded a robocall for [Ron] Estes, who, based on the late involvement of national Republicans, finds himself in a closer-than-expected election to fill the seat vacated by Trump’s CIA Director Mike Pompeo.


“This is an important election,” Trump says on the call. “There’s really few very much more important.”


In more 6th District news, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report announced it was changing its rating of the race from "leans Republican" to "Republican toss-up."

"There is a real chance Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is dramatically outspending the rest of the field while the main GOP contenders turn on each other, could hit 50 percent on April 18 and avoid a runoff," Cook wrote.


It's about the worst thing you can call a candidate running as a pro-Trump loyalist: A "swamp-dweller."

But that's how GOP strategist Seth Weathers, who was briefly Trump's Georgia campaign director, described Georgia special election candidate Bob Gray. He went on to say the ex-Johns Creek councilman was "attempting to deceive loyal Trump supporters" by making "bold, false statements." He also praised former state Sen. Dan Moody, another candidate, in his dispatch.

Gray is running in the April 18 special election as a "willing partner" to Trump and says at campaign stops he agrees with each of the president's top campaign priorities. But the former Johns Creek councilman has come under fire from Bruce LeVell, another candidate and Trump loyalist, and some other GOP contenders about his pro-Trump credentials.

There's some tangled history between Gray's campaign and Weathers. Gray is being advised by Brandon Phillips, who succeeded Weathers as the president's go-to in Georgia. Phillips hired a raft of field operatives and other veterans of the 2016 campaign to work for Gray's campaign.

Gray's campaign pointed to his work at Trump's Sandy Springs campaign headquarters, adding: "Those that were there aren't persuaded by fabricated notes, no matter whose desk they're from."

We also received a string of phone calls in the hours after Weathers' statement about his short-lived tenure as Trump's Georgia chief. He resigned in late 2015 after a few weeks leading the campaign and has never publicly said why he left, only calling rumors about his departure "fake news."


State Rep. Geoff Duncan, R-Cumming, has filed paperwork setting the stage for a run for lieutenant governor. Duncan hopes to succeed Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who is planning to run for governor. From our November story on his bid:

Duncan has forged an unconventional path to office. A former Georgia Tech standout, Duncan pitched six seasons in the Miami Marlins minor league system before reconstructive shoulder surgery in 2001 forced him to end his career. He moved to the Atlanta suburbs with his wife to start a marketing company and now runs a healthcare firm.


He decided to run for office in 2011, making a play for a newly-created House district drawn that seemed designed for former Rep. Tom Knox’s comeback. He won the seat in 2012 by 55 votes, and since taking office has a few wins under his hat.


His proposal to require all bar bouncers to be 21 or older – dubbed Michael’s Law after the death last year of an 18-year-old bar staffer – passed with little opposition.


He also backed legislation that allows residents or corporations to get a state tax credit for donating money to a rural hospital, a measure pitched as a way to help struggling rural facilities. It passed despite criticism from some Democrats, although top lawmakers are worried some of the funds could be siphoned to consultants.

Duncan is entering what could be a crowded primary field for Georgia's No. 2 job. Senate President pro tem David Shafer of Buford, Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert of Athens and state Sen. Butch Miller of Gainesville are considered potential candidates. So are state Sens. Burt Jones of Jackson and Hunter Hill of Atlanta. And Democratic state Rep. Stacey Evans of Smyrna is among the potential contenders across the aisle.


Whoops. Republican Karen Handel marked Passover, the eight-day Jewish holiday that began on Monday, with a Twitter message aimed at her Jewish friends. But her tweet mentioned a "new year," indicating she may have mistaken Passover for  Rosh Hashanah, which is usually in September or October.

The message was quickly deleted, but we were sent a copy:






The popularity of Georgia’s two Republican senators, David Perdue and Johnny Isakson, has increased over the last seven months, according to a new poll from the Morning Consult.

According to the group’s new Senate survey, Perdue and Isakson respectively have 55 percent and 56 percent approval ratings. That puts them in the middle of the pack compared to their Senate colleagues, but five percentage points higher compared to September 2016, the last time the Morning Consult conducted the poll.

The group says Gov. Nathan Deal gets relatively high marks when compared to his peers. The Republican has 63 percent approval and 25 percent disapproval ratings, making him the 10th most popular governor, according to the survey.


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About the Author

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