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Political hardball: Why the Braves are co-hosting a Kemp fundraiser 

The Atlanta Braves franchise is wading into the race for Georgia governor by hosting a high-dollar fundraiser this month for Republican Brian Kemp, though the team said it expects to also chip into Democrat Stacey Abrams’ campaign.

The team was among dozens of sponsors for an Aug. 27 fundraiser featuring Kemp and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson at the Georgian Club, which is near the team’s Cobb County home of SunTrust Park. The event cost donors $13,200 to host and $1,000 to attend.

Braves spokeswoman Beth Marshall said the franchise often donates to candidates from both parties, and noted it gave $750 to Abrams in 2015 and 2016 during her state House runs. She said the team’s donation does not amount to “taking a political stance for either gubernatorial candidate.”

Marshall added: “As of today, we have yet to be contacted to support Abrams’ campaign, but are expecting to do so.” 

The Atlanta Braves are one of the better politically-connected businesses in Georgia, and the team regularly hosts powerful politicians, including a recent event held by the Republican Governors Association. Over the last decade, the Braves have donated tens of thousands of dollars to candidates. 

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Among the recipients are leaders of both parties, including House Speaker David Ralston, Senate Majority Leader Butch Miller, Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson and former Democratic state Rep. Stacey Evans, the runner-up to Abrams in the May primary.

It wouldn’t be the first time the team has chipped in during a contested gubernatorial race. It donated $2,500 to Gov. Nathan Deal during his 2010 election bid and another $11,300 during his re-election bid four years later. The team did not give to either Democratic candidate in those contests. 

The franchise was also an early supporter of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the Republican presumptive front-runner who was trounced by Kemp in the July runoff. It gave four separate donations to Cagle over the last year totaling $11,000. The last was a $3,400 donation in May earmarked for the runoff against Kemp. 

The Braves were far from alone in that respect. Kemp, Georgia’s secretary of state, has benefited from a flood of lobbyists and businesses who have signed checks for his campaign after initially backing Cagle. 

The team has cultivated a relationship with politicians for a reason. When the franchise announced in 2013 it would bolt Atlanta for Cobb County, it needed support from local lawmakers to spend $400 million in public money for the project without a popular referendum.

Other hosts of the event include former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, outgoing state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, Cobb District Attorney Vic Reynolds and other Cobb County GOP movers and shakers. 

Also on the list: Mike Plant, the president and chief executive of the Braves Development Company and one of the architects of the team’s move to Cobb County. 

See the invite for yourself:


 

 

About the Author

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

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