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The Jolt: A 2020 candidate surfaces in Georgia

We aren’t nearly done with the 2018 campaign cycle, but already a likely 2020 candidate has surfaced.

Early this morning, we received an unsolicited email from the private account of Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson with this subject line: “Political Beginnings, Governing Philosophies, and Party Observations.”

Tomlinson’s second and final term as mayor of the consolidated county and city ends in January. It’s pretty obvious that she’s not done.

Her email directs you a website that makes no mention of future ambition, but invites the reader to review her biography. Specifically, a video from the University of Georgia Russell Library’s oral history project. A few self-selected outtakes:

-- “I was the only female on the Reagan/Bush ‘Youth for Reagan’ payroll in 1984. They sent us out with Bob Dole and others to look young and energetic.

-- “I may have been quite prescient moving away from the Republican Party in 1990.

-- “I have come to very firmly believe that Democratic progressive policies are the better governing principles.

-- “All over Georgia, people appreciate that government is a partner in what they do.”

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While it is indeed a presidential year, as statewide contests go, 2020 is a rather barren field for Georgia proper. The only race that springs to mind is the U.S. Senate seat currently held by David Perdue.

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We told you Monday of that new Landmark Communications poll that puts Republican Brian Kemp ahead of Democrat Stacey Abrams (48-46%) in the race for governor – though it’s not a lead that stands up to a +/-3.2% MOE.

Mark Rountree, the top dog at Landmark, pointed out that in 2014, Republican incumbent Nathan Deal didn’t break the 50 percent mark in his bid for re-election until Oct. 9, after which independents began drifting to the GOP column.

Rountree said he suspects that this “horses-head-for-the-barn” phenomenon might be happening earlier this year because of the polarizing nature of last week’s U.S. Senate hearings, which featured Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the university professor who has accused him of sexual assault when they were both in their teens. Landmark polled that, too. From the press release:

Georgians currently support the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court by a margin of 49-43%, with 43% of women supporting and 47% opposing, with 11% undecided. Men support the nomination by a very strong margin, 56-34%.

You can stroll through the crosstabs by clicking here, or scroll through below. One thing we would point you to are the breakdowns by age. If Kemp didn’t have such an overwhelming lead with voters aged 65 and older, he’d be losing this contest. The same dynamic applies to the race for lieutenant governor and Kavanaugh favorability/unfavorability – though not as strongly:

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The Washington Post reports that a former Yale University basketball player will meet with the FBI today to discuss Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh’s role in instigating a bar fight more than three decades ago.

An Atlanta name appears deep in the article as a witness. Warren Sams, a personal injury attorney, was on the Yale football team. According to the Post, Sams remembers the incident, but does not remember Kavanaugh being there. A quick search indicates that, in the past, Sams has made modest campaign contributions to Democrats such as Stacey Evans and Thurbert Baker.

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At first glance, the Atlanta City Council’s Monday vote to raise police officer pay and a later decision to reject an outside counsel to vet an incentives package to redevelop the Gulch might seem disconnected. But a City Hall insider tells us that the two issues were inextricably tied together: Several council members had been jockeying for the police pay hikes, and the mayor’s push to overhaul the Gulch gave them the leverage they needed. 

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The Trump administration’s new trade deal with Canada and Mexico won promising early reviews from Georgia Republicans and many farm groups on Monday. But the one local who likely exhaled the biggest sigh of relief was Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

One of the former Georgia governor’s first notable actions after joining the Trump administration was persuading the president to renegotiate NAFTA instead of withdrawing from it entirely. Trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for a substantial chunk of business for Georgia and U.S. farmers alike, and with substantial anxiety in farm country about new Chinese tariffs greeting Perdue wherever he goes, the new deal is undoubtedly a welcome development.

Indeed, the press release sent out from Perdue’s office on Monday could be interpreted as a lengthy ‘I told you so’ on Trump’s trade policies:

“As we celebrate this breakthrough, it is worth noting that there were many detractors who said it couldn’t be done. But this is further proof that President Trump’s trade negotiation strategy is working.”

There was even some surprising feedback. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated he could be open to supporting the agreement should it come up for a vote in Congress.  

“As someone who voted against NAFTA and opposed it for many years, I knew it needed fixing. The president deserves praise for taking large steps to improve it,” said the New York Democrat and frequent Trump sparring partner. “However, any final agreement must be judged on how it benefits and protects middle-class families and the working people in our country.”

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Keep an eye on this new lobbying team under the Gold Dome. The Robbins Government Relations Group rolled out its team of lobbyists, lawyers and public affairs specialists this week, and it’s a formidable list. Founding members include former Sam Nunn aide Roy Robinson; ex-Sonny Perdue deputies Josh Belinfante and Rollin Downs; former Jeff Sessions legislative counsel Kimberly Anderson; and Ryan Teague, who was Gov. Nathan Deal’s executive counsel. Two other founders have close ties to Brian Kemp: Vincent Russo, his former executive counsel, and David Dove, his ex-top aide. 

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The Georgia GOP’s executive director filed an ethics complaint this week, claiming a political action committee was improperly coordinating with Democratic campaigns. The complaint by Carmen Foskey targets the Georgia Responsible Leadership Fund, an outside group that seeks to help Democratic candidates. The complaint focused on pamphlets from the group advertising its ability to help candidates with a “directly coordinated” message to supplement a campaign’s efforts. State law bans political action committees from coordinating with campaigns unless they are abiding by strict contribution limits. The organization’s custodian, Jeff DiSantis, did not immediately comment on the filing.

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