March 29, 2018 - Atlanta, Ga: Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, gives a thumbs up to a fellow senator after the passage of Senate Bill 386, the regional transit bill, during Legislative Day 40 in the Senate Chamber at the Georgia State Capitol Thursday, March 29, 2018, in Atlanta. Sen. Beach was the sponsor of the bill. PHOTO / JASON GETZ
Photo: Jason Getz
Photo: Jason Getz

The Jolt: Behind Brandon Beach’s decision to abandon his bid for the Sixth

Let’s dig a bit deeper into state Sen. Brandon Beach’s decision to drop out of the Republican side of the Sixth District congressional race. It doesn’t appear to have been triggered by fundraising troubles or a lack of support from GOP leaders -- at least, not those in Georgia.

Beach lagged only slightly behind former congresswoman Karen Handel in campaign cash, and he’s not afraid of a tough fight, taking on former Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers. And it would have been a tough fight, given that Handel has been endorsed by Republican leaders of the U.S. House.

Although Beach told supporters he was convinced by Gov. Brian Kemp that he could be more effective in the state Senate than in Congress, we’re told a few other recent developments also factored into his decision.

First, the victories of Democratic candidates in this month’s municipal elections offered a sharp reminder of the suburban district’s fast-changing demographics -- particularly the win by Lynn Deutsch in the Dunwoody mayoral contest.

As one Beach ally put it, he won’t shirk from a challenge -- but a “suicide mission” is something else. 

Secondly, a deluge of well-wishers at a transportation summit in Athens this week made him reassess what he would be giving up as chair of the powerful Senate Transportation Committee. 

Though he has always wanted to serve in Congress, he found it harder than expected to give up his day-to-day Senate responsibilities to hit the campaign trail. It’s why he was still attending e-scooter meetings and trucking logistics summits when he could have been cajoling donors to stroke checks.

The decision paves the way for Handel to face the Democrat who defeated her last year, Lucy McBath, in a 2020 rematch -- if she can stave off several lower-profile challengers.

We’re told Handel and Beach have scheduled a breakfast meeting for next week to discuss a potential endorsement and, perhaps, bury the hatchet after the sharp words of an aborted campaign. Handel had nothing but kind words for her former rival on Thursday. Via Facebook:

Brandon Beach has been a leader on issues of infrastructure and economic development throughout his professional career and years in public service, and I appreciate him bringing these issues to the forefront of the campaign to take back Georgia's sixth district. I look forward to working again on these issues in Washington while continuing to partner with Senator Beach and others who represent us here at home.

Beach now faces a different sort of political challenge now that he’s running for re-election to the state Senate next year. His planned departure had drawn in state Rep. Michael Caldwell, R-Woodstock, who said Thursday he’s not getting out of the contest.

“I asked to be your State Senator in January. I'm asking again today. I've always been 100% in,” Caldwell said in a note on social media. “The number of calls in support I've received today have been honestly overwhelming.”

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Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, who has made a late leap into the Democrat’s crowded field for president, brings a little Georgia background with him, according to our AJC business colleague Matt Kempner.

Patrick served as the top attorney for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company from early 2001 into late 2004. Patrick, who kept his home in Boston during his Coke days, joined the company shortly after it agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by African-American employees alleging racial discrimination.

Patrick helped implement the agreement. He also oversaw the company’s legal steps as it dealt with federal investigations into accounting and other alleged irregularities.

His departure from the company was messy, according to news reports at the time. When Coke announced Patrick was resigning as general counsel, the news sparked a Wall Street Journal report that some Coke board members weren’t satisfied with his handling of the federal probes.

Within days, the company said Patrick would remain with Coke through the end of the year. The board later issued an apology and wrote that Patrick “always acted in a highly professional, diligent and competent manner," according to Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporting at the time.

Before leaving the company, Patrick was unusually candid about some of the company’s earlier aggressive stances against detractors and quick moves to initially deny problems highlighted in the race case.

Corporate leaders sometimes don’t fully realize what’s happening throughout the company, he suggested at a gathering in 2004, according to an AJC report then. 

Said the man who now wants to be U.S. president, “Life in the quarters of the executive suite is very sweet. It's also very isolated."

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One of your Insiders has posted a curtain-raiser on next week’s Democratic presidential debate at Tyler Perry’s digs in south Atlanta. Local Democrats see as more than just a showdown of White House hopefuls. It’s a turn in the spotlight that state party leaders have sought since they lost the Governor’s Mansion in 2002.

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Ten candidates will take part in next week’s Democratic debate in Atlanta, two fewer than appeared on stage in the last round. 

The two debate co-hosts - MSNBC and The Washington Post - said former Vice President Joe Biden will be at center stage, flanked on either side by U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The other seven candidates who reached the fundraising and polling criteria are U.S. Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.; entrepreneur Andrew Yang and billionaire activist Tom Steyer.

Among those not making the cut are former Housing Secretary Julián Castro, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Author Marianne Williamson.

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The Wall Street Journal reports that McClatchy Co., “the third-largest newspaper publisher in the U.S. by circulation,” is in talks with creditors and federal officials about a government takeover of its pension fund, in order to reduce its debt load. In Georgia, McClatchy owns the Macon Telegraph and the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

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Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, has taken the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s recent poll as evidence that support for a “Green New Deal” to combat climate change is a “winning issue.”

The poll found that nearly two-thirds of registered Georgia voters say the U.S. should do more to curb rising temperatures. Said Terry via Twitter:

As former director of @gasierraclub, I’ve spent the last 3 years organizing for #ClimateAction and more #solar energy. I know these issues better than any candidate in #Gasen race.

***

A longtime member of U.S.Rep. John Lewis’s staff recently resigned to pursue new opportunities. Brenda Jones, who served as Lewis’ spokeswoman, left earlier this month and is now working as the senior director of public affairs at the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington.

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Not everyone enjoyed U.S. Rep. Doug Collins’ social media critique of a diplomat’s testimony during Wednesday’s impeachment inquiry hearing. 

Collins’ posted a clip from the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” -- the one where a young lady recounts Ferris’ ailment by relaying what she heard from her “best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend” -- and captioned it with a jab at Bill Taylor, who had testified about what he was told regarding President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine.

“A live look into Ambassador Taylor’s testimony in the Schiff impeachment proceedings,” Collins captioned the video he posted on Twitter.

The Gainesville Republican’s post has been viewed nearly 1.5 million as of this writing and has 56,000 likes. But U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat from California, was one of many who chastised Collins for poking fun at a decorated envoy with decades of public service.

“Rep. Collins and Amb. Taylor are both military veterans,” Swalwell responded on Twitter. “And we should be grateful to both for serving. But yesterday, only one of them acted professionally. Treating someone who is serving his country abroad in this manner is beneath the dignity of our office.”

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