Democrat Jimmy Hendron, a candidate for Cobb County sheriff.

The Jolt: A bellwether race for sheriff springs up in Cobb County

One of the fundamental building blocks of politics in Georgia is the county sheriff. We elect 159 of them, and they often serve as bellwethers for entire slates of county officers.

Cobb County has gone blue in the last two election cycles. Sheriff Neil Warren, a Republican, has been acting as if he expects opposition. As of this weekend, he has it.

Jimmy Herndon, a former crime scene supervisor for the department who now works for a private security and investigatory firm, has announced his Democratic candidacy for the post. His campaign website is a blistering attack upon the longtime sheriff, accusing Warren of corruption and self-dealing. Herndon also guarantees that immigration will be a hot local topic in the year ahead. From his website:

I will end the 287(g) agreement, which wastes taxpayer resources. This program creates an undue burden on the taxpayers of Cobb county, who already fund U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement otherwise know as “ICE” through federal taxes.

Ending this program will not allow violent criminals to go free, as these people will continue to be detained in our facilities regardless of their citizenship. It will free up resources and allow deputies that are currently assigned only to this program to serve in other roles that can benefit all citizens and residents of our county.

The Cobb County Detention Center is dangerously understaffed. This will free up deputies to be able to work to safely keep inmates in custody.

Herndon said he would work with lawmakers and community leaders to make sure non-violent offenders unable to afford bail don’t sit in jail for long stretches. He promised to bring in the GBI to investigate deaths at the Cobb jail. “Under Sheriff Buddy Neil Warren, every death has been investigated by his deputies who have cleared themselves in every single case, no matter the circumstances,” Herndon writes.

On an anthropological note: Herndon sports a beard. He would allow deputies to do the same:

Reasonable beards for men should be allowed. Tattoos are now quite common. The Sheriff’s office recruits from the public at large. I believe the ban on tattoos and their locations needs to be reexamined to determine if banning tattoos merely based on location or size is really in the best interest of the public.

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The Georgia Recorder reports that the state Department of Revenue has opened the way for drive-thru booze:

New rules announced this week allow customers to pick up liquor through online-ordered curbside service, a convenience popularized by grocery stores. Local ordinances can still prohibit this kind of service, though.

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One of the signs of a political party on the defensive is the attempt to smooth the way for a particular candidate or candidates, in order to preserve resources and lessen the risk of post-primary rifts. We saw this among Democrats in 2014, when Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter waltzed to their nominations for U.S. Senate and governor, respectively.

Now it may be happening on the Republican side. Specifically, in the Sixth and Seventh District races. On Friday, the GOP’s congressional campaign arm released the names of the 43 Republican challengers who had been admitted into its Young Guns mentorship program.

The list included four Georgia candidates, but was just as notable for the names left off.

In the Sixth, the National Republican Congressional Committee selected former congresswoman Karen Handel but excluded state Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta, who outraised her last fundraising quarter, as well as two other GOP newcomers, Nicole Rodden and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

In the Gwinnett and Forsyth-based Seventh District, the NRCC highlighted state Sen. Renee Unterman of Buford, ex-Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich and businessman Ben Bullock. Missing from the list was emergency room Dr. Rich McCormick and a handful of other GOP contenders. The criteria for qualifying for the program is not public.

Young Guns aims to give increased visibility to participating campaigns by mentoring and elevating them with the media and the donors, consultants and others in the Republican political sphere. Candidates are required to hit specific benchmarks for things like fundraising and campaign infrastructure throughout the election cycle to stay in the program. 

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Suffice it to say that Donnie Bolena was not on the NRCC-approved list. Last week, we told you that Bolena, one of the lesser candidates on the GOP side of the Sixth District congressional contest, had been persuaded by state and local party officials to leave the field shortly after proclaiming himself a white nationalist in a Facebook video.

On Sunday, he reconsidered, and is back in the race. But Bolena says he’ll run as a Donald Trump-loving independent, not as a Republican.

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In a party now dominated by President Donald Trump, one of the ironic problems facing Republicans is what to do with candidates, nationally and in Georgia, trying too hard to emulate him. 

Also not on the NRCC’s most-favored list is Marjorie Taylor Greene, another Sixth District candidate who was spotlighted last week on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Hatewatch” blog.

We have told you about the Republican candidate’s focus on gun rights. The SPLC looked at Greene’s penchant for video theater and an affinity for the occasional QAnon conspiracy theory.

The SPLC traced her online popularity to a stretch in February where, among other claims, she repeated an unsubstantiated rumor that U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar of marrying her brother so he could gain U.S. citizenship. That led to a spate of new live-streams at congressional offices, rallies and a “Drag Queen Story Time” event at an Alpharetta library.

Greene lashed out at SPLC as a “radical progressive organization funded by leftist billionaires” and called it a “propaganda arm of the Democrat party.” She also mocked the firing of SPLC co-founder Morris Dees, who was terminated amid a swirl of complaints about workplace conduct.

“They’re hardly impartial and they’re certainly no arbiter of justice” she said on Facebook. “In fact, The SPLCs own co-founder, and President were forced to resign because of racism, sexual misconduct and gender discrimination.”

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We told you Friday about U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson’s criticism of the Israeli government after it barred two Muslim colleagues, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, from visiting Jerusalem and the West Bank.

But we neglected to point out that Johnson and his wife, DeKalb County Commissioner Mereda Davis Johnson, visited Israel and the West Bank back in 2016 with MIFTAH, the same organization that was organizing Omar and Tlaib’s trip this month.

As Politico noted, the organization – which advocates for an independent and democratic Palestinian state – hosted trips for other members of Congress without facing pushback from the Israeli government.

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Paging U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath. The House Judiciary Committee says it will reconvene before the end of the August recess to advance a quartet of gun control bills, including a “red flag” measure that’s been trumpeted by the Marietta Democrat. The panel’s Democratic leadership also plans to move on bills banning high-capacity magazines and people convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from owning guns.

One person to watch closely is Gainesville’s Doug Collins, the top Republican on House Judiciary. He’ll be a good barometer of what his party will be willing to accept in this evolving gun control debate. 

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On the same day the above hearing was announced, organizers of the 11th Congressional District GOP’s annual marksmanship fundraiser said they drew their largest crowd ever -- about 300 people, according to our AJC colleague Maya Prabhu.

The annual event had raised eyebrows, given the two gun massacres in El Paso and Dayton earlier this month.

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