The view from inside Folkston, Ga., ICE processing center in February. AJC file/HYOSUB SHIN

The Jolt: Clarke County sheriff says he won’t detain ICE targets without warrant

As the weekend broke, Blake Aued of Flagpole magazine in Athens dropped this bit of news:

The Clarke County Sheriff's Office will no longer detain undocumented immigrants for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport unless requests are accompanied by a judicial warrant, the sheriff's department announced late this afternoon.

The decision reverses a policy that Sheriff Ira Edwards had instituted in July, which had drawn criticism when it was made public in July. More:

Edwards said he would continue to honor detainers that are accompanied by a judicial warrant or court order.

Edwards said he would also continue to query the Department of Homeland Security regarding any foreign national booked into the jail who cannot provide "documentation of lawful status," as required by state law. That will prevent Athens from being declared a "sanctuary city" by the state or federal government, according to the news release.

You can expect to hear a good deal more about this. Athens is home to Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican candidate for governor who has made illegal immigration a focus of his campaign.

Fifty minutes after this post was published:


Black women may be the key demographic in next month’s Democratic primary. But Stacey Abrams, running to be the nation’s first black female governor, went after a decidedly different bloc of voters with her first ads.

The 30-second digital spot unveiled over the weekend features a trio of men praising the former state legislative leader’s economic policy. “She’s fighting against tax hikes that’s gonna hurt guys like me,” said one of the men, Kenny Mullins, “that get up at the crack of dawn to go and work long hours.” Watch the ad here. 

On Monday, she also debuted her first TV ad, an introductory “where you come from shouldn’t determine how far you go. Watch the ad here. 

Her rival, ex-state Rep. Stacey Evans, launched her first TV ad earlier this month with a vow to “finish the job” and restore awards for the HOPE scholarship.

Five Republicans are also in the race: Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, former state Sen. Hunter Hill, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, executive Clay Tippins and state Sen. Michael Williams.

Cagle has reserved about $4.5 million in airtime through the primary, while three opponents – Hill, Kemp and Tippins – account for about $2 million combined. Williams has yet to reserve significant TV air time.


So it turns out that you can’t vote against every bright idea your fellow House Republicans come up with, and not expect a little payback.

A newsletter from Alex Johnson, who has mounted several campaigns for state GOP chairman, arrived this morning via email. His complaints of “jellyfish Republicans” weren’t that unusual, but a new specific drew our attention.

State Rep. Matt Gurtler, R-Tiger, has become the Dr. No of the House. This year, the north Georgia legislator voted against the transit bill that would expand commuter rail in metro Atlanta and against efforts to extend broadband connectivity to rural Georgia. In 2017, his was the lone vote against a bill to provide additional insurance for firefighters who are diagnosed with certain types of cancer related to their line of work.

“[J]ust about any honest person would agree he’s one of the most, if not the most, Republican legislator in Georgia,” Johnson writes. And yet, the newsletter author points out, House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, and Rules Committee Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun, have lined up against Gurtler – in favor of a GOP primary challenger Mickey Cummings. He’s the manager of a farmer’s market who just happens to hail from the speaker’s hometown.

This information is somewhat incomplete. Yes, Ralston has maxed out to Cummings with a $2,600 donation earlier this month. And yes, Meadows came close, giving Cummings $2,500.

But Alan Powell, R-Hartwell, chairman of the House public safety committee gave $1,500 to Gurtler’s opponent. And Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, gave $1,500 to see Gurtler gone. Hatchett is chairman of the House Republican caucus.


In a discussion with WSB Radio’s Monica Matthews over the weekend, Republican gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams, a state senator from Cumming, suggested splitting the Legislature’s 40-day session in two -- to avoid the mad crush of bills passed in the final days. Said Williams:

“If we could have the first 25 days, you get to what we call Crossover, where the House and the Senate pass out all their bills and they cross over to the other chamber.

“Then you take off for a couple months, so the public can see what has crossed over, so the senators and House members can actually read what’s crossed over. And then you pick it up again in September or October.”


We’ll call this “when Johnny met Ronny.” U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., is scheduled to meet with Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump’s nominee to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, for the first time this afternoon. The two have chatted over the phone but have yet to meet in person.

As chairman of the Senate VA Committee, Isakson’s blessing will be critical to the future of the White House physician. A top ally of the ousted former VA chief David Shulkin, Isakson was polite but noncommittal in his first public statement after Jackson’s nomination was announced.


Also in Washington, Democrats continue to feel optimistic about their chances of taking over the House in November. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the party’s campaign arm in the House, is once again targeting two Republican-held congressional districts in north metro Atlanta as prime pickup opportunities: Karen Handel’s Sixth and Rob Woodall’s Seventh. On Friday, when we caught up with Ben Ray Luján, the head of the DCCC, he appeared to allude to his party’s playbook in the Georgia ‘burbs this fall.

The DCCC “learned a lot” from the record-breaking special election that delivered Handel to Washington last summer over Democrat Jon Ossoff, Lujan said. This year the group will “make sure that we’re on the ground” and that Democratic candidates are focused more on local issues. “These districts, when they get nationalized, we see the challenges that exist,” he said following an interview with reporters from regional newspapers. “They have to be kept local.”

Last year’s special election, you may remember, was eventually defined by two people living hundreds of miles away from Atlanta: Trump and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Lujan said Democrats would instead be focusing on issues like the economy and less on Trump himself. “People out there are tired about talking about the president,” he said. “And the president is going to talk about himself more than anyone else will, so we don’t need to do it as Democrats. Republicans are going to have to be out there having to explain for him, and we’re going to be talking about the real issues that families are facing everyday and how we’re going to be able to fight to make things” better. 

Some Georgia Democratic candidates, however, have used their campaign money to draw contrasts between themselves and the president. In a press release blasted out to reporters just last night, 7th District Democratic candidate Ethan Pham called Trump a “wannabe dictator.” 

Meanwhile, Handel has indicated she’ll be working on offense when it comes to Nancy Pelosi and the GOP’s recent tax overhaul.