072214 ATLANTA: U.S. Senate candidate Jack Kingston hugs his wife Libby and waves to supporters at the end of his address conceding defeat to David Perdue at his election night party at the Georgia Tech Hotel & Conference Center on Tuesday, July 22, 2014, in Atlanta. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

The Jolt: CNN sheds some of its Trump whisperers

There was a time, not long ago, when Jack Kingston was a near constant presence on any TV tuned to CNN.

The former Georgia congressman’s paid gig was to serve as a Donald Trump explainer. Which he did with enthusiasm.

For instance, after the 2018 gun massacre in Parkland, Fla., Kingston intimated that the high school students who quickly began an anti-gun violence movement had fallen under the control of "left-wing gun control activists."

"I would say to you very plainly that organized groups that are out there like George Soros are always ready to take up the charge," Kingston said.

But Kingston has been disappeared from CNN, one of several Trump whisperers who have been let go. Others have been benched, at least temporarily, according to the Daily Beast, which quoted Kingston:

“It wasn’t enough to have a stacked, four-versus-one panel,” said former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), a current Trump surrogate and former CNN contributor. “CNN has decided to eliminate as many Trump supporters as possible, including me, Jeff Lord, Jason Miller, Bryan Lanza, and Steve Moore. The Republicans who survive are the ones who take constant jabs at Trump. They’re Never Trumpers or RINOs.”

When it comes to cable TV, Kingston has always been something of an adventurer. He’s gone many places other Republicans won’t – on HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” for instance.

When he was in Congress, Kingston persuaded certain of his Georgia Republican colleagues to follow him on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” – with Stephen Colbert in his original iteration as a conservative commentator.

This is why we have wonderful video of U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey confessing that he was a Georgia peach, and of U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, so nervous that he could initially name only three of the Ten Commandments.

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Stacey Abrams is no longer the only Democrat putting an emphasis on those who oversee state elections. From the Washington Post:

The Democratic Association of Secretaries of State is launching an initiative to try to wrest control of those offices from Republicans, who the group claims have used their power to make it harder for certain demographics to vote.

Buoyed by successes last year in Arizona, Colorado and Michigan, the group has set its sights on flipping five more states in 2020. In addition to recruiting and supporting Democratic candidates, the association is planning a public education campaign on the importance of secretaries of state, who oversee the election process in most states.

No doubt they will be pointing to Brian Kemp, who as Georgia’s secretary of state also supervised the election that saw him elected governor last year.

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The Indianapolis Star reports that Stacey Abrams mistakenly accused Hamilton County, Ind. of suppressing voter turnout during a Monday appearance on “CBS This Morning.” From the newspaper: 

"If you live in Indiana where they move your polling place in Hamilton County outside of the bounds of the city, if you didn't have a car, you didn't get to vote," Abrams said on the show.

A spokesperson for Abrams told IndyStar that she misspoke during her interview.

Abrams meant to refer to a 2017 IndyStar investigation that found GOP officials expanded early voting stations in Republican-dominated Hamilton County and decreased them in Democrat-heavy Marion County, making it more challenging for Democrats to vote.

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One of your Insiders has noted that many politicians with constituents in the area are calling for a temporary shutdown of a Cobb County plant that sterilizes medical devices with cancer-causing ethylene oxide. However, elected officials whose geography includes a similar facility in Covington are not. The difference:

The area surrounding the Sterigenics facility in Smyrna is densely populated and affluent, and residents there have fewer ties to the factory, which employs a few dozen people.

The BD Bard plant in Covington, by contrast, plays a central role in the city’s civic life and with roughly 1,000 staffers, it is listed as Newton County’s second-largest employer. 

“It’s a huge company. Do they need to be just shut down? No,” said Scott Jay, the chair of the Newton County GOP and a former staffer at the plant. “That would hurt a lot of people who depend on them. It’s part of our life.”

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A new group called the Coalition for Justice Now is running digital ads on social media sites targeting House Speaker David Ralston. The language indicates that it’s a Democratic operation.

The ads appear aimed at voters in GOP-held districts, mostly in the suburbs, with reminders of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation of his aggressive use of legislative-leave privileges on behalf of his clients in his private law practice.

“Urge State Representative Deborah Silcox to call on Speaker Ralston to resign,” reads one banner.

Silcox is a Sandy Springs Republican whose House district has been targeted by Democrats as ripe for flipping in 2020.

(An anti-abortion group has also targeted Silcox for elimination for her opposition to House Bill 481, the controversial, anti-abortion “heartbeat” bill.) 

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Our AJC colleague Mark Niesse reports that 10 voters appeared before the State Election Board on Wednesday to present their worries about the security of the state’s new voting machines.

But the board also rejected a complaint challenging the residency of state Rep. Josh McLaurin, a first-term Democrat who flipped a Sandy Springs-based House seat last year. 

His attorney, fellow Democratic state Rep. Scott Holcomb of Atlanta, said another “frivolous” claim against McLaurin is pending and will likely soon be resolved. 

“Every legal forum has come to the same conclusion, as did the voters,” said Holcomb. “It’s unfortunate that any of this nonsense was filed.” 

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Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz wants it understood that Democrats are indeed more fractured than Republicans when it comes to ideology:

The data show that while 69% of Republican voters described themselves as conservatives, only 47% of Democratic identifiers described themselves as liberals. In addition, while only 4% of Republican identifiers described themselves as liberals, 18% of Democratic identifiers described themselves as conservatives.

But over at Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Abramowitz goes on to explain why this Democratic division might not matter in 2020.

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Studio space behemoth Pinewood Group announced Wednesday that it has sold its stake in Pinewood Atlanta Studios, where many of the Marvel movies have been made.

River’s Rock, an independently managed trust of the Cathy family of Chick-fil-A fame, will own the entire studio now.

Our AJC colleague Rodney Ho reports that, according to the principals, the move has nothing to do with the passage of House Bill 481 earlier this year by the state Legislature:

Pinewood said the move is independent of any legislation going on in Georgia, including the “heartbeat” abortion bill that was passed in the spring that led to calls from some Hollywood folks to boycott the state.

On the West Coast, the Hollywood Reporter apparently agrees:

Pinewood is known across the world as a leading-provider of studio space and over the last six years, Pinewood Atlanta Studios has become the second-largest purpose-built facility in the U.S.," said Paul Golding, chairman of Pinewood Group. "As our partners in Atlanta look to expand their focus and invest in content development, we have agreed to sell our equity in the studios. Pinewood will continue to prioritize its core business of providing studio infrastructure, including extensive growth plans in the U.K. and expansion in key international markets."

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