Newly appointed U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler waits to speak during a press conference in the Governor's office at the Georgia State Capitol Building, Wednesday, December 4, 2019. Georgia Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Kelly Loeffler to the U.S. Senate to take the place of U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down for health reasons.
Photo: ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Photo: ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

The Jolt: Doug Collins wants to make ‘AirLoefflAir’ a thing

In 2018, the National Republican Senatorial Committee came up with a novel way to attack Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill’s use of a private plane. 

The group dubbed her “Air Claire,” developed a (surprisingly difficult) online game and shadowed her at events with staffers waving air traffic control wands.

It worked. McCaskill lost her bid for re-election despite a Democratic wave that sent a record number of women to Congress.

Now U.S. Rep. Doug Collins is taking a page out of the NRSC’s playbook to attack one of the group’s most prized incumbents: U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

The congressman’s campaign launched an “AirLoefflAir” Twitter feed on Thursday to mock the pricey private jet that Loeffler has used to travel to campaign stops and Washington votes. 

It plans to tweet whenever Loeffler’s jet takes off and lands, “thus giving reporters and regular folks an opportunity to go on out and meet her (whether she wants them to or not),” the release reads. 

“So sign up today by following @AirLoefflair on Twitter. Then sit back, have a prosecco and a vegan lasagna, and leave the flying humor to us,” it reads.

***Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico qualified to run against U.S. Sen. David Perdue – and made a bit of news while she did it. Amico, who ran for lieutenant governor in 2018, picked up endorsements from two more labor unions to join the two already in her fold.

The first is the Southeastern Carpenters Regional Council and the second is the CWA Local 3204, the largest CWA local in the state. Amico joined a picket line with the chapter on the first day of her campaign.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do and I haven’t seen the Republicans find their spine and stand up on any of these issues,” she said. “Not one single time.”

Two other prominent Democrats are in the field: Former 6th District candidate Jon Ossoff and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. 

***

Yes, the field of candidates was larger four years ago, but a Democratic operative this morning told us that the numbers are still worth noting. After three days of early voting for the 2016 presidential primary in Georgia, the number of ballots that had been cast stood at 10,194.

After three days of early voting in 2020, that number is 50,520.

***

Two years after passing a law making it illegal to hold cell phones while driving, the General Assembly may scrap a provision that allowed first-time offenders to avoid paying the cost of a ticket.

Violators of the law can bring proof that they purchased a hands-free device, such as a dash mount, and avoid the fine. But some lawmakers wonder if that act of grace is still warranted, the AJC’s David Wickert writes.

State lawmakers call the provision the “get out of jail free card.” And though it’s hard to determine how much it’s used, prosecutors and judges say it’s common in their courts. Now the General Assembly may eliminate the provision as it debates whether to raise fines for distracted driving.

***

State Rep. Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain, is back with his effort to bar local governments from putting mandates on the finer points of home construction — design, color, siding and such. Builders say House Bill 937 would allow for cheaper homes.

Though exceptions would be made for historic areas, the Georgia Municipal Association and others oppose HB 937 on the grounds that such requirements can be a tool to maintain property values. Then there is that pesky thing called local control.

The very urban bill was assigned to the House Agriculture Committee, which approved it last week. But a minority report has been attached to it, which is itself unusual.

The make-up of those who signed it is revealing — an alliance of small town, big city, and coastal enclave. State Rep. Darlene Taylor, R-Thomasville, took the lead. The signatures of state Reps. Matthew Wilson, D-Brookhaven, and Don Hogan, R-St. Simons Island, appear side-by-side.

***

The $8.3 billion coronavirus spending package approved by the U.S. House on Wednesday could be signed into law as soon as today.

Of the $2.2 billion earmarked for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based in Atlanta, $950 million is for grants to state and local governments. Half of that must be distributed over the next 30 days, and no state will receive less than $4 million.

The CDC will also get $300 million to assist with the global response to the coronavirus and another $300 million to replenish the Infectious Disease Rapid Response Fund.

***

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler has filed her first bill, an anti-abortion measure intended to boost her profile among social conservatives. 

In partnership with Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Loeffler is the primary sponsor of the “Women’s Right to Know” Act. It would require providers to inform pregnant women about the risks of abortion and the estimated gestational age and development features of their fetus. Five other GOP senators have signed on as co-sponsors.

Loeffler previously copsonsored other anti-abortion measures filed before she was appointed to the Senate, but this is the first one with her name at the top.

Senate Democrats last month blocked two anti-abortion bills from getting to the floor for a vote, and Loeffler’s measure is expected to face the same fate. But it is an election year.

Of course, her chief Republican rival in November, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, wouldn’t let Loeffler tout her new bill without a dig. When she posted on Twitter about the legislation, Collins implied that Loeffler’s stance on abortion solidified only after she entered politics. 

“It’s easy to tweet now during election season, but where was your outrage when the WNBA team you own (and make money off of) was donating ticket sales to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider?” he wrote. 

The Dream in 2018 participated in a league initiative that gave fans an option to donate a portion of ticket sales to one of six organizations, including Planned Parenthood. Loeffler’s campaign said she wasn’t affiliated with the initiative and didn’t support it.

***

In endorsement news: Former Gov. Nathan Deal endorsed state Rep. Kevin Tanner’s bid for Georgia’s 9th District seat and hosted a fundraiser for him in his hometown of Gainesville. The governor said he played a “vital role in helping with my agenda to move Georgia forward” and called Tanner one of the most effective lawmakers under the Gold Dome. 

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