Stacey Abrams (L) talks with fellow Democrats during the 2019 Georgia Democratic Party State Convention in Atlanta GA January 26, 2019. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Photo: Steve Schaefer
Photo: Steve Schaefer

The Jolt: From Stacey Abrams, a pitch for venture capital in the run-up to 2020

In an unusual, 16-page memo released Monday, Stacey Abrams made the case for national Democrats to compete in Georgia in 2020 – pointing to the two U.S. Senate races now on the ballot, and the possibility that President Donald Trump’s prospects in the state could fade.

“Any less than full investment in Georgia would amount to strategic malpractice,” is the phrase that cable news outlets quickly picked up on.

In other words, Abrams isn’t rattling a tin cup for spare change. This is a prospectus aimed at the political world’s venture capitalists, offering the possibility of large returns on large investments.

Even the down-to-business language is there: “Abrams for Governor launched in May 2017, approaching the campaign like a start-up company, one looking for new customers and with an eye on scale and reach,” the memo states. “[O]ur core strategic imperative was to expand the electorate through deliberate, unprecedented investment.”

One thing lacking is the traditional warning label: “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

You can download your copy here, but we thought it might be worthwhile to pull out a few of Abrams’ more persuasive paragraphs. To wit:

Between 2002, when Georgia Democrats lost the governorship, and 2018, voters of color increased their share of the electorate by more than 15%, from less than 25% to more than 40% of the overall electorate, a growth of about one percentage point every year. These trends have continued to be reflected in new voter registrations since Election Day in 2018, and if these trends hold, voters of color will make up 42% of Georgia’s electorate in 2020…

Voters of all races who had lived in Georgia for less than 10 years voted for Stacey Abrams by a whopping 30-point margin, 65% to 35%, according to a CNN exit poll. Each person who moves to Georgia and votes is almost twice as likely to vote Democratic than Republican…

College educated white women supported Abrams over 31%, an improvement from the roughly 24% support rates at the top of the ticket in 2014. There is room to grow support further in 2020…

Black voters, the most reliably Democratic voting bloc, comprise a significantly higher proportion of Georgia’s eligible electorate than that of any other competitive state. Georgia has, by far, the largest base of voters a 2020 campaign can turn out; more importantly, ample room exists for growth to identify and engage additional voters…

While Georgia Democrats hold a massive demographic advantage in African American voters, the state also has a younger electorate than other competitive states. Voters over age 65, the most reliably Republican voting bloc, comprise a lower proportion of Georgia’s eligible electorate than that of any other competitive state…

Comparing Georgia’s 2018 results to the results in other states provides the clearest rationale for why Democrats should go big in Georgia without abandoning prior efforts. The 2018 Democratic gubernatorial campaigns in perennial battleground states of Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin saw a significant drop-off in votes from the 2016 presidential cycle, even in the states where the elections yielded Democratic victories.

In Georgia, the unthinkable happened: more Democratic voters turned out in a midterm gubernatorial election than did in the presidential election preceding it. More Georgians voted for Stacey Abrams than for Hillary Clinton, making Georgia one of the few states in the country in which the Democratic gubernatorial candidate received more votes than the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee.

***

On the theory that Gov. Brian Kemp isn’t getting enough advice on who he should pick to replace Johnny Isakson in the U.S. Senate, Newsmax columnist John Burnett, an African-American Republican in New York, has offered up a suggestion:

[Kemp] should use this moment to make history for the party and the nation, just as Nikki Haley did in 2013 when she was governor of South Carolina and appointed Tim Scott, an African American, to the United States Senate.

The choice is right there before him — a person who has spent years working on behalf of the economic interests of individuals and families across Georgia and the United States, particularly those at risk of being left behind at this moment of economic dislocation and transition. His name is Ashley Bell, an African-American who has served as the southeast Regional administrator of the Small Business Administration in the Trump administration for the past 18 months.

Once a Hall County Democrat, Bell switched to the Republican party in 2011. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles in 2000, and a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in 2016.

***

George Berry, one of the key figures in Atlanta’s transition from white to black rule in the 1970s and ‘80s, died over the weekend. He was 82. From Maria Saporta at the Saporta Report:

Berry served as Atlanta’s airport commissioner from 1978 to 1983 during the building of what was then the new Hartsfield International Airport during the administration of Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson.

Berry would go on to become the state’s chief economic development officer under Gov. Joe Frank Harris.

***

Yet another big endorsement has surfaced in U.S. Senate race No. 1. 

Former Gov. Roy Barnes is backing former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson in the increasingly crowded contest against Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue. It’s one of a string of endorsements she’s picked up — ex-Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young and Hank Aaron have already announced their support. 

“The U.S. Senate is in desperate need of experienced leaders like Teresa Tomlinson,” said Barnes, adding that he looked forward to “electing the first woman senator from Georgia.”

On Monday, former Sixth District candidate Jon Ossoff unveiled his campaign to the AJC with his own big endorsement — from U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who once employed Ossoff as an office intern. Ossoff quickly indicated he’d be using sharp language to carve out his spot in the four-person field. From last night’s AJC piece:

“We’re in a state where one in three rural children live in poverty, where we have the worst maternal mortality in the entire country, and in a half a decade, this guy hasn’t come down from his private island to do a single town hall meeting,” Ossoff said. “He hands out favors to his donors. He runs errands for the president.”

***

While his conservative allies berated Jon Ossoff and the other Democrats in the race, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., didn’t bring up the new competition in a series of media interviews this morning.

In appearances on Fox Business and the Hugh Hewitt show, the first-term Republican talked up his allegiance to President Donald Trump, the trade war with China and the importance of Georgia’s dual Senate races.

His more interesting comments came on Hewitt’s program, when he was asked about Gov. Brian Kemp’s potential appointments to Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat. (The governor told the AJC he’s in no rush to select a replacement.) Said Perdue:

“The good news is that Georgia Republicans have a pretty strong bench. We’re going to run together, whoever it is, to get Donald Trump in a second term … It’s an easy thing to see that the agenda the president started here is working. The partner that I want is someone who can take this fight passionately to the voters.”

***

Our WSB Radio colleague Jamie Dupree notes on his blog that Congress returned from its August recess on Monday with “no evidence that a pair of high-profile mass shootings in Texas and Ohio had changed any of the political dynamics” on gun control.

Democrats want to keep the heat on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said his chamber would only act on legislation that could get the support of President Trump. In the meantime, a key House committee plans to advance a handful of gun control bills this afternoon, including a federal “red flag” law that would empower judges to order the seizure of weapons from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

Two Georgia lawmakers to watch during today’s debate before the House Judiciary Committee are U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, whomade gun control her life’s work after her son was fatally shot in 2012, and Gainesville’s Doug Collins, the panel’s top Republican who has rejected most of Democrats’ firearms-related initiatives.

***

On that note, the Gallup polling organization has this:

In the wake of two August mass shootings that claimed the lives of 31 people in one weekend, Americans are more worried about themselves or a family member being the victim of a mass shooting than they were after two previous massacres. Currently, 48% of U.S. adults are "very" or "somewhat" worried,compared with 39% in 2017 after one gunman killed 58 people in Las Vegas and38% in 2015 after a San Bernardino shooter left 14 dead.

***

Returning to Capitol Hill for the first time since his retirement announcement, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., was asked by a reporter to weigh in on “red flag” laws.

The Republican was recuperating in Georgia from four broken ribs as the news of the twin shootings in El Paso and Dayton hit

Isakson didn’t voice the same skepticism as some as his Republican colleagues,including David Perdue, but the veteran dealmaker wascharacteristically vague about what sort of compromise he’d be willing to accept: "I'm hoping we'll get to a point where we can do what (McConnell) wants to do, and that's to have the Democrats and Republicans agree to something the president would sign. Let's try and get something done,” he said.

When asked about a bipartisan 2013 proposal to expand background checks that Senate supporters are hoping to revive, Isakson wouldn’t rule it out. "I'm not gonna say I won't support anything. I want to support a solution. And if that's the foundation of it, I could do that. I want to see what the whole deal does first.” Isakson, along with most Senate Republicans, voted against that so-calledManchin-Toomey proposal after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

***

Speaking of Johnny Isakson, McConnell reconvened the Senate yesterday with a tribute to his friend and longtime colleague:

“His departure will be a significant loss for the people of Georgia and for the other 99 of us here in this chamber. Senator Isakson is a tireless legislator. In particular he’s a dogged advocate for our nation’s veterans. But he’s even more than that. Johnny is universally seen as one of the warmest, friendliest, most respectful, and most collaborative members of this body. He has strong views and solid principles — but he knows that broad, often bipartisan cooperation is the way to advance those very goals.

“So I hope that as the Senate tackles the important matters before us in the weeks and months ahead, we will not only make sure to savor our last few months working alongside this great friend and colleague, but also to embody his example in our work.” 

Isakson, meanwhile, used his first Senate floor speech to honor former University of Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley. The school named its football field after him over the weekend.

We’ll have more on Isakson’s first day back in the Senate a little later this morning.

***

The Teamsters Union has approved the bankruptcy deal that Democratic Senate candidate Sarah Riggs Amico negotiated for the car-hauling firm that slashes debt and pension liabilities while preserving jobs. 

“Approving this Term Sheet is one key piece for Jack Cooper to emerge from bankruptcy as a healthier company,” said Kevin Moore, Director of the Teamsters Carhaul Division. “That, along with substantial debt reduction and new cash investment, should better position Jack Cooper to stabilize and maintain customers and our jobs.”

***

After some back-and-forth, Georgia and Florida have agreed to a new date for oral arguments for the states’ long-running water rights battle. The proceedings will now take place on Nov. 7 in an Albuquerque courtroom. 

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