The Jolt: Georgia GOP cancels state convention, rewrites delegate selection process



The Republican Party of Georgia has slammed the brakes on its months-long process of selecting delegates to this year's presidential nominating convention in Charlotte.

Restrictions issued by Gov. Brian Kemp and local governments "make it legally and practically impossible" to stage congressional district conventions this Saturday, and a statewide convention in Cobb County on May 29 and 30, Georgia GOP chair David Shafer said in a note to party leaders late last week.

Back in March, Republicans around the state held local conventions at offices and parking lots at the onset of the coronavirus crackdown. Party members showed up with gloves and surgical masks. But even that's no longer possible.

A telephonic meeting of the state executive committee was to be held last night to sketch out an alternative. We’re awaiting word on what that might be.

“Your State Executive Committee is absolutely committed to preserving our ability to be fully represented at the Republican National Convention. We have been meeting weekly by telephone to monitor developments and consider alternative courses of action,” Shafer wrote. “At our meeting last week, when it became apparent that physical meetings could not legally be held, we endorsed an emergency rules amendment that would allow a wide range of options to conduct the business of the conventions.”

The Republican National Committee will get the final say. “We are not sure exactly what the Republican National Committee will or will not approve which is why we drafted the emergency rules amendment with multiple options,” Shafer wrote.

The Charlotte gathering is still scheduled for August.

Cancellation of the state convention is significant. The Cobb location was seen as part of the GOP effort to regain support in suburban Atlanta that has withered in the last two electoral cycles.

The chairman’s note included this interesting tidbit on GOP efforts to adapt to an election cycle that could be conducted largely by mail:

"We are specifically urging voters over the age of 65 to mark 'over 65' as the reason for their absentee ballot request. You can request a ballot for the primary without giving a reason but giving the reason of 'over 65' will put you on a list to automatically receive ballots for all elections in the cycle."

Georgia Democrats last week issued new rules for how the party will handle its delegation selection process during the pandemic.


We're setting up a virtual campaign calendar: Given that the coronavirus pandemic has sidelined traditional meet-and-greets, town hall gatherings and door-knocking, we here at the AJC are going to attempt to catalog and publish a calendar of online Georgia campaign events. If you have an upcoming virtual session with voters, or your candidate does, click here to tell us about it.

For instance: Two Democratic candidates for the state Public Service Commission, John Noel and Robert Bryant, are planning to host a "coal ash" town hall gathering at 6:30 p.m. this evening. House Minority Leader Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville, will be there as well. Click here to watch.


Central to that fight in Wisconsin over whether to delay last week's vote was a Republican push to preserve a seat on that state's supreme court. It didn't work. From the Wisconsin State Journal:

Dane County Judge Jill Karofsky won a dominant victory in last week's Wisconsin's Supreme Court race, defeating Justice Dan Kelly after more than a week of high drama over whether the election should go on amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The result was a major boost for liberals, who last year had their hopes of flipping the Supreme Court's conservative majority in 2020 dashed when their candidate lost by a half-percentage point. They next have a chance to retake the majority in 2023 when Chief Justice Patience Roggensack, a member of the four-member conservative majority, is up for re-election.

We have something similar going on in Georgia. On Monday, former congressman John Barrow slammed the Georgia Supreme Court for "slow-walking" a ruling on a lawsuit that will decide whether he can run for a seat vacated by Justice Keith Blackwell -- or whether that opening will be filled by Gov. Brian Kemp. Details can be had here. But below is Barrow's statement in full. It names names:

"I'm calling on the Supreme Court to announce its decision in this case now. We've done what the Court has ordered us to do, now it's time for the Court to do its job.

"Courts all over the country are able to decide cases like this in a hurry. The Kansas Supreme Court heard oral argument on Zoom the Saturday morning before Easter and handed down its decision that same afternoon. In Wisconsin they can go all the way to the United States Supreme Court and get a decision back in 48 hours. Meanwhile, the Georgia Supreme Court has been sitting on our case for almost two weeks.

"A lot of lawyers are concerned that our case is being 'slow walked' by the three justices who've refused to step aside, especially Presiding Justice Nahmias. Nahmias is notorious for his attempts to dominate the Court. His refusal to step aside in this case is a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. He can't be the judge of a case involving a close colleague, and he can't be the judge of his own case. But that's just what he's doing.

"In the two weeks since this case was briefed, we've filed three motions. All of them have been decided without delay, twice on the same day — two of them calling for Justice Nahmias to step aside and one calling for an expedited decision. All have been denied. And still no decision in the case.

"I'm concerned that Justice Nahmias may be trying to manipulate the substitute justices for the same reason Justice Blackwell and the Governor have manipulated the timing of Justice Blackwell's "retirement" — to control the Georgia Supreme Court.

"No one should have to worry about something like that. When I'm on the Supreme Court, nobody — no Democrat, Republican, Independent, man, woman, or child — will have to fear that their case is being manipulated or "slow walked" for political ends."


Kathy Palmer on Monday submitted her resignation as chief judge of the Middle Judicial Circuit to Gov. Brian Kemp and then qualified as a candidate for the state Senate.

Palmer, who served as a judge for 20 years, is running as a Republican to succeed Jack Hill, who died April 6. A special election has been set for June 9.

"Hard times are coming to the state with work to do on the budget and reapportionment," Palmer told our AJC colleague Bill Rankin. "I think all the experience I've had as a judge makes me particularly qualified to do the job."

Palmer said she had already planned to step down from the bench and was not going to seek reelection. When Hill's seat opened up, she decided to jump in. "I've got a lot of fire left in my belly," she said.

Palmer, who lives in Swainsboro, will face Bulloch County CPA Billy Hickman and Neil Singleton, a former police officer who lives in Collins.


The cost of a stamp to vote by mail in Georgia's primary has been criticized in a recent lawsuit as an unconstitutional poll tax and an obstacle to casting your ballot. The legal action making that claim, filed by the Georgia chapter of the ACLU, will get a first hearing before a federal judge on April 24.

But the U.S. Postal Service has told our AJC colleague Mark Niesse that postage to return absentee ballots isn't truly required, no matter what voters have been told. They'll take the ballot, and bill the proper county later.


We've wondered about the impact the pandemic will have on political messaging. Now we know: The PPE look is in.

Rome neurosurgeon John Cowan, a congressional candidate in Georgia’s 14th District, starts his new 30-second ad in full hospital scrubs. He ends it with a burst from an assault rifle at a shooting range -- firing at a green thingy that might be someone’s idea of a coronavirus.

Watch it here. Cowan, one of a slew of Republicans seeking the northwest Georgia seat, opens the TV spot with a brief introduction: "Helping President Trump defend our God-given rights is not brain surgery. But deranged Democrats and weak Republicans just don't get it."


Already posted: The Rev. Raphael Warnock will report that he raised roughly $1.5 million over a two-month span since joining the contest for the U.S. Senate currently held by Republican Kelly Loeffler, setting an early financial marker as he tries to consolidate Democratic support in a volatile free-for-all race.


Endorsements and other tidbits:

-- Senate candidate Teresa Tomlinson nabbed the husband-and-wife support of state Sen. David Lucas and Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Elaine Lucas in her bid to unseat Republican David Perdue.

-- U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, may be getting less radioactive by the day. Two candidates for open U.S. House seats have endorsed Collins’ bid for the U.S. Senate.

Ethan Underwood, an attorney running in Collins’ Ninth District, called him a “national hero for standing up to the far left, anti-Trump cabal.” And former state Rep. Bill Hembree, running in the neighboring 14th District, said Collins was “the most qualified candidate for the job.”

-- U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler held a conference call Monday night with local Republican leaders to update them on the federal coronavirus response and, presumably, try to shift the conversation among the grassroots away from questions about her stock transactions.

Though we weren’t on the call, Loeffler said she fielded queries “about our work to ensure that every Georgian has the economic and health care assistance they need during these challenging times.”


Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight Action is among nearly 50 progressive organizations asking Congress to allocate $4 billion so that states can boost voter protections during the coronavirus pandemic.

“While Congress has already allocated $400 million in election assistance funding to the states, that sum is simply not enough to ensure that our elections are secure and that voting is accessible to all who are eligible,” the groups wrote in a letter to congressional leaders. “Additional funding is needed now so that election officials across the country have time to make critical adjustments before Election Day.”

President Donald Trump last week criticized voting by mail, saying it is an opportunity for ballot fraud. He provided no evidence. Other prominent Republicans continue to champion increased mail-in voting during the pandemic.

In addition to expanding voting by mail, the progressive groups are also recommending that states use any new funding to increase early in-person voting and allow day-of registration and voting. They also say money is needed to ensure polling locations are safe and to educate voters.


The House Majority PAC, aligned with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, will spend $4.5 million on ads in metro Atlanta this fall.

The purchase is part of a $51 million push to reserve air-time for the general election. In Atlanta, Democrats are hoping to protect one swing seat held by U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, and pick up another being vacated by U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville.