November 2, 2018 Statesboro - GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp (right) reacts as U.S. Senator David Perdue wishes him a happy birthday during The Georgia Republican Party "Road to Victory" Bus Tour at Anderson General Store in Statesboro early Friday morning, November 2, 2018. The race for Georgia governor is as close as it’s ever been according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News poll released Thursday that heightens the possibility of a December runoff between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Jolt: Georgia Republicans try to put a happier face on tough economic news 

Faced with souring economic news and looming budget cuts, Georgia Republicans are trying to send a different signal about the state’s business climate. 

U.S. Sen. David Perdue and the rest of Georgia’s GOP establishment gathered in Perry for an annual fish-fry on Saturday to paint a rosy picture about President Donald Trump’s agenda and economic record. 

Among them was Gov. Brian Kemp, who implored Republicans to get “fired up for this election.” 

The governor will host another event later Monday in Peachtree Corners, where he’s set to lead a roundtable to showcase “how President Donald Trump’s economy continues to work for Georgia’s Asian American business community.”

Democrats have a different outlook. Kemp’s order that state agencies slash at least 4% in spending this fiscal year triggered pushback from state Democrats after the Department of Community Health said it might have to lay off workers to meet the edict. 

“I look forward to hearing why these cuts are necessary in a growing state with a lean budget and $2.55 billion in rainy day funds,” said state Rep. Sam Park in a social media message to a Kemp aide.   

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The tragic death of Judge Stephen Goss over the weekend gives Gov. Brian Kemp the unexpected chance to make his first appointment to the state’s appellate court bench. 

Goss was found dead from a single gunshot outside his Albany home on Saturday, and authorities do not suspect foul play. Kemp and other top state officials offered support to Goss’ family and fond memories of his legacy after his death was made public. 

Goss was tapped to the Georgia Court of Appeals bench by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2018, one of a flurry of appointments that gave the Republican a unique distinction: Deal appointed a majority of justices and judges on the state’s two highest courts over his two terms.

Kemp has had an early chance, too, to leave his imprint on the judiciary, with a string of nominations to open judgeships and district attorney vacancies that have surprised even some of his critics. But the appellate court post will be his highest-profile judicial appointment yet. 

The applicants will be vetted by the Judicial Nominating Commission, a group of attorneys, jurists and politicians he tapped in February

The three co-chairs are Vincent Russo, a veteran lawyer and legal counsel to Kemp’s campaign; Mark Middleton, who was a Kemp policy guru; and Shannon Wallace, district attorney in Blue Ridge’s circuit. 

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The four-way contest to replace Republican state Rep. David Stover will almost certainly head to a runoff, at least according to a Rosetta Stone Communications poll leaked to GeorgiaPol.com.

The poll found Republican Marci Westmoreland Sakrison leads the field with about 30% of the vote, followed by Republican Phillip Singleton and Democrat Jill Prouty locked around 20%. Republican Nina Blackwelder had 9% of the vote, and roughly 20% were undecided.

The special election will be held Sept. 3 to replace Stover, who resigned his office in June after he was accused last year of living in Britain rather than his district. You can catch up on those details here. 

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Our AJC colleague Vanessa McCray reported that former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed headlined a panel for a documentary film about the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal. 

From her piece: 

He told the movie audience that as the scandal unfolded, he could see a “Titanic clash” brewing between Beverly Hall, who at the time was APS superintendent, and then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.

But, Reed said, he made the “right call” by not trying to wrestle control away from the elected Atlanta school board.

“I think that in a crisis you have an enormous amount of influence. I mean, when we were going through the cheating scandal, folks wanted me to try to take control of the system. I declined to do that because I didn’t think that that was appropriate, to strip power from the school board because of this crisis,” he said.

It was the latest public appearance for Reed, who has reportedly sought legal advice from a noted defense attorney amid the ongoing probe into City Hall corruption during his tenure as mayor. 

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Former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh wasn’t the only Republican to launch a challenge to President Donald Trump over the weekend. 

Dr. Charles Lutin, a Georgia physician, published a book about his quest to defeat Trump from within GOP ranks. He said he has “broken the code” to gathering conservative support to oust Trump.

The title of his book? “Vote Lutin F Putin.” 

About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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