The Jolt: On health insurance as a legitimate campaign expense

News and analysis from the AJC politics team
Senate bill aims to protect taxpayers from costly drugs (Dreamstime/TNS)

Credit: Dreamstime

Credit: Dreamstime

Senate bill aims to protect taxpayers from costly drugs (Dreamstime/TNS)

The candidate who has been described as "Atlanta's AOC" is tackling an issue that could even get some support among Republicans.

Nabilah Islam, 30, is one of several Democrats in the Seventh District contest to replace U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville. On Wednesday, Islam said she intends to petition the Federal Election Commission, asking its approval to use campaign cash for her health insurance, our AJC colleague Ariel Hart reports.

Islam said in the petition, dated Jan. 27, that before she began her campaign, she had insurance first through an employer and then while working her own business. She said she soon found out she couldn't run an effective campaign unless she did it full time, which required dropping her other work.

In Georgia, losing that income meant she had no access to affordable insurance. Most working-age adults can’t qualify for Medicaid in Georgia. And to get ACA subsidies a person has to earn at least poverty level wages, so her cost would be the full-price premium, averaging $7,000 per year.

So Islam hopes she’ll get health insurance. But if she doesn’t, she’ll still have made a campaign point about the cost of health insurance, its availability in Georgia, and how hard it is for average people to run and get represented. The last time CQ Roll Call counted, nearly 40% of members of Congress were millionaires.

Even so, the issue is a bipartisan one. U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler aside, Republicans candidates in Georgia aren’t always independently wealthy. Take U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, who is mulling a challenge to Loeffler.

As of 2018, Roll Call placed him (along with fellow Georgia Republicans Jody Hice and Barry Loudermilk) toward the bottom when ranking the wealth of 535 members of Congress. Collins has three children, one with spina bifida.

Leaving a secure job with a good insurance plan is necessarily one of his calculations.


U.S. Sen. David Perdue didn't hold back when your Washington Insider caught up with him Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol. He was still smarting from the long impeachment session the day before, and accused House Democrats of wanting better treatment in the Senate than they had afforded President Donald Trump.

"Hypocrisy," he said. "I'll just come out and say that: hypocrisy."

Perdue took issue with House Democrats' attempts to introduce new witnesses and evidence as the Senate begins the impeachment trial that will ultimately determine whether or not Trump is removed from office. As Tuesday's session went into the wee hours of the night, attorneys on both sides of the issue started using strong language that ultimately resulted in an admonishment from Chief Justice John Roberts.

Perdue's comments indicate lingering hard feelings among GOP senators. "They came over last night and lectured us about fairness and due process and I was offended by that personally," he said. "They called the president's team liars and called us complicit in a cover-up."

Georgia’s newest senator, Kelly Loeffler, wasn’t as eager to talk. She waved hello but declined to stop for an interview when the Washington Insider ran across her in the Senate hallway during a dinner break on Wednesday.


Georgia's Chris Carr has joined 20 other GOP attorneys general in signing onto a letter that describes the impeachment of Trump as unconstitutional and setting a bad precedent. Read more here.


Stacey Abrams uttered a few words to college students in Maine on Wednesday that both delighted and infuriated Republicans: "We have to stop re-litigating past elections and have to start planning for future elections."

Supporters of Gov. Brian Kemp won’t soon forget the Democrat’s refusal to concede her election defeat in 2018 - and her remarks at events over the last year that she “didn’t win but she didn’t lose that race.”

And so a report of her talk triggered all sorts of backlash from conservatives, some humorous ("Is it April Fools Day?" asked ex-state Sen. Josh McKoon) and some furious. Count the Georgia GOP among the latter:

“This is absolutely disgusting. Stacey Abrams has done NOTHING but manufacture excuses and false narratives for losing Georgia in 2018. Through Fair Fight, Abrams continues to spend millions promoting fear and lies, yet wants to ‘stop re-litigating past elections.’”

A few hours later, Fair Fight - the voting rights group founded by Abrams - responded tartly on Twitter:

“We know the prospect of free & fair elections — and registration/participation of Georgians of color (Kemp’s words, not ours) — concerns you, but our work is devoted to protecting the rights of voters moving forward. We understand how painful our existence must be for you.”

Abrams will make an appearance on the campus of Morehouse College in Atlanta later today.


Mark your calendars:

-- Harold Melton, chief justice of the state Supreme Court, announced Wednesday that Clarence Thomas, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court will be the keynote speaker at the Feb. 11 dedication of the state’s new Nathan Deal Judicial Center.

-- Slowly, slowly, Georgia is making its way onto Democratic presidential schedules. The Joe Biden campaign announced Wednesday that the candidate’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, will make a third Georgia appearance on Feb. 17. No other details were available.


Funny thing. On his Facebook page, Georgia GOP activist Paul Maner -- he once primaried state Sen. Fran Millar of Dunwoody -- points to Tulsi Gabbard's lawsuit against Hillary Clinton. "People are fed up with the defamatory name calling," he wrote.

Only a few days earlier, on Twitter, Maner had written this about U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath: “If her son hadn’t been involved in a drug deal gone bad, her son might still be alive today.”

McBath's 17-year-old son was shot and killed in 2012 in Florida while sitting in a car with a group of friends at a gas station -- in a dispute over the volume of the music they were playing. The gunman was a 45-year-old white man named Michael Dunn.

The Maner post has apparently been taken down, but not before McBath saw it.


We've told you about the three white men in north Georgia -- members of a white supremacist organization known as "the Base" -- who have been arrested for plotting to kill a Bartow County couple, overthrow the government and start a race war. A New York Times account of the group includes this tidbit:

One weekend gathering organized by several people who identified as members of the Base took place in Silver Creek, Ga., last August. It included firearms training, grappling, first aid lessons and a pagan ritual that included a goat sacrifice, according to court documents.

Silver Creek is just south of Rome, and west of Cartersville.


State Rep. Kevin Cooke, R-Carrollton, became the latest candidate to enter the increasingly crowded race for Georgia's 14th Congressional District.

Other Republicans seeking to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Tom Graves include businessman Ben Bullock, neurosurgeon John Cowan and former prosecutor Clayton Fuller.


Teresa Tomlinson's endorsement machine keeps chuggging. This morning, her U.S. Senate campaign laid claim to the support of former state senator and 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jason Carter.


State Sen. Zahra Karinshak, a Democratic contender for Georgia's Seventh District, landed support from the Second Service Coalition, a group made up of nine members of Congress who are military veterans


University of Georgia philosophy professor Richard Dien Winfield has entered the race against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler with a pledge to "fulfill our social rights and unchain our democracy."

The Democrat, who lost a bid for Congress in 2018, outlined an agenda that included support for a Green New Deal, the right to collective bargaining and a push for paid family leave and public child and elder care. Said Winfield:

"Our failure to recognize and implement these rights has left racial and gender disadvantage entrenched, has put in jeopardy the welfare of our families, and has intensified economic insecurity and inequality to such a degree as to threaten the very existence of our democracy."