Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

The Jolt: How Stacey Abrams’ debt is -- and isn’t -- unusual

Former AJC staffer Nick Fouriezos and his colleagues at OZY did yeoman’s work to analyze how Stacey Abrams’ debt is and isn’t emblematic of a new generation of political candidates.

First, how it is: The report showed that roughly two-thirds of the candidates running in the nation’s 56 most competitive U.S. House districts had some liabilities and at least 65 carried more than $50,000 in non-mortgage debt.

Now, how it isn’t, from the piece:

But in many ways, the type of debt Abrams owes is different than that of her peers and constituents. Of the nearly 400 House candidates, only three owed back taxes — and none near the $54,000 Abrams owed. What’s more, Abrams has already donated $50,000 to her own campaign, opening her up to criticisms that she would rather fund her political ambitions than pay back the federal government (her campaign notes she is on a payment plan to pay back that debt).

Her debt may be her biggest liability in the race for governor - and Republican Brian Kemp has even questioned whether she crossed legal boundaries (she didn’t) - but she hasn’t shied away from it. The piece ended with this kicker:

In a live Atlanta taping of the popular liberal podcast Pod Save America in June, Abrams deadpans to the crowd, unprompted: “You may have heard I have some debt,” she says, adding that she has made good money, and spent it on others. When a woman in the audience starts to cheer loudly, Abrams breaks off her sentence, lifts a fist and smiles: “Yes – yay, debt!”

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On Sunday, we told you that Stacey Abrams and Sarah Riggs Amico, the Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively, might be about to do something unusual in Georgia – running as a ticket. “A one-two gender punch” is how we phrased it. Here’s the image that the Democratic Party of Georgia dropped on the internet on Monday:

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What everyone in Massachusetts is talking about, via the Associated Press:

Ayanna Pressley is all but assured of becoming the first black woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts, the latest example of the Democratic Party's embrace of diversity and progressive politics as the recipe for success in the Trump era.

The 44-year-old's upset victory against longtime Democratic Rep. Michael Capuano in Tuesday's primary sets the stage for Pressley to represent an area once served by Tip O'Neill and John F. Kennedy. Her win comes at the tail end of a primary season in which black politicians have made a series of advances.

In nearby Connecticut, Jahana Hayes is on track to become that state's first black woman to win a congressional seat if she prevails in November. And black politicians in three states — Florida, Georgia and Maryland — have won the Democratic nomination for governor, a historic turn for a country that has elected just two black governors in U.S. history.

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The Washington Post tells us that in “Fear” -- that’s the provocative title of Bob Woodward’s chronicle of Donald Trump and his White House -- the president privately calls U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions a “traitor” and worse.

“This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner . . . He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama,” Trump is quoted as saying. It’s worth noting that the regional disparagement is getting more attention than the “t” word. From the Post:

“I’m a Southerner, people can judge my intellect, my IQ, by my product and what I produce rather than what somebody else says,” Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said in an interview.

“We’re a pretty smart bunch. We lost the Civil War, but I think we’re winning the economic war since then . . . I’m not gonna get into name calling because I don’t think you should be allowed to call names — including the president,” he added.

Even Trump apparently recognizes that much of his base has a drawl. From a Twitter message he sent out before he turned in last night:

The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources, has me calling Jeff Sessions “mentally retarded” and “a dumb southerner.” I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing. He made this up to divide!

Yes, making things up to divide Americans is a terrible, terrible thing. We can all agree on that.

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Our AJC colleague James Salzer has some good news today for a certain subset of older Georgians:

The Department of Community Health may revise plans to more than triple the cost of insurance coverage for some of Georgia’s retired teachers and employees, reversing a move last month that led some to accuse the agency of steering business to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

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Remaking Atlanta’s interior is another trending topic today. From our AJC colleague Scott Trubey:

Atlanta Hawks lead owner Tony Ressler said plans to redevelop downtown’s Gulch will transform the city, but the complex project requires not only billions of dollars in private funding, but also a substantial public investment to make it a reality.

Ressler, in his most expansive comments to date about the Gulch, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Hawks and their development partners, CIM Group, are committed to bringing billions in new investment downtown.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta Business Chronicle has this:

Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy is working with Georgia Tech on a long-term master plan that would cap the Downtown Connector to create a park that links Midtown with the heart of Tech’s campus, according to multiple sources. Cathy pitched the idea in a meeting last month to Georgia Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson and Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry.

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But back to Washington and its ways: Chris Wray appears to be in Trump’s crosshairs once again. The FBI director and longtime Atlanta resident was apparently on the president’s mind over the holiday weekend, according to sources quoted by NBC News:

Trump has criticized Wray as another figure in the Justice Department who is not protecting his interests — and is possibly out to undermine his presidency, these people said.

Trump is "in the worst mood of his presidency and calling friends and allies to vent about his selection of (Attorney General Jeff) Sessions and Wray," said one person familiar with the president’s thinking. This person said the president was particularly focused on both men over the Labor Day weekend.

This isn’t the first time Wray has attracted the ire of the president, but the King & Spalding alum has taken great pains to stay under the radar during his first year helming the FBI.

Speaking of law enforcement: The White House is playing host today to a half-dozen law enforcement officers from Butts and Jasper counties. U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s office sends word that officers from Jackson, Shady Dale and Monticello, Ga., will be among those meeting with senior White House staff and President Trump today to discuss public safety.

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