U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta. AJC file
Photo: KENT D. JOHNSON / AJC/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM
Photo: KENT D. JOHNSON / AJC/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

The Jolt: Incumbent-protection policy deals a blow to Democrat who would oust U.S. Rep. David Scott

On Sunday, the New York Times examined a new tactic by House Democratic leaders in Washington intended to thwart challenges to incumbents in their ranks.

The policy by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee would blacklist any national political consultant who works for a primary challenger. The thrust of the NYT article was whether the policy would arrest the party’s shift to a “more female and racially diverse caucus” – a hallmark of the 2018 political season. From the NYT:

Last week, a Democratic political consultant with longstanding ties to the party’s campaign committees quit a senior-partner position at the firm Deliver Strategies after it, like most dominant campaign outfits, agreed to comply with a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee policy barring it from conducting business with a primary opponent of a sitting Democrat.

Her reason: She feared the policy’s impact on female challengers.

“It is hard enough for challengers, for a lot of reasons,” said the consultant, Amy Pritchard, who worked last year for Representative Ayanna Pressley, Democrat of Massachusetts, in her successful campaign to defeat a 10-term Democratic incumbent. “And this policy is a bridge too far. I’d like to see a majority of women in Congress, and it’s not going to happen with this policy.”

But in Georgia, the impact of the DCCC policy could be quite different. Several weeks ago, Michael Owens, former chairman of the Cobb County Democratic party launched a primary challenge to U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, a 16-year veteran of Congress.

Michael Owens, a former chairman of Cobb County Democrats and a primary challenger to U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta. TAYLOR CARPENTER / TAYLOR.CARPENTER@AJC.COM
Photo: TAYLOR CARPENTER / AJC/taylor.carpenter@ajc.com

Owens has accused Scott of aligning himself too closely with prominent Georgia Republicans, including Sonny and David Perdue. Late last night, Owens, a cybersecurity expert and former Marine, sent us a note explaining his dilemma:

“When we launched our campaign, we were getting a lot of interest from several of the big Democratic consulting firms and top consultants across the country that wanted to be part of this very important race for Georgia's 13th District.

“Some of those calls were still coming after the DCCC's memo. But I think that once the DCCC made it clear that they were going to aggressively enforce the policy, the calls from those consultants ceased and a few we were in discussions with stopped returning our calls.”

Owens said this morning that he won’t be forced out of the race. To a degree, the DCCC’s support for incumbents such as Scott had already been factored into his candidacy, Owens said.

The challenger said he had already decided that his campaign staff needed to be Georgia-based, but said the new DCCC policy would likely deprive him of a national fundraising specialist. Owens said he hasn’t spoken to anyone from the DCCC yet, but would welcome a discussion. More from his note:

“The DCCC's stated goal is to ‘support Democratic House candidates every step of the way to fortify and expand our new Democratic majority.’ I'm a Democratic House Candidate and I don't feel supported by this policy and I don't understand how it expands our majority.

“In fact, it does quite the opposite. I'm fully supportive of the DCCC effort in flipping seats. However, I don't understand why this policy is necessary, especially in solid blue districts. The DCCC should promote democracy and not stifle it. As it relates to Democratic primary elections like mine, the voters of the district should decide who their next congressperson is, not the DCCC.”

***

Today's the day. The House is slated to send President Donald Trump a $19 billion disaster relief package that includes money for the victims of Hurricane Michael, tornadoes in west Georgia and local blueberry farmers harmed by a deep freeze in 2017. The chamber is slated to vote on the long-delayed package under fast-track rules this afternoon. 

***

Three Democratic presidential contenders — Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan and Eric Swalwell – participated in a trio of CNN town halls on Sunday night. The grilling of Swalwell, a California congressman, was conducted from Atlanta. The location became part of the conversation.

After the event, CNN led on Swalwell’s endorsement of impeachment proceedings against Attorney General William Barr and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The take from Fox News, as you might guess, was slightly different, and focused on Georgia’s new “heartbeat” law:

Jim Sciutto, the CNN moderator, asked about companies threatening to halt business in the state known as “Hollywood of the South” or “Y’allywood” due to its attractive tax incentives for production.

“Yeah, if that law goes into effect and CNN might have to move,” he said. “There’s a lot of young women who work at CNN who’ll be affected.”

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On that same topic, Stacey Abrams is headed to Hollywood next week to try to stem a revolt over Georgia’s new law to require most women to carry their pregnancies to term after six weeks.

Abrams will accompany Ilyse Hogue, the president of the abortion rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America, according to an invitation obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The invite, distributed by former CBS chairwoman Nina Tassler, sets up a session to address the “reality that employees in the state may not have full access to healthcare or the freedom to make decisions about their futures and their families.”

***

Hollywood executives may be lashing out at Georgia’s anti-abortion “heartbeat” law, but there’s been a studied silence from other corporate powers with deep roots in Atlanta. 

As we’ve reported before, Coca-Cola, Delta, Home Depot — the Fortune 500 elite that spoke out against “religious liberty” and pushed for infrastructure improvements and tax benefits over the years have sidestepped this abortion debate. 

But over the weekend, another prominent voice stepped in. Billionaire Tony Ressler, the owner of the Atlanta Hawks, was asked on CNBC for his reaction to the law. Here’s what he said:

It’s political malpractice to poke in the eye one of the largest industries that employs your population after spending 15 years attracting them in any way possible … How can you say you’re business friendly and yet go after what is in fact one of your largest employers? I’d say it’s really bad business.

***

On Sunday, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney appeared on NBC’s “Meet The Press” to acknowledge that a White House staffer did indeed demand that Navy officials airbrush U.S.S. John McCain out of President Donald Trump’s visit to Japan last week. McCain crew members were barred from a speech delivered by Trump.

Mulvaney blamed the action on a “23 or 24-year-old” staffer, but said the flap was “much ado about nothing.”

But consider this: Navy destroyers are designed for shooting wars. Let us say that one erupts while President Donald Trump is still in office. Burdens fall unequally on ships in a fleet.

If the McCain is kept out of the fray, 71 officers, commissioned and otherwise, and 210 enlisted personnel might wonder if their ship’s namesake was the reason. By the same token, if the ship is sent into harm’s way, the same thought might occur.

This is why you don’t inject politics into military ranks.

***

Former lieutenant governor Casey Cagle sat down for a rare interview with Alpharetta Councilman Ben Burnett and Appen Media’s Hans Appen for a “Ben Burnett Show” podcast that will air today. Cagle has been mostly silent since he lost his Republican bid for governor to Brian Kemp in a primary runoff.

***

Nabilah Islam, a Democrat running for the Seventh District seat being vacated by Republican Rob Woodall, last week became the first major U.S. House candidate from Georgia to call for impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump.

Islam, running to the left of many of her primary opponents, posted ashort video to her Twitter account calling special counsel Robert Mueller’s remarks last week a “clear call to action for Congress.”

“The Trump administration’s complete disregard for Congress, subpoenas and the rule of law make it clear: he has something to hide, and the American people deserve to know what he's hiding,” she said.

Islam’s response is notable because most Georgia Democrats have thus farshied away from impeachment talk, mirroring the rhetoric of national party leaders like Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Most have instead pushed for further congressional oversight and for the U.S. Justice Department to hand over Mueller’s full report and its underlying evidence.

The major exception has been former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson. The U.S. Senate candidate said back in April that Trump’s actions as laid out in the Mueller report “fall within the scope of high crimes and misdemeanors” and warranted an impeachment inquiry. “If the hearings reveal grounds of impeachment, then Congress must proceed in a timely manner unimpeded by the election calendar,” the attorney said at the time.

***

Gov. Brian Kemp has made a bit of history with one of his first judicial appointments. 

The Times-Herald reports that Markette Baker will be the first-ever female superior court judge in the Coweta Judicial Circuit. 

Baker was elected solicitor general for Troup County in 2004, and Kemp said in a tweet he’s confident she will “seamlessly” transition to the bench.

***

Protesting students take over Beijing's Tiananmen Square before the June 4, 1989 crackdown. Jim Galloway/AJC

Wednesday, June 4, will mark the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. Longtime China scholar Andrew Nathan has a piece in Foreign Policy magazine -- looking at documents that have recently emerged, retailing the political discussions among China’s governing elite that preceded the murderous crackdown on that nation’s democracy movement. From the piece:

[O]ne can draw a direct line connecting the ideas and sentiments expressed at the June 1989 Politburo meeting to the hard-line approach to reform and dissent that President Xi Jinping is following today. The rest of the world may be marking the 30-year anniversary of the Tiananmen crisis as a crucial episode in China’s recent past.

For the Chinese government, however, Tiananmen remains a frightening portent. Even though the regime has wiped the events of June 4 from the memories of most of China’s people, they are still living in the aftermath.

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