U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, on the night of her defeat in the Nov. 6 election. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

The Jolt: Karen Handel mulls a congressional comeback

On the Tuesday edition of GPB’s “Political Rewind,” GOP consultant Heath Garrett let it be known that he might end up advising state Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, who last week indicated that he would attempt to retake the Sixth Congressional District from Democrat Lucy McBath in 2020.

Garrett described Beach as a conservative in the mold of Johnny Isakson, who once held that seat. (Garrett, in fact, served as Isakson’s chief of staff in Washington.)

Inside or outside the Isakson circle, Beach is a strong candidate, given his emphasis on transportation issues in a portion of metro Atlanta that can be hellish for daily commuters. But his entry into the contest raises an important question: Where is Karen Handel, and will the Republican attempt a comeback?

Handel’s loss in the Sixth District contest was the biggest surprise of the Nov. 6 election, and came only 18 months after she bested Democrat Jon Ossoff in a special election. Since November, she has kept a low profile, but we’re told that she’s maintained close contact with donors and core supporters.

Rob Simms, Handel’s campaign strategist in 2017 and 2018, said she’s strongly considering a run and will make a formal announcement soon.

“She’s been overwhelmed by the encouragement and support she’s received since the election for her to run again,” he said. “And there are many people who believe she’s the best candidate to win this seat back.”

One of the more interesting aspects of a Beach-Handel (or Handel-Beach) contest would be the fact they have similar origin stories. Handel’s civic debut came as president and CEO of the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, a position she held until 2002. Beach replaced her in that spot, holding the job until 2017.

Even if Handel doesn’t run, don’t expect the waves to part for Beach. Several other Republican names are being floated, including fellow state Sen. John Albers of Roswell.

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A kindly reader has pointed us to a just-published article in New Yorker magazine that takes a look at lobbying done in Georgia on behalf of Election Systems & Software, “the largest manufacturer of voting machines in the country.”

The article, in part, revisits a 2018 McClatchy investigation into an ES&G “advisory panel,” packed with state election officials, who were then flown to meetings in locales such as Las Vegas and New York. Among those included in a 2017 Las Vegas gathering was David Dove, then chief of staff to Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Dove is now executive counsel for Governor Kemp.

The article also points to former state House member Charles Harper, who once served as a lobbyist for ES&G in the state Capitol. Harper is now Kemp’s deputy chief of staff.

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Last month, former Atlanta city councilwoman and two-time mayoral candidate Mary Norwood was named to chair the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods – a sign that all interpreted as a sign that she’s not done yet.

But Norwood is catching some flak for sharing, on her Facebook page, a petition circulated by group called Concerned Citizens United, which attacks Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ effort to end cash bail for those accused of non-violent offenses. From the CCU petition:

“Many of the criminals that are arrested are released by the judges on a signature bond and out on the streets in less than 24 hours. A large portion of the crimes committed in our city are by the same perpetrators.”

The group is insisting on a sit-down with Bottoms, who defeated Norwood in the 2017 mayoral race. But this may be the group’s more volatile

“We also demand that the Fulton County Commissioners provide funding for cameras in the courtrooms in order for citizens to watch the hearings and to reveal the judges who are releasing these multiple offenders back out on the streets, thus exacerbating the problem. They have created a revolving door for the criminal syndicate.”

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There’s a new top military man in Georgia: Our AJC colleague James Salzer reports that during Tuesday’s budget hearings at the Capitol, Brigadier Gen. Thomas Carden introduced himself to lawmakers as the incoming adjutant general.

One small glitch: Gov. Brian Kemp hasn’t actually announced the appointment.

Carden, who has served as assistant adjutant general and commander of Georgia Army National Guard, said he will take over for current Adjutant General Joe Jarrard during a Saturday ceremony.

When Carden spoke to the House and Senate Appropriations Committee, the general said he’d only been in the U.S. for a little more than three days after a 17-month tour of duty.

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This is something new: State Rep. Erica Thomas, D-Austell, today will announce the creation of the Georgia Entertainment Caucus in the Legislature, which presumably will look after the movie and TV industry in Georgia.

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Pay attention to Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan’s visit Wednesday to the Atlanta Youth Academy. The trip to the southeast Atlanta school is meant to highlight National School Choice Week, but Duncan is also expected to trumpet his support for tax credits for school scholarship organizations. 

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