Feb. 16 2017 - Atlanta - Former congressman Lynn Westmoreland was among the speakers at the luncheon. The Faith & Freedom Coalition of Georgia held their annual Legislative Luncheon Feb. 16th at the Georgia Freight Depot next to the state Capitol. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com
Photo: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

The Jolt: Lynn Westmoreland named to lead clean energy group

Former Georgia congressman Lynn Westmoreland has been named chairman of an advisory board for Conservatives for Clean Energy Georgia.

As we reported earlier this year, the organization was started by a loose group of GOP political consultants in 20 states, to provide candidates with the language needed to talk about energy alternatives to fossil fuels — solar especially, but also wind, biomass and nuclear.

The alternative is to lose younger generations of voters who have no doubts that climate change is real. From the press release:

“We are addressing the future of renewable energy in a way that makes sense, conserving our planet’s resources without taking extreme and unrealistic measures,” said Westmoreland. “Solar energy and biomass are the largest taxpayer in some rural counties, and there are several renewable energy companies that have headquarters in Atlanta. From the polling, it is clear our citizens want more of it.”

What’s not in the press release is are two specific words strung together: “climate change.” This is a difficult phrase for many Republicans to utter. U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter has done so, but his district encompasses the Georgia coast, which for some reason has a large number of climate-change believers.

Westmoreland, who lives in Coweta County, served in Congress from 2005 to 2017, when he retired. Only five years ago, Westmoreland criticized the Barack Obama administration for labeling climate change a national security threat.

So we called him this morning to ask him whether he had changed his mind on the issue.

“No, no, no. I haven’t. That’s one of the reasons that I agreed to do this. What this organization has done is try to put some common sense into clean energy,” Westmoreland said – pointing to the recent seven-hour CNN forum on climate change featuring the Democratic presidential candidates.

“There’s got to be a more common-sense approach to this. I still believe just like I did – that the climate has been changing ever since Noah’s ark. But at the same time, we do need to address our energy concerns, and our energy problems,” Westmoreland said.

***

One sign that Jon Ossoff is seen as a threat in the race against U.S. Sen. David Perdue: There was a full-throated effort by Republicans to embarrass him that went beyond the sharp statements that greeted the other three Democratic candidates when they entered the contest.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee revealed it was behind the purchase of the JonOssoff.com website domain, which now redirects visitors to a negative story about the Democrat’s 2017 campaign. 

And two conservative groups -- the U.S. Chamber and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce -- teamed up to commission a poll by the Republican-leaning Public Opinion Strategies that dinged the Democrat.

The poll found that Perdue had a 48% approval rating, roughly tracking previous Atlanta Journal-Constitution surveys of the first-term Republican. That includes a 49% approval among white women with college degrees.

As for Ossoff, the surveyors said he had a surprising 51% name recognition across the state, including 16% favorable and 12% unfavorable. In metro Atlanta, which was saturated with ads during his 6th District run in 2017, his favorable is 21% and unfavorable sitting at 17%. 

(Democratic strategists found the poll strangely supportive of Ossoff’s case in 2020, particularly the part about his high name ID before spending a cent to run for U.S. Senate.) 

***

There was good news and bad news contained in the same data dump from the U.S. Census Bureau on Tuesday. First the good news, from our AJC colleagues Helena Oliviero and Mike Esterl:

The number of Georgians living in poverty declined by 2.8 percentage points between 2015-2016 and 2017-2018. Nationally, the dip was 1.1 percentage points.

Only four states - Arizona, Delaware, South Dakota and Tennessee - reported bigger declines. Kentucky also saw a decrease of 2.8 percentage points.

Still, poverty remains a bigger problem in Georgia than nationally. Some 14.7% of the state’s population is impoverished, compared with 12.3% across the U.S., based on a three-year average between 2016 and 2018.

And the bad, from the AJC’s Ariel Hart:

Even as the economy added jobs, more people in Georgia and the U.S. went without health insurance all last year, according to figures for 2018 just released by the U.S. Census. The South in general saw a dramatic increase of uninsured children, the only region to see such a trend.

Across the U.S., the rate of uninsured rose from 7.9% to 8.5%. Nationally, it’s the first increase in the uninsured rate since 2009. In Georgia, the rate rose to 13.7%, meaning an additional 36,000 people lost or went without health insurance in 2018, according to the report.

***

One of your Insiders has a piece on the failure of the gun massacres in El Passo and Dayton to change any minds among U.S. House members from Georgia – except for this:

Tifton Republican Austin Scott, who represents a largely rural district in south-central Georgia, said he was open to upping the minimum age for purchasing certain classes of semi-automatic weapons.

Scott said he was also eyeing legislation to close the “Charleston loophole” in the background check system that currently allows some gun dealers to transfer firearms before the FBI completes required background checks. (The bill is co-sponsored by the retiring Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville.)

***

The U.S. Senate this afternoon is expected to confirm former federal prosecutor Steven Grimberg to sit as a judge on the U.S. District Court. Grimberg is the fourth Trump administration pick for the 11-judge Northern District court, which is based in Atlanta and has branches in Gainesville, Newnan and Rome.

***

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich will speak at Mercer University’s executive forum in Macon on Oct. 17. The 2016 Republican presidential candidate is a frequent critic of President Donald Trump but he’s ruled out a 2020 run.

X