The Jolt: Mayor Bottoms holds off jumping on Raphael Warnock bandwagon

News and analysis from the AJC politics team

Out of the chaos of Iowa has come a hint of unrest in Georgia.

One of your Insiders caught up with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in Davenport, where she was doing some frosty campaigning for Joe Biden in the final hours of what has turned out to be a meltdown of the state's Democratic caucus system.

One particular topic was on our mind: the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and now a candidate in the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Kelly Loeffler. Warnock quickly won the endorsement of former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

But Bottoms said she might not be joining the Warnock team any time soon.

Bottoms said she wasn’t involved in the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s decision to endorse Warnock a day after he jumped in the race last week. “I didn’t expect to be, either,” the mayor added.

In an interview, she suggested she’s waiting for other potential contenders to make up their minds -- namely DeKalb County chief executive Michael Thurmond.

“I have a great deal of respect and regard for Reverend Warnock. I don’t know who else is getting in. CEO Thurmond has not ruled it out yet. It’s going to be a matter of waiting to see who’s in and who’s not - and making a decision at that time,” Bottoms said.


We spoke with Mayor Bottoms before this happened in Iowa, as described by the Associated Press:

A new mobile app was supposed to help Democratic officials quickly gather information from some 1,700 caucus sites throughout Iowa. Instead, it's being blamed for delays that left the results unknown the morning after the first-in-the nation nominating contest.

Glitches with a new mobile app Monday caused confusion, and some caucus organizers were forced to call in results for the state party to record manually, introducing delays and the possibility of human error. Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price said the delays were not the result of a hack or intrusion.

The party said it expects to release unofficial results later Tuesday after manually verifying its data against paper backups. 

But the topic of whether future presidential contest should begin in a Midwestern state that’s 90% white was already out there -- a fact that the mayor of Atlanta acknowledged:

"Out of respect and regard for the order of things now, I just think we need to delay that discussion. I mean, obviously there are a lot of thoughts on who should be first. Somebody has to be first. I look forward to having a conversation about it, but it needs to be had after we get out of the primaries."


The lack of an announced decision in Iowa was also a topic for Gov. Brian Kemp in a Tuesday morning interview with WSB Radio's Scott Slade.

The governor began with a dig aimed at his former (and current?) Democratic rival. “Rumor is that Stacey Abrams will be declared victor in Iowa,” the governor said.

More seriously, Slade asked Kemp if Georgia might want the honor of going first in, say, 2024. “I think we can definitely handle it. I always felt like Georgia ought to have more influence, just because we’re a big state, very diverse. It has something for everyone,” Kemp said. Then he added this:

"The problem with the caucuses is, I know it's an age-old tradition, and people are very passionate about it, but it's also very flawed -- as you can see right now. Now you have -- nobody has any idea of what happened last night. If they don't clear it up in the next day or two, it won't matter what happened in Iowa. It will all be focused on New Hampshire.

"There's definitely a play there, but you've got to get the political parties to play ball."


U.S. Rep. Doug Collins has landed a major hire for his Senate campaign: Republican strategist and communications guru Dan McLagan, a veteran of countless GOP campaigns in Georgia.

McLagan came up through Sonny Perdue’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign, then served as Governor Perdue’s spokesman.

Here’s the interesting part: This announcement comes one day after U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler named John Watson, who served as Governor Perdue’s chief of staff, as one of her two hands-on co-chairs.

Her campaign has also staffed up considerably. Her senior advisers include two of Gov. Brian Kemp’s most trustworthy aides: Ryan Mahoney and Jeremy Brand, two of the busiest political consultants in the South.

Another Kemp ally, Stephanie Jones, will serve as a senior campaign finance adviser. She was a finance director for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson in 2010 and 2016, and worked in the same role for Kemp in 2018.


A big question leading into tonight's State of the Union address is what kind of tone President Donald Trump will strike ahead of his expected acquittal on impeachment charges on Wednesday -- and what kind of reception House and Senate Democrats will offer.

Your Washington insider has a rundown of who Georgia's congresspeople have invited to the speech. U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter is bringing an award-winning Girl Scout, while U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall each invited prominent GOP activists from Georgia.

We couldn’t help but note that U.S. Rep. Doug Collins invited a fourth-generation farmer from Red Hill as his guest. Proximity to the state’s agriculture community has become a proxy fight of sorts between Collins and Loeffler, whose childhood spent on a family farm has become an important component of her burgeoning stump speech.

Collins' campaign put out an ad on Monday describing Loeffler as "pretend farmer." That ad was preceded by an announcement from the Club for Growth, a conservative group backing Loeffler, that it had purchased time for ads that will criticize Collins' vote in favor of a farm aid bill.

Collins’ team said his invitation to farmer Will Cabe preceded any knowledge about the Club for Growth ads and was not intended as shade cast at Loeffler.


One of the more fascinating – and somewhat gruesome – debates coming out of the state Capitol on Monday was over legislation to funeral homes without crematory furnaces dissolve bodies in a chemical solution. The Senate approved it. From our AJC colleague Sarah Kallis:

The process uses a mixture of sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide with warm water to dissolve the body, and leave objects like artificial joints behind. The chemicals are strong bases, and are used in food processing and as a drain cleaner.

The Gainesville Times adds another tidbit that you might have wondered about – or maybe not:

Normal flame cremation takes around two-and-a-half to three hours. According to the Cremation Association of North America, alkaline hydrolysis can take three to 16 hours, depending on the equipment and body mass.


Senate Bill 35, which would make it a crime for registered sex offenders to live close to their victims, failed in committee on Monday after a party-line vote. The proposal was authored by state Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah.


State Rep. Wes Cantrell, R-Woodstock, has proposed that the state hold a nonbinding referendum asking residents whether they'd like to do away with daylight saving time.


An uptick in reported sexual assaults among students at U.S. military academies has the attention of Georgia U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and three colleagues who are asking the Pentagon to provide some answers.

The group, led by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper requesting a briefing and hearing. They cite the Annual Report on Sexual Harassment and Violence at the Military Service Academies, which noted that sexual assault that occurred during students' military service increased by 32% last academic year.