The Jolt: One week in office and Kelly Loeffler is already a target

Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., left, with her husband Jeffrey Sprecher, center, shakes hands with Vice President Mike Pence after a re-enactment of her swearing-in Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., left, with her husband Jeffrey Sprecher, center, shakes hands with Vice President Mike Pence after a re-enactment of her swearing-in Monday, Jan. 6, 2020, in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Credit: Jacquelyn Martin

Credit: Jacquelyn Martin

Newly minted U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., completed her first week in office with her name on six bills, three of them intended to restrict abortions.

One would make permanent a rule restricting federal funding for abortion services. Another requires medical care for fetuses that are still alive after an abortion procedure. A third would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Loeffler said she is fulfilling a promise to voters to hit the ground running and “serve as a new voice to help grow our base and share our conservative values.”

None of the initiatives, if they pass the Senate, are likely to gain traction in a Democratically controlled House. Even so, Loeffler’s quick support for anti-abortion legislation drew criticism from supporters of abortion rights, including Planned Parenthood.

State Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, who traveled to Washington in April to testify against the bill banning abortions after 20 weeks -- the measure Loeffler now supports. Jordan said Thursday that Loeffler's decision to back the anti-abortion bills is evidence that she is concerned about facing U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, in a special election later this year.

“She is trying to prove to Georgia's GOP base that she is a 'real' Trump Republican. But, why would the base take that risk when they have the real thing in Collins?” Jordan said.

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To that point, Georgia Conservatives in Action said in a statement Thursday it "strongly encourages" U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, to enter the race against fellow U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler -- who must win a November all-comers election to complete the remaining two years of Johnny Isakson's six-year term. The statement obtained by one of your Insiders:

"[W]e love the fact that he is a real fighter. He is one of the strongest defenders of President Trump and our great nation. He is not afraid to call out Democrats when they promote bad policy."

Georgia Conservatives in Action is a grassroots GOP group headed up by longtime activists Pat Tippett and Kay Godwin. They’re considered important players in campaigns that require rural Georgia support.

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Meanwhile, President Donald Trump still hasn't endorsed U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. But he retweeted a positive message about her on Friday morning. 

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We've told you about the debate that's going on behind closed doors in the White House, over who should represent President Donald Trump at his upcoming impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate. House Republicans are pushing U.S. Reps. Doug Collins and Jim Jordan, who were fierce advocates for Trump during House committee proceedings that led to two articles of impeachment.

Ed Kilgore, a former Georgia Democratic operative turned journalist, makes this cogent point in his New York magazine column:

Decorum aside, you can only imagine the horror of freshly appointed Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler at the prospect of ranking House Judiciary Committee Republican Doug Collins becoming part of Trump's Senate defense team…A week or so of Collins being allowed to rant and snarl on Trump's behalf with the entire MAGA Nation thrilling to every word would not give Loeffler much job security.

If you’re Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and pledged to support Loeffler, you don’t let that happen.

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And posted earlier this morning: Former federal prosecutor Ed Tarver said he will soon announce a challenge to U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, which would make him the second prominent Democrat in a free-for-all race that is expected to attract more well-known candidates:

Tarver told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he plans to enter the race even if he doesn't earn the blessing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has for months tried to recruit a top contender for the seat. 

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U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta returned to the House floor Thursday to vote with Democrats in favor of a resolution limiting President Donald Trump's ability to take further military action in Iran.

It was his first official action since announcing Dec. 29 that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer.

The resolution passed mostly along party lines. Three Republicans voted “yes” and eight Democrats voted “no,” but none were from Georgia.

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As the state Legislature buckles down for its 2020 session, the New York Times offers this bit of relevancy:

Kansas' Democratic governor said on Thursday that she had reached a deal with Republicans who control the Legislature to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. If lawmakers approve the plan in the coming weeks, it would end years of wrangling over the issue in a state that has endured a series of rural hospital closures.

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Several of Democrat Teresa Tomlinson's top aides recently left her U.S. Senate campaign as an election year dawns and her bid to challenge Republican incumbent David Perdue enters a new, more competitive phase.

The departures from the former Columbus mayor’s team include campaign manager Kendra Cotton and field director Patricia Lassiter, deputies that helped her launch her campaign last year.

Tomlinson spokeswoman Nicole Henderson said Lassiter left the campaign on “great terms” to work for the state party and that the two remain good friends. She said Cotton will take on a consulting role and serve as a surrogate for the campaign.

Henderson said the campaign has moved into an "operational phase" and will now be led by Ohio River South, an Atlanta-based political firm led by Democratic strategist Howard Franklin, who said Louis Elrod will be the point man.

This is significant, given that Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign has also fingered Franklin as its senior adviser in Georgia.

Another key Tomlinson operative, digital director Kyle Keyser, said he also departed the campaign in December after less than three months on the job. Keyser, who made a well-received video swiping at Perdue, cited a clash over "digital ideology" for his decision.

Tomlinson, one of four top Democrats in the race, this week sought to rebrand her campaign with a new video dubbed "Georgia Gumption." In the ad, she tells supporters: "We're coming to Washington, D.C. and we're packing a whole lot of Georgia gumption and we're finally going to see them sweat."

Their departures were much quieter than Edana Walker, Tomlinson's former finance director, who blasted the Democrat's "thoughtless and cruel" behavior in November after she was let go by the campaign.

As the May primary nears, Tomlinson faces increasing pressure from top rivals in the contest: Business executive Sarah Riggs Amico, Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry and investigative journalist Jon Ossoff.

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Every Democratic state lawmaker in Georgia will soon find a gift in his or her campaign coffer: Stacey Abrams has scattered campaign contributions of $80,000 through her Fair Fight Action's PAC.

She's got more where that came from: The voting rights group reported raising nearly $16 million in the last six months.

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State Sen. Zahra Karinshak of Duluth has picked up the endorsements of nine fellow Democratic legislators for her campaign for the Seventh District congressional race.

Supporters include Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, who called her a “voice for progress on issues from climate change to education.”

She’s among a half-dozen Democrats competing for the Gwinnett-based seat held by retiring Rep. Rob Woodall. Among her top rivals is Carolyn Bourdeaux, who was narrowly defeated by Woodall in 2018.

Karinshak’s campaign was recently buoyed by the defections of two prominent Democrats - former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland and ex-Gov. Roy Barnes, who both flipped from Bourdeaux’s campaign.

Aside from Henson, Karinshak’s other endorsements are: State Sens. Gloria Butler, Lester Jackson, Donzella James, Harold Jones, David Lucas, Doc Rhett and Horacena Tate; and state Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, who had previously endorsed Bourdeaux.

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In other endorsement news, the Georgia Federation of Teachers is backing Democrat Stacey Evans' bid for the state House seat being vacated by Pat Gardner of Atlanta. Evans, a former gubernatorial contender, already has competition from former city councilman Alex Wan.

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Jeremy Collins, former chief of staff to state Senate President pro tem David Shafer, has joined the lobbying firm of Total Spectrum. As Shafer's top aide, Collins coordinated legislative priorities of Senate with the governor and the House.

Previously, Collins had worked for Gov. Nathan Deal, and was the political director of Deal’s initial 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

Shafer is currently chairman of the state GOP.

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Robin McDonald of the Daily Report tells us that, in a Thursday appearance before the state Court of Appeals, former Gov. Roy Barnes contended that the members of Georgia's judicial watchdog agency are illegally holding office.

The names of those added to the commission in 2018 weren’t submitted to the state Senate for approval until after the legal deadline, the former governor said. More from McDonald:

Barnes argued the appeal on behalf of suspended Griffin Circuit Superior Court Judge Robert "Mack" Crawford. The appeal is critical to Crawford's future on the bench after a JQC panel recommended he be removed from office for multiple violations of the ethics code. 

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Three candidates have qualified for a special Feb. 4 election to fill the state Senate seat made vacant by the death of Greg Kirk of Americus, who died last month after a long battle with cancer. The candidates are:

-- Jim Quinn, a Republican and former mayor of Leesburg, who lost a special election for a House seat last month;

-- Carden Summers of Cordele, a Republican;

-- and Mary Egler, a Democratic retiree from Leesburg.

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