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The Jolt: The GOP’s Marjorie Taylor Greene problem is of their own creation

Marjorie Taylor Greene, at the time a candidate for Congress in the 6th District, participates in a "Stop Impeachment Now" rally outside the office of U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath on October 9, 2019, in Sandy Springs. (Elijah Nouvelage for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Marjorie Taylor Greene, at the time a candidate for Congress in the 6th District, participates in a "Stop Impeachment Now" rally outside the office of U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath on October 9, 2019, in Sandy Springs. (Elijah Nouvelage for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Elijah Nouvelage

Credit: Elijah Nouvelage

<i>News and analysis from the AJC politics team</i>

If Marjorie Taylor Greene wins a congressional seat and lives up to panicky Republicans' worst fears, they have only themselves to blame.

A group of state and national Republicans endorsed Greene's runoff rival, Dr. John Cowan, in the deeply-conservative 14th District on Wednesday after a series of her racist and xenophobic comments came to light.

But Greene's knack for jaw-dropping statements, her embrace of a group with extremist ties and her apparent belief in QAnon, the baseless pro-Donald Trump conspiracy theory, was well-known long before last week's primary.

And, for the most part, state and national leaders steered clear of condemning Greene even as it became clear to most Capitol insiders she would emerge atop the nine-candidate GOP field.

In fact, her bid was made possible in part because of the support of Washington stalwarts. Greene was waging a longshot bid against Republican Karen Handel in suburban Atlanta’s 6th District when Rep. Tom Graves’ decision to retire reshaped her plans.

Greene told one of your Insiders that she "started getting phone calls from the most conservative members in the House Freedom Caucus. Debbie Meadows — Mark Meadows' wife — Jim Jordan, Andy Biggs," she said at the time.

“They have asked me to heavily consider stepping out of the 6th District and coming in and running in the 14th.”

By mid-December she decided to run for the seat — despite not living in the district — and benefited from a surge of financing and a fractured field of candidates who focused more on each other than her upstart bid.

Handel, meanwhile, enjoyed a suddenly clearer field. She also was among the only well-known state Republicans to issue warnings about Greene’s racist rhetoric before Tuesday’s vote.

“Her views and comments are abhorrent, and there is no place for this kind of inflammatory racist rhetoric in Congress OR in our country,” Handel said Wednesday.

Now GOP officials are rallying around Cowan, no conservative featherweight. A Rome neurosurgeon, he’s emphasized his support for Trump and his TV ads remind viewers of his medical background and gun-rights chops.

U.S. Reps. Rick Allen, Buddy Carter, Doug Collins, Drew Ferguson and Austin Scott were among the incumbents who criticized Greene’s racist remarks. Still, many other Georgia Republicans have not issued statements about Greene, and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise was the only one in a top national position to definitively say he would not support her.

“The comments made by Ms. Greene are disgusting and don’t reflect the values of equality and decency that make our country great,” he said in endorsing Cowan.

Runoffs in Georgia are unpredictable, even more so during a pandemic. Cowan has an experienced campaign team that plans to make the most of the media attention and burst of fundraising.

But Greene comes into the race with other advantages, such as front-runner status, and her incendiary rhetoric could appeal even more to the fervent voters who generally show up to lower-turnout runoffs.

Democrats aim to try to make her the face of the Georgia GOP in November if she wins the nomination. State Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, said Greene’s views reflect “a large portion of their primary voters.”

"She placed first by a mile in the primary because of these videos," Parent said, "not despite them."

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Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times best-selling biographer Jon Meacham has chosen U.S. Rep. John Lewis as his latest subject.

The book, which will be titled "His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope," is scheduled to be published in October and will feature an afterword by the Atlanta Democrat.

“Drawing on decades of wide-ranging interviews with Lewis, Jon Meacham writes of how this great-grandson of a slave and son of an Alabama tenant farmer was inspired by the Bible and his teachers in nonviolence, Reverend James Lawson and Martin Luther King, Jr., to put his life on the line in the service of what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”

Meanwhile, "Good Trouble," a documentary about Lewis's career, will premiere in Tulsa this weekend to counteract with President Donald Trump's speech there. It will be available in select theaters and on demand July 3.

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Stacey Abrams has inked a deal with Amazon Studios to be featured in an upcoming documentary about her work to expand voter access. Deadline reports that the movie will be released in theaters sometime before the November election and later available on Amazon Prime Video.

“The failure of state leaders in Georgia and other states across the country to protect the rights of voters, as seen in the 2018 election and 2020 primaries, must be exposed and it must be stopped,” Abrams said, according to Deadline. “Justice in our criminal justice system and the sacred right to vote are not equal for all Americans and we must find a way to change these systematic inequalities.”

She already has been featured in two other movies highlighting her campaign for governor. Abrams was among a handful of female candidates of color — U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath is another — featured in the doc "And She Could Be Next." Its two-part premiere will air on PBS stations June 29 and 30.

And the "Suppressed" movie profiles Georgia voters who reported difficulties casting ballots during the 2018 election.

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Fox News personality Tucker Carlson gave Sen. Kelly Loeffler a shot in the arm this week when he criticized a letter her top Republican rival sent about big tech companies.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins told House Democratic colleague they shouldn’t “punish tech companies simply because those companies succeeded” and that “‘big’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘bad.’”

Carlson jumped on the letter, also signed by U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, and called for a “vigorous primary challenge for these two.”

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The National Republican Campaign Committee will send $1.45 million to Atlanta as part of a $23.5 million national ad buy, Politico Playbook reports, adding its own note that, "Atlanta sticks out for being a bit small for the challenges Republicans face in the blueing state."

The ads are targeted for seats Republicans hope to take away from Democrats, meaning the likely focus in Georgia is U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath in her rematch against Karen Handel.

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Georgia lawmakers have filed a bill to remove the state's statue in Washington of Alexander H. Stephens, the vice president of the Confederacy, and replace it with a depiction of Martin Luther King Jr. The AJC's James Salzer has more:

Each state is permitted to send two statues of its choice to be exhibited in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the U.S. Capitol. Georgia sent statues of physician Crawford Long and Stephens.

Under legislation by Rep. Scot Turner, R-Holly Springs and co-sponsored by Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, along with lawmakers from both parties, Stephens would be replaced by King.

Three years ago the great, great, great grand-nephews of Stephens wrote then-Gov. Nathan Deal a letter asking that Stephens’ statue be removed.

Stephens, a longtime Georgia politician, argued that enslavement was the “normal and natural condition” of black people.

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The Atlanta Police Department saw a revolt from within its ranks on Wednesday night with a "higher than usual number of call outs," according to department posts on social media.

Officers appeared to be protesting the decision by Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard to bring criminal charges against two of their colleagues accused of causing the death of Rayshard Brooks.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins weighed in this morning, saying Attorney General Chris Carr should remove Howard from the case because he showed bias in moving the case forward before the GBI finished its investigation.

“Charging an Atlanta police officer with felony murder before the completion of the GBI's investigation was a political decision, not a legal one,” Collins wrote. “... If a special prosecutor was warranted in the Ahmaud Arbery case, then it certainly warrants the appointment of one here.”

The AG responded on Twitter, saying state law only allows him to take such a step if Howard disqualifies himself or a judge intervenes. 

Coweta County Sheriff Lenn Wood, state Rep. Philip Singleton and state Sen. Matt Brass seized the APD’s internal strife as an opportunity to recruit officers to their suburban county.

“We know that this is a difficult time for you to continue to do what you do,” the trio wrote in an open letter. “We say simply this. Our leaders and our community care about you. We value you and the good you bring to the community, and we honor your sacrifices. If you are feeling led to leave the service, we ask that you first consider joining us here in Coweta County. We have open positions and would be honored to have you.”

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