12/04/2019 -- Atlanta, Georgia -- Newly appointed U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler waves toward supporters following a press conference in the Governor's office at the Georgia State Capitol Building, Wednesday, December 4, 2019. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Kelly Loeffler to the U.S. Senate to take the place of U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, who is stepping down for health reasons. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

The Jolt: ‘She’s a very smart lady,’ Nathan Deal says of Kelly Loeffler

The final months of Gov. Nathan Deal’s second term in office, the rumor mill about U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s pending retirement started to churn. 

The buzz held that Isakson would rather have Deal tap his replacement than either Brian Kemp or Stacey Abrams, and two Isakson allies sat atop a potential short list: Senate Majority Leader Butch Miller of Gainesville and Attorney General Chris Carr. 

Isakson, of course, stayed in office through Deal’s departure and had every intention to finish his third term until his worsening health -- Parkinson’s disease, nasty falls and kidney surgery -- forced his hand. 

In an interview with our AJC colleague Tamar Hallerman, the former governor sympathized with Kemp over the pick of Kelly Loeffler but said he hardly knew the incoming U.S. senator. She called him the other day to say hello. Said Deal: 

“She understands that she’s going to have to work hard, she’s going to have to introduce herself to a lot of people, and that’s hard work. I think from what she told me she’s willing to undertake that. That’s what it’s going to take for anybody who tries to run for anything these days, especially statewide.

“Georgia is indeed a big state geographically and a diverse state in terms of the politics that prevail, so having someone who can at least overcome the regional differences in our state and still be successful takes a lot of skill. I hope she has it.”

Asked if he felt confident in her ability, he elaborated:

“I feel pretty positive about her. She’s a very smart lady and has a lot of experience in the business world and of course has been involved on the sidelines at least in the political arena, so she’s not a novice, by any stretch of the imagination. Just because people may not know her name in a widespread fashion does not mean she’s a total newcomer. She’s not.”

We should note that Carr and Miller still have options, even if this Senate door has closed. Carr is seen as a future candidate for governor, while Miller might run for Congress if U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, also of Gainesville, challenges Loeffler in next year’s “jungle” special election.

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Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, who dropped out of the Sixth District race to run for the open seat where she doesn’t live, said she received the endorsement of the House Freedom Fund, a PAC affiliated with the conservative caucus. 

After months of competing against former congresswoman Karen Handel in the competitive Atlanta suburbs, the Milton businesswoman switched to compete for U.S. Rep. Tom Graves’ northwest Georgia district shortly after he announced he wouldn’t seek another term. 

A range of other candidates are eyeing the 14th District race.

The Center Square reports that 25-year-old Colton Moore, R-Trenton, a freshman state lawmaker, on Sunday announced his plans to run for the seat.

Moore has aligned himself with the “no” caucus in the Legislature, has been sharply critical of House Speaker David Ralston, and created something of a stir by rescuing the domain name of briankemp.com for the future governor during last year’s campaign.

This line in the Center Square report jumped out at us:

Moore is an auctioneer by trade who travels all over the globe to lead auctions. He touts his international travel as an advantage in foreign affairs policy.

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U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, has been handed a strong talking point for her 2020 re-election bid after helping to negotiate federal dollars for gun violence research for the first time in 20 years.

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health and would receive $25 million to study ways to prevent gun injuries and deaths under the proposal. It is part of the spending package Congress is expected to approve this week to avoid a government shutdown.

The House is expected to vote on the slate of appropriations bills on Tuesday with the Senate to follow. A plan must be in place by Friday’s shutdown deadline to keep the government functioning.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who is retiring at the end of the year, had proposed a broader measure for $75 million to fund CDC research of all mass violence. That would have included not just injuries and deaths caused by guns but knives, explosives and even vehicles.

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The Big Gulp assault on a reporter, allegedly by the wife of Chattooga County’s sole commissioner, has put Summerville, Ga., on the national map, though not in the way the local chamber of commerce might want: The New York Timesthe Washington Post, and the New York Post. “She’s a soda jerk,” wrote that last newspaper.

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Bloomberg News reports that economic inequality isn’t just demographic -- it’s geographic, too:

Just 31 counties, or the top 1% by share, made up 32.3% of U.S. gross domestic product in 2018, according to data released last week by the Bureau of Economic Analysis that included nearly 20 years of county-level GDP data. That's despite these counties only having 26.1% of employed Americans and 21.9% of the population last year. Their combined GDP share is also up from a recession low of 30.1% in 2009.

In Georgia, Fulton County is the only one in this elite sector, cornering .8% of the nation’s gross domestic product in 2018.

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Last week, we told you of trouble at the Cobb County jail and the impact it could have on the 2020 race for sheriff. On Monday night, Christopher Bruce, political director for the ACLU of Georgia, went before the Cobb County Commission and asked the body to pass a resolution demanding that Republican incumbent Sheriff Neil Warren to:

-- Put a complete end to a lockdown at the jail that was first instituted in September:

-- Make sure that all open records requests have been answered;

-- Make sure all seven deaths that have occurred among jail inmates since December 2018 are fully explained, “with a plan to make sure no other deaths happen.”

Bruce also asked the Cobb commission to create a temporary citizens review board to oversee complaints, and that it fund a financial performance audit of the jail.

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The end of U.S. Sen. Kamela Harris’ presidential bid underlined the difficulty that female prosecutors have among Democratic voters. Over at PeachPod, the podcast operated by Kyle Hayes, takes on the topic in an interview with Deborah Gonzalez, the former state House member who is now a Democratic candidate for district attorney in the Western Judicial Circuit that covers Clarke and Oconee counties. Listen here. An early quote from Gonzalez:

“In the sense of criminal justice and the system and reforms…, this was one of the priorities actually of Gov. Nathan Deal. So it’s not a partisan issue per se, right? This is something that both sides of the aisle actually agree on…We have a system that is not effective, that costs way too much money, doesn’t give us the results that we need.”

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Newt Gingrich, the former Georgia congressman and U.S. House speaker, has joined an initiative focused on keeping the state Capitol in Atlanta under GOP control before the next round of redistricting.

Gingrich, along with former U.S. House Speakers Paul Ryan and John Boehner have formed the Republican State Leadership Committee’s Speakers Advisory Council and will contribute to the “Right Lines 2020” initiative.

“If Republicans don’t win in the states next year, the keys to Congressional majorities for the next ten years will be in the hands of the same do-nothing Democrats that are there right now – it’s just that simple,” Gingrich said in a news release. “Every Republican should be alarmed by what liberal billionaires have committed to spending on down-ballot races, and not just in states where Democrats traditionally win.”

The Democratic Party of Georgia is aiming to flip 16 seats in the Georgia House next year, the number needed to gain control of that chamber. Otherwise, the state Senate, House and governor’s office will all be Republican-led.

Legislators across the country will be responsible for redrawing House, Senate and congressional district lines after the 2020 census.

The RSLC’s initiative will focus on preserving Republican majorities in states including Georgia, Pennsylvania, Florida and Texas, where the former House speakers will provide expertise and assist with fundraising.

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