Former Columbus mayor Teresa Tomlinson/AJC file

The Jolt: Teresa Tomlinson on David Perdue’s socialism ‘scare tactic’

Let us suppose that you’re one of several Democrats in the U.S. Senate race against GOP incumbent David Perdue, and the cream of your party’s leadership is coming to town. What do you do?

You brand yourself as the tough-as-nails candidate who isn’t going to take his guff any longer. 

In a sit-down Monday with a few local reporters, Teresa Tomlinson said she plans a more aggressive push against the first-term Republican she hopes to face in 2020 -- particularly on social media.

“We intend to take David Perdue head on with this stuff about socialism. That’s crap and there’s no way the people of Columbus, Georgia twice elected a socialist mayor,” said Tomlinson, the former mayor of Columbus.

Asked to elaborate, Tomlinson said Perdue’s attacks describing Democrats as socialists are “his only tenet in this campaign.” 

“He can’t run on his record. He can run on his close affiliation with Trump, but we’ve seen how that polls. They’ve decided to run on how all Democrats are socialists. We’re going to take him on. Undercutting what he means by socialism, that it’s a scare tactic.” 

Here are some other takeaways from the meeting:

Tomlinson said she was motivated by an AJC poll that found a plurality of registered voters - 41% - were waiting to see who the Democratic nominee was before deciding who to back in Senate Race No. 1. “That’s because I’m going places and people are showing up. I’m not chasing people with MAGA hats, because I don’t think it’s a good use of my time,” she said.

-- She’s developed a new mantra: “You need a candidate that’s progressive enough in Atlanta and pragmatic enough to carry those who live outside metro Atlanta.”

-- Tomlinson said she said she’s confident in her fundraising ability and questioned whether Jon Ossoff, a Democratic rival who raised more cash than her in his first three weeks in the race, will be a durable fundraiser.

“I do not believe this is going to be a celebrity election. This is going to be a methodical, plod-along election,” she said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a rock star like there has been in the past, because there’s not a special election when all the nation’s eyes are on one race ... There’s just too much action and interest going on.”

Then she added a prediction: “You are not going to see the type of escalating fundraising coming from Jon. He’s going to plateau out,” she said, before pivoting to his record-breaking cash haul in 2017. 

“That was a one-off election when his race against Karen Handel stood all alone as a demonstration of fighting back against Donald Trump.”

***

Yet another Republican candidate for Georgia’s Sixth District has abandoned the race, leaving former congresswoman Karen Handel a clearer field for a rematch with U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta.

Nicole Rodden sent a press release late Monday saying she essentially ran out of campaign cash after raising a dismal $9,000 in the last fundraising quarter. 

“It became evident to our team that without the proper resources to spread our campaign message, we had no positive pathway to the general election,” said Rodden. 

She’s the second Republican to call it quits in a week. State Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta suspended his campaign for the seat on Thursday, saying that he’ll seek re-election to the state Legislature instead.

Kelly Loeffler, left, has applied for a U.S. Senate seat. AP Photo.

***

Some sharp reactions to businesswoman Kelly Loeffler’s U.S. Senate application illustrate how opposing factions in the Georgia GOP see her potential candidacy. 

Debbie Dooley, a tea party organizer, called her an “elitist, Chamber of Commerce/Mitt Romney Republican” and promised that “we conservatives will revolt.”

Jay Morgan, a lobbyist and former state party executive director who aligns with the establishment wing, said that “the only thing that could make Kelly a stronger candidate is if her last name was Isakson.”

***

Thirty-six hours before the Democratic presidential debate on Tyler Perry’s turf, the forces of moderation are rearing their heads:

-- The Gallup Organization tells us that six in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents would prefer to see the party nominate the candidate with the best chance of beating President Donald Trump, even if that person does not share their views on key issues. By contrast, 36% say they would rather have the reverse.

-- A CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll in Iowa finds that a majority of likely Democratic caucus-goers would prefer a health care option that isn't "Medicare for All." From the CNN website:

About a third (36%) want Medicare for All while another third (34%) want to create a public option for buy in and 20% would prefer to restore lost provisions from the Affordable Care Act and work incrementally from there.

-- In South Carolina, the first southern state to hold a presidential primary, former Vice President Joe Biden holds a commanding 20-point lead among likely Democratic primary voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released this morning. Biden wins the support of 33%, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren receives 13%, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders gets 11%; and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg comes in at 6%.

***

Pete Buttigieg’s cause won’t be helped by this Fox News report that his campaign has “scrubbed” a stock photo of a black woman from Kenya from a section of his website devoted his plan to battle racial inequality.

***

White House hopefuls have hardly talked about voting rights during their first four Democratic presidential debates, but U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota hopes that changes when the showdown shifts to Atlanta on Wednesday. 

She told one of your Insiders that she expects the moderators to put the issue front-and-center at Tyler Perry Studios -- even if candidates have “similar plans on this.” 

“It must be asked,” she said. “They need to hear what’s happening around the country, when you’ve got people waiting for hours and hours at polling places, when you have laws being passed that are not meant to make it easier to vote but make it harder to vote.” 

***

This morning, the Washington Post picks up on some angst among Gwinnett County Democrats over a Wednesday presidential debate that will focus attention on metro Atlanta’s south side, which is already heavily Democratic. The nut graph:

[W]hile Democrats see themselves as poised to take over the state, they are a long way from building the kind of coordinated effort that Georgia Republicans — and Democrats in places like Virginia and elsewhere — have long enjoyed. Turning the historically red state blue, it turns out, is harder to pull off than to predict.

***

Consider Lauren Groh-Wargo a spokeswoman for the bull market in Georgia politics. She just tweeted out a link to Stacey Abrams’ lengthy September argument for heavy Democratic investment in Georgia.

Cody Hall, a spokesman for Gov. Brian Kemp, issued his own Twitter thread supporting the Republican’s new healthcare plan.

***

When a county shifts from red to blue, or blue to red, the sheriff’s race is the contest you keep an eye. In Cobb County, GOP incumbent Sheriff Neil Warren is being challenged by James “Jimmy” Herndon, a Democrat.

Late last night, our AJC colleague Krystal Dixon reported that in the last 12 months, seven people in the Cobb County jail have died. The latest death was announced Saturday. Here’s the morning press release from the ACLU of Georgia:

Today, the ACLU of Georgia sent the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office an open records request regarding conditions at its Adult Detention Center. The Detention Center has been on lockdown since September with allegations that incarcerated people are confined to their cells for almost 24 hours a day. The only break from this 24-hour confinement appears to be for 15-minute showers on some days.

***

Then there is the question of whether elected officials should be allowed to privately text each other during commission and council meetings – engaging in a sub-debate while open discussions are occurring. Over at All On Georgia, a recent Guyton city council meeting in Effingham county spurred these intriguing lines from Jessica Szilagyi:

During the October council meeting, Councilman Michael Johnson and Councilman Joseph Lee shared the blame in the ‘utterly distracted elected official’ category.

Johnson would pick up his phone, type, place it back on the table, then Lee would pick his phone up, type, and set his phone back down just as Johnson’s would vibrate loudly on the wooden table for the entire room to hear. Back and forth, over and over, lather, rinse, repeat.

It was one of the most obvious things I have seen in a government meeting, which is admirable in an odd and unprincipled way.

***

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has been elected elected vice chair of the Republican Attorneys General Association -- which means he’ll be on the road quite a bit. The group is preparing to boost GOP candidates in the 10 states next year that will hold AG races. 

***

We’ve noted before how Seventh District congressional candidate Nabilah Islam has modeled her campaign after progressive star and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. Now NBC News has picked up on the same theme with a story that plays up Islam’s working class background and immigrant roots.

And like many of her first- and second-generation American neighbors, Islam is struggling to make ends meet: At 29, she has put the remaining $27,849.63 on her student loans into forbearance and just decided to cancel a health insurance plan she described as "bogus."

What makes her stand out from most of the other residents of Georgia's hypercompetitive 7th Congressional District is that she's running to represent them in the House. And, with Democrats from all over the country landing in Atlanta this week for Wednesday's presidential debate, she should get a chance to connect with a wider group of potential donors and validators.

Islam, a political activist, is one of at least six Democrats running for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall. Among the others is Carolyn Bourdeaux, who came about 500 votes short of beating Woodall in 2018.Eight Republicans are running as well, including State Sen. Renee Unterman and former Home Depot executive Lynne Homrich.

Those GOP candidates met Monday night in Gwinnett County for a voter forum, and the AJC’s Tyler Estep reported that they are in lockstep on conservative issues of the day like as opposing House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry and supporting funding for Trump’s border wall.

***

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, announced Monday that a deal has been struck to temporarily fund the federal government. What the deal won’t do is throw HBCUs a lifeline.

House leaders were unable to convince Senate Republican to include funding for historically black colleges and universities in the agreement. Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement blaming the GOP for playing politics with the $300 million program for minority-serving institutions, of which $85 million would be earmarked for HBCUs.

The House is expected to approve the stopgap funding on Tuesday and send it to the Senate for approval ahead of Thursday’s deadline.

***

Georgia voters remain divided over whether there should be a ban on assault weapons, AJC reporter Maya T. Prabhu writes in our latest dive into the AJC’s fall poll results.

Almost 51% of registered voters polled say they support a ban on rifles such as the AR-15 and AK-47. A little more than 45% oppose restrictions, and about 4% either didn’t know how they felt or refused to answer the question.

Feelings on a ban fell mostly along party lines. 

About 77% of Democrats polled said they support banning assault weapons. A little more than 71% of Republicans said they opposed a ban. Those who identified as independent voters were split on the issue — with just over 47% in support and nearly 48% opposing a ban.

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