The Jolt: The Cobb forum began with drama -- and ended with attacks on Hunter Hill

The Cobb County Republican Women’s Club hosted a forum Tuesday night that attracted four GOP candidates for governor. Three of them wanted to talk about Hunter Hill, including Hunter Hill.

Among the missing were Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

The event was aired live on TV 23, and so at the outset, when a toddler began to squall, the child and mother were quickly ushered from the chamber. This prompted state Sen. Michael Williams to customize his opening remarks. Said the candidate:

“One thing that you will learn about me is that I am very direct and very bold. I have to say right now that I am highly offended. I have been up here watching as my wife was asked to leave this audience because my child was making a noise.

“She was not being disruptive, she was making a noise. I am doing this with the support of my family, because I love my family. And if my family is not welcome here, I will get up and leave.”

But his wife walked back in, so Williams did not walk out. Even so, the display didn’t please many members of the CCRWC. (“Drama king,” muttered one afterwards.)

All four candidates present – Williams, Hill, Clay Tippins and Marc Urbach – emphasized what they were not. I.e., career politicians.

Hill promised to double state spending on transportation infrastructure. Tippins and Williams gave full-throated promises to continue the push for medicinal marijuana.

And Urbach, who styles himself a self-taught expert on constitutional law, promised to put Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in front of grand juries. To what purpose was not clear.

The Republican Party of Georgia remains a place in which it is still considered a gaffe to suggest that a person be 21 years old before he or she is allowed to purchase an AR-15 and its accessories. This is something Hill did in February. He’s been walking the statement back ever since. Here’s the clip nabbed by Georgia Gun Owners.

This morning, Hill put up a Facebook video in which he cites his Army Ranger credentials, while loading rounds into a magazine for an assault-style rifle.  “I understand what it is to have my gun be the only thing between life and death,” he says.

Nonetheless, Hill and his view of the Second Amendment were a favorite target when it came to closing remarks on Tuesday night. Said Tippins:

“You sat in February on a stage with Stacey Evans, and you said in Georgia, you should have to be 21 years old to buy a long gun. And when your handlers pulled you aside and said you got a ‘C’ rating from the NRA, and that’s not something that’s consistent with Georgia values, you contradicted yourself.

“You reversed yourself. You cut an ad saying all the exact opposite things. If you’d lie and say anything to get elected, where’s the bottom on that -- especially on something so important as a constitutional right…That’s not the model we need.”

Said Williams:

“…He’s campaigning like Ronald Reagan, but he’s governed like Barack Obama. Georgia Gun Owners themselves, after the comment he made about the Second Amendment, said that Hunter Hill is just another career politician, that says one thing on the campaign trail, only to go on and say something else.”

Hill acknowledged the attention, and then pivoted to his favorite target: Cagle and Kemp. Though not by name. Said Hill of the attacks:

“This is more encouraging than looking at polling data. Clearly, we’re doing very well. The bottom line is that we’ve got serious issues dividing our country. I think the reason we’re connecting with Republican primary voters is that I am truly conservative….”

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Democrat Stacey Evans was the lone candidate for governor at a Tuesday night forum. Greg Bluestein, gbluestein@ajc.com

Across town, Stacey Evans had the stage to herself at a Democratic forum hosted by the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. Hundreds of people were in the audience at an Atlanta tech college to see Evans square off against Stacey Abrams, but the former House minority leader never showed.

The Abrams campaign said staffers had informed the debate’s organizers she couldn’t attend. She was in Cambridge, Mass., all day for a program at Harvard University with former Bernie Sanders aide Symone Sanders. Rashad Richey, who moderated the gubernatorial forum in Atlanta, told the audience he had a different understanding. He pointed to a handout that listed Abrams as attending, and told the crowd “the folks on this program confirmed.” 

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One of the few areas where U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., has been critical of his ally President Trump has been over his moves to slap tariffs on steel, aluminum and other commodities. But fresh off a trip to China where he and other GOP colleagues met with the country’s leaders, Perdue said some of Trump’s proposed tariffs have had a helpful effect on trade negotiations. “We have their attention now,” Perdue told reporters last night on Capitol Hill.

China’s move to raise tariffs on scores of American exports, including crops like soybeans, peaches and nuts, have sent shudders through farm country, but Perdue said the fact that Chinese President Xi Jinping has since made a public statement about lowering tariffs on imported cars has shown that Trump has begun moving the needle on trade. “It’s still in an early stage, but it’s at the point now where they know we’re serious. Equal access is very important to us, a level playing field. And the tariffs have served to get them to sort of sit up and listen to what we’re saying,” he said.

Perdue said he is advising Trump to keep open lines of communication with China. “Stay the course, but talk to them. Don’t surprise them,” he said. He recommended that the U.S. reconsider the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation trade agreement Trump quickly abandoned after moving to Washington. But Perdue also played down fears that ag producers have expressed over the last week. “I get their fears, but at the same time the president is doing exactly what we need to be doing to get their attention,” he said. 

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Meanwhile, the senator’s cousin, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, has been in the headlines recently as the man caught between President Donald Trump’s escalating trade fight with China and the farmers who rely on exporting their crops there. He will be in the hot seat today on Capitol Hill, albeit for a different reason. 

The former Georgia governor is set to testify this morning before the Senate Appropriations Committee, the panel that will ultimately help determine how much federal funding his mammoth department will receive later this year. The Trump administration proposed cutting Perdue’s budget by 15 percent earlier this year. We’re sure senators will give him an earful about that.

Ditto for his department’s unorthodox -- and widely panned -- proposal to swap some food stamp payments with a “harvest box” of federally-picked foods. 

***

The contest between Ken Hodges and Ken Shigley is the only competitive appellate court race in Georgia.

And Hodges, a former Dougherty County prosecutor and ex-Democratic candidate for attorney general, is trying to distance himself from his political past.

The Albany attorney has already picked up support from a gaggle of well-known Republicans, including former congressmen Bob Barr and Jack Kingston. His campaign is chaired by former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss. And on Wednesday, he announced the backing of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. 

"In the Georgia Court of Appeals, good, fair judgment and the proper

application of our laws is an absolute necessity,” said Isakson. “I believe that Ken Hodges has the experience needed to ensure justice is dispensed fairly to all citizens.” 

Shigley, a former president of the State Bar of Georgia, tried to cast his opponent as a career politician at a Cherokee County GOP forum this week. He also recently unveiled a $75,000 TV ad buy. 

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Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has nabbed the endorsement of an educators group with ties to conservative leaders. Educators First announced it was backing the GOP candidate for governor in a statement Tuesday that touted his “ability to deliver on common-sense reforms” that help students, parents and teachers. The group boasts about 5,000 members. It endorsed Gov. Nathan Deal in the 2014 race against Democrat Jason Carter.

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