The Jolt: ‘The Gulch’ may have sidelined City Hall in governor’s race

Former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin at a Monday press conference in downtown Atlanta, supporting Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Abrams.

Former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin at a Monday press conference in downtown Atlanta, supporting Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Abrams.

We gave you advanced warning on Monday about a morning press conference in downtown Atlanta on behalf of Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor.

Featured players included former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin and Cathy Woolard, the former Atlanta city council president and mayoral candidate.

Franklin had some harsh words for Abram’s Republican opponent:

"Brian Kemp has not demonstrated the kind of leadership and vision that we need, and I believe he is not qualified to be governor. Stacey Abrams, on the other hand, is a qualified leader who can unify the state and build a thriving economy for all….."

Like Franklin, Woolard pointed to Kemp’s support for “religious liberty” legislation. but it was Woolard, rather than Franklin, who went after the Republican candidate for the selfie he took with an anti-Muslim extremist – whose T-shirt left no doubt of his opinions.

The event was held at the corner of Baker and Peachtree streets in downtown Atlanta. Before the event, we supposed that this might reflect the emphasis on business the press conference intended.

But another thought intruded.

One figure missing from the picture on Monday morning was Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. And the City Hall she rules over.

Has Bottoms endorsed Abrams? Yes. But the mayor is also deeply involved in trying to push an economic overhaul of The Gulch through City Council.

One assumes that the state Department of Economic Development has a hand in these negotiations, which means Gov. Nathan Deal and his aides do as well. Which means it might not do for a mayor to personally pick on the fellow the governor has marked as his successor. Note that members of the Atlanta City Council were scarce, too.

Updated: Some have misinterpreted the above as an accusation that Mayor Bottoms was somehow withholding her support from Abrams -- which is not the case. In terms of cash contributions, the mayor has maxed out to the nominee, and has been a featured speaker at several rallies.

But Bottoms’ current negotiations over the Gulch tie her to the state apparatus in a way that doesn’t allow her to level the kinds of attacks on the GOP nominee that Franklin and Woolard are entirely free to do now.


Sometimes it seems as if the only forms that need to be filled out with uncompromising exactitude in Georgia involve absentee ballots or voter registration.

Georgia requires larger campaign contributions to candidates or PACs to include the names of those writing the checks, plus their occupation or name of their employer. The better to determine who is buying whom.

Earlier this month, we told you that out of about 5,300 donations over $100, where that information was required, the campaign of Republican Brian Kemp filled in the occupation entry with the phrase "information requested" for 1,670 of them.

The implication of that phrase is that the campaign didn’t have the information, but was diligently seeking it. The donors included his brother-in-law, Senate Majority Leader Bill Cowsert, R-Athens. He’s an attorney. We checked.

Our astute AJC colleague James Salzer, who documented the above, says the careless with forms extends to the Georgia Health Care Association PAC, the political arm of the state's powerful nursing home lobby.

The PAC listed two donations. A fellow named Casey Cagle gave $1,000 on Oct. 8. That same day, a stranger named David Ralston gave $2,600 to the PAC.

What do these two fellows do for a living? Gosh, who knows?

But thank goodness, no one was voting.

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We noted yesterday Gov. Nathan Deal first real foray on the campaign trail with Republican Brian Kemp. Today he'll be joined by both Deal and Lara Trump, the wife of Donald Trump's son Eric.


Perfect timing: A pair of Dunwoody High School students created an election predictions website called 50Fifty that delves into some of the state's top races. The tool was forged by Sam Mahle and Noah Covey, and it uses past results, fundraising, demographics and other data to come up with its results. Check out their work here.


It may not make the cut, but state Sen. Fran Millar has asked Gov. Nathan Deal to include his proposal to delay a 60 percent pay raise for DeKalb County commissioners as part of his call for a special session next week.


A pro-Lucy McBath mailer appears to have gotten under the skin of U.S. Rep. Karen Handel. The Roswell Republican's campaign blasted the Democratic challenger on Monday for "hid(ing) behind" outside groups "and the lies they are spreading about Karen Handel and her record."

The mailer in question was apparently paid for by the Center for Voter Information, a liberal group that seeks to "provide even-handed and unbiased information about candidates and their positions on issues." The mailer says the congresswoman does not support requiring health insurance to cover people with pre-existing conditions, citing Handel's support of the House GOP's Obamacare replacement bill.

Handel was not yet in Congress when the House voted to scrap Obamacare and replace it with the GOP's American Health Care Act in May 2017, but she was supportive of the effort. Ahead of the replacement vote and on the campaign trail this year, Democrats have argued the GOP's plan would lead to millions being stripped of health coverage, higher costs for seniors and harm to patients with pre-existing conditions, statements McBath echoed in a new television ad she unveiled last week.

The GOP has vehemently denied that it's against Obamacare's popular pre-existing conditions requirements, and House Republicans made a last-minute change to the House bill to allay concerns about such coverage losses. Handel's campaign on Monday also highlighted her support of a bill intended to protect such coverage even if the courts system strikes down the health care law.

"It's a shame Lucy and her lying friends from the outside groups can't tell the truth. Karen Handel has been direct and consistent on this issue," said Handel's Campaign Manager Mason Rainey in a statement that also unveiled a new anti-McBath site entitled "Lyin' Lucy McBath."


Less than a week after McBath accused Handel of being bought and paid for by the NRA, the gun rights group entered the Sixth District race – albeit modestly.

The group’s political victory fund spent roughly $1,300 yesterday on mailers, according to new campaign finance filings.

It's the first we've heard of the NRA getting involved in this year's race beyond donating roughly $6,000 to Handel's campaign committee. It could be a response to the heavy advertising footprint of Everytown for Gun Safety, the Michael Bloomberg-affiliated gun control group that's spent roughly $3.8 million this year on behalf of McBath, it's former spokeswoman.

The NRA endorsed Handel last year and spent roughly $61,000 in last year’s special election.


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