September 19, 2018 Atlanta - Republican nominee for Governor, Brian Kemp, talks with Georgia House Speaker Pro-Tem, Rep. Jan Jones after a press conference to unveil school safety plan at Brian Kemp campaign headquarters in Buckhead on Wednesday, September 19, 2018. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Jolt: The ranking GOP woman in the state Capitol applies for U.S. Senate job

Two more prominent Republicans joined the swelling competition for Gov. Brian Kemp’s appointment to the Senate: State Rep. Chuck Efstration of Dacula, a former Kemp aide who chairs an influential House committee, and Speaker pro tem Jan Jones of Milton.

Efstration chairs one of two House judiciary committees, but Jones has attracted the lion’s share of attention, and for good reason. She’s the most powerful woman ever to sit in the state Legislature, and the most powerful Republican woman in the Capitol as well. Our AJC colleague Maya Prabhu has details here.

Jones, a former journalist-turned-marketing executive, has represented a slice of Alpharetta-based suburbia since 2002, and could hope to Republicans desperate to regain traction with college-educated women in the north metro Atlanta suburbs. 

As she’s risen through the House GOP ranks, Jones has also carved out a conservative track record. She’s sponsored measures to crack down on drug trafficking, create a state charter school system and establish the city of Milton.

She also sponsored the legislation in 2014 that made it impossible for Gov. Nathan Deal to expand Medicaid without the Legislature’s approval. She also was a vocal supporter of the strict new anti-abortion law that passed this year.

While some Republicans snicker that she could not survive a competitive primary -- she’s rarely faced determined opposition in her establishment-friendly district -- Kemp’s blessing could scare away the threat of a conservative challenge.

At this point, most handicappers would have to name Jones and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, as the top competitors for the U.S. Senate spot.

Collins has strong connections to President Donald Trump, given his position as the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. Jones has stronger connections to Kemp.

Both Collins and Jones are close to House Speaker David Ralston. The latter received this bouquet from the speaker on Monday:

“Speaker Pro Tem Jones is a trusted leader who has earned the respect of colleagues on both sides of the aisle. She has a proven record of fighting for Georgia values, particularly improving educational opportunities for young people.”

***

Over at Newsmax.com, a conservative website, columnist John Gizzi has named John Bardis as a dark horse in the sweepstakes to replace U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. Bardis, a local entrepreneur, resigned last year as assistant secretary of Health and Human Services.

In 2016, Bardis sold Alpharetta-based MedAssets for $2.7 billion, Gizzi notes. Which means he could be a self-funder if necessary.

***

On the same front, the resignation of U.S. Rep. Christopher Collins, R-N.Y., could bode ill for former Georgia congressman Tom Price, who has also applied for Johnny Isakson’s seat in the U.S. Senate.

Collins is expected to plead guilty today to felony charges of insider trading, after allegedly telling his son to dump stock in Innate Immunotheraputics after learning the company’s only drug failed a clinical trial.

Four fellow congressmen also bought Innate stock at a steep discount -- including then-U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Roswell, who later served as President Donald Trump’s health secretary. 

Price has said he learned of the company from Collins but only decided to invest after reading more about the firm. Should Price be appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp, the link between Price and Collins would give Democrats hungry to flip the seat an easy line of attack

***

We told you that on Sunday, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, was on Fox News to defend President Donald Trump against the impeachment inquiry that has sprung up around his attempts to get the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.

Among Collins’ counter-charges was this:

“The whistle-blower rules, especially in the intelligence committee, seem to have been changed. And they’ve been changed from requiring and demanding a first-hand account or actual knowledge – first-hand knowledge – of the abuse.”

On Monday, the office of the intelligence community’s inspector general declared that Collins’ assertion -- also made by plenty of others on Monday, including the president -- was incorrect. From the press release:

The Disclosure of Urgent Concern form the Complainant submitted on August 12, 2019 is the same form the ICIG has had in place since May 24, 2018, which went into effect before Inspector General Atkinson entered on duty as the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community on May 29, 2018, following his swearing in as the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community on May 17, 2018.

Although the form requests information about whether the Complainant possesses first-hand knowledge about the matter about which he or she is lodging the complaint, there is no such requirement set forth in the statute.

In fact, by law the Complainant – or any individual in the Intelligence Community who wants to report information with respect to an urgent concern to the congressional intelligence committees – need not possess first-hand information in order to file a complaint or information with respect to an urgent concern.

The ICIG cannot add conditions to the filing of an urgent concern that do not exist in law. Since Inspector General Atkinson entered on duty as the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community, the ICIG has not rejected the filing of an alleged urgent concern due to a whistleblower’s lack of first-hand knowledge of the allegations.

The Complainant on the form he or she submitted on August 12, 2019 in fact checked two relevant boxes: The first box stated that, “I have personal and/or direct knowledge of events or records involved”; and the second box stated that, “Other employees have told me about events or records involved.”

The IG’s office offered Collins and his colleagues an out -- acknowledging that forms and other information provided to potential whistleblowers “could be read – incorrectly – as suggesting that whistleblowers must possess first-hand information in order to file an urgent concern complaint with the congressional intelligence committees.”

***

On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill that permits college athletes in his state to get paid for their name, image and likeness through endorsement deals, sponsorships, and autograph signings. The legislation is a distinct challenge to the NCAA and its insistence upon treating college athletes as unpaid amateurs.

In a pair of Tweets last night, former University of Georgia great Herschel Walker defended the status quo. First with this:

“I disagree with the [governor] of California signing the bill that allows scholarship NCAA athletes to get paid. There’s a reason it’s called amateur sports... The school is paying for your degree. I do believe all scholarship athletes should [receive] a monthly fee.”

And then with this:

Wouldn’t doing it the governors way create division within the team and division within the different sports on campus? We already have enough division in this country, let’s at least get this right!

***

ICYMI: The race to replace the retiring Robert Benham on the state Supreme Court has been further jumbled by the decision by Alcovy Circuit (Newton and Walton counties) Superior Court Judge Horace Johnson to enter the nonpartisan contest. The contest already includes a former Democratic congressman (John Barrow), an ex-Republican state legislator (Beth Beskin) and a sitting appellate court judge (Sara Doyle).

Johnson is the only African-American currently in the contest to succeed Behnam, who became the first black member of the state Supreme Court in 1989.

***

Also ICYMI: Our AJC colleague James Salzer reports that, after getting little information on the subject during hearings last week, the state House and Senate are asking state agencies to turn over the unedited plans they submitted to the Kemp administration to meet the governor’s demand for 4% budget cuts this year and 6% next year.

It’s the General Assembly’s latest bid to get a clear picture of how state agencies will deal with Gov. Brian Kemp’s call to reduce spending.

***

The crowded race for Rob Woodall’s Seventh District congressional seat is shrinking ever so slightly. 

Democrat Marqus Cole, a political newbie who was the first candidate to declare his candidacy back in January, filed paperwork to dissolve his fundraising committee Monday evening, and he later confirmed to one of your Insiders that he’s suspending his campaign. 

The Snellville lawyer struggled to raise money and cut a clear path for himself in a noisy Democratic primary that includes two state legislators, a former county commission chairman and Georgia State University academic Carolyn Bourdeaux, last year’s runner-up in the Gwinnett and Forsyth-based district. 

***

The office of Gov. Brian Kemp is putting together health care “waiver” proposals for Georgia Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act market that have the potential to impact health coverage for thousands of Georgians.

Tuesday is the day they’re scheduled to pick a plan, according to a timetable laid out months ago. But a deadline set by the governor can be changed by the governor.

From Kemp spokesman Cody Hall: “We are ahead of schedule, and look forward to submitting the proposal to our federal partners before the end of the year.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X