The Jolt: The 3 topics avoided by Cagle and Kemp in Sunday’s debate

The two surviving candidates in the Republican contest for governor met for the final time on Sunday, still sparring over that secret recording and Russian probes of voter files in Georgia.

But as is often the case, that which was left unsaid was just important as the shouting and name-calling. Including:

— Stacey Abrams: Kemp made one passing reference to the Democratic nominee for governor, but otherwise, Abrams didn't exist in the heads of the two pugilists facing off in the studios of Channel 2 Action News. Republican purity, not November electability, was on their minds. Closely related to this was the total absence of any discussion of Medicaid expansion or the preservation of health care in rural Georgia — a quiet but very real concern within Georgia's business community and a subject that is probably Abrams' best chance in a general election, particularly if she faces Kemp.

— Donald Trump: Yes, there were Trump-like tactics. Cagle referred to his rival as "lyin' Brian." And Kemp one-upped him by referring to the lieutenant governor as "Pinocchio 2.0." But neither candidate made loyalty to President Trump a litmus test, as their Twitter feeds and stump speeches might have suggested. That could be explained by last week's AJC/Channel 2 poll that showed Cagle and Kemp splitting those voters who put a high value on fealty to Trump. Then, too, we have a president who — as of this writing — is sitting down with Russia head of state Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. And who knows just what will come out of that meeting.

— 'Religious liberty' legislation: Just before the 30-minute break, the AJC Insider on the debate panel noted that CNBC, which had once named Georgia the top state in which to do business, now had the state ranked at No. 7. Concerns over legislation to give legal protection to businesses that refuse to engage with same-sex couples was one factor in the lower ranking. Both candidates ducked the topic — another sign of a deep Georgia GOP split between social and fiscal conservatives.


Some high-dollar donors have helped the Democratic Party of Georgia restock its campaign coffers.

Recently-released financial records show the party now sports nearly $1.6 million in cash to spend on Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor and the rest of the ticket in the months ahead.

That’s roughly double the amount it had in its account at the same time during the 2014 primary.

The party has rebuilt its campaign coffers thanks partly to wealthy out-of-state donors. Billionaire George Soros recently chipped in $1 million, and philanthropist Quinn Delaney added another $100,000.

That's far higher than the Georgia GOP, which reported about $500,000 in cash in its account. That includes more than $70,000 in transfers from national Republican groups.


A pro-Casey Cagle outside group has already spent nearly $2 million on ads boosting his campaign for governor. Now Brian Kemp is getting some third-party support. A group called "A Better Georgia PAC" — not to be confused with Better Georgia, the Democratic-leaning guerilla group — has reserved about $200,000 of airtime for the secretary of state.


In the aftermath of last week's NATO meeting, and in advance of today's U.S.-Russia summit, former Georgia senator Sam Nunn has put his name to some rare public criticism of President Donald Trump. From an op-ed in The Hill newspaper, written with Ernest Moniz, the former energy secretary who is now Nunn's co-chair on the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative:

The "Trump hurricane" hit Brussels this week. There is a place for frank exchanges and even public pressure with friends and allies. But the President's public castigating of Germany as being "totally controlled by Russia" is inappropriate treatment of a valued ally. Nor is it likely to generate the necessary cooperation and trust from key allies and NATO to reengage with Russia in our collective duty to reduce nuclear dangers.This latest display of bullying our friends follows soon after disputes between the Trump administration and European allies over trade, as well as the president's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris climate change accords. The perception of a strong alliance that firmly backs the United States has been severely challenged weakening NATO and undercutting U.S. leadership. Unfortunately, this self-inflicted damage weakens President Trump's position when he sits down with President Putin in Helsinki, where the stakes for the security of America and the world are high.


U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, is mulling a run to lead an influential conservative group on Capitol Hill. The Hill newspaper reports that the sophomore congressman is one of a handful of Republicans weighing a bid to chair the Republican Study Committee next year. The caucus is the largest on Capitol Hill, counting roughly two-thirds of the House GOP -- and nine of Georgia's 10 Republicans -- among its members.

The Georgia delegation has been active in the policy group's leadership in recent years. Tom Price led the RSC from 2009 to 2010, and Rob Woodall briefly took over the job in 2014 after chairman Steve Scalise stepped down to secure a spot in the party leadership. Ranger Republican Tom Graves had initially been seen as a favorite to lead the group in 2012 -- the then-second term lawmaker had been endorsed by the RSC's founders and past chairmen -- but was ultimately outmaneuvered by Scalise that year.

The RSC once represented the House GOP's most conservative flank, but in recent years has been edged out by the Freedom Caucus. There is some overlap between the two groups -- Georgia's Jody Hice is a member of both. Loudermilk for a time was also a double member, but he quietly left the Freedom Caucus last year, saying he wanted to focus on his position on the RSC's steering committee. He told the Hill that he could be a bridge between the two groups.


Add former Gov. Sonny Perdue to the parade of Georgia officials who were frustrated by the Supreme Court's recent punt on the state's water wars case with Florida. The agriculture secretary told reporters Friday that he "was hoping the Supreme Court would have made a more definitive ruling" when it issued its opinion last month. But following a swing through farm country with his cousin, U.S. Sen. David Perdue, the former governor said the court's ruling won't necessarily be a negative one for Georgia at the end of the day. Perdue via the Macon Telegraph:

"I believe Georgia has the data and the facts to demonstrate that the water use has been appropriate and been used appropriately, agriculturally through the state and from pecans to other crops. And I think we can demonstrate that to the special master."

In their 5-4 ruling last month, the Supreme Court justices directed their expert judge, "special master" Ralph Lancaster Jr., to reexamine Florida's case against Georgia rather than dismissing it outright. The high court's decision extends the states' pricey legal battle, but the timeline moving forward is unclear.


David Kim, a Democrat on the ballot in next week's Seventh District runoff, circulated a video on social media over the weekend that showed the cops being called on two African-American students who were canvassing for his campaign in Snellville. CBS46 identified one of the students as Eli Sabur, a Morehouse College student. In the video, Sabur counts three police cars responding to the call.

“When I repeatedly hear of incidents like this, it deeply saddens me that this has become a running commentary of my campaign,” Kim said. “Political door knocking is not solicitation. It is perfectly legal and an expression of democracy at its finest. We know this happens all the time- the police are called more on canvassers of color - regardless of whose campaign it is.”