U.S. Rep. John Lewis, center, greets audience members in the Atlanta school board audience before the school board's Sept. 3, 2019, meeting. VANESSA McCRAY/AJC
Photo: Pelfrey, James (CMG-Atlanta)
Photo: Pelfrey, James (CMG-Atlanta)

The Jolt: The VIP effort to keep Atlanta’s school superintendent

The Atlanta school board will meet today to discuss Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s future. The internal clash over extending her contract has resulted in some surprising battle lines drawn in recent weeks.

Our AJC colleague Vanessa McCray reports that an array of political leaders has been mustered behind the effort to keep Carstarphen. They include U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who turned up at a school board meeting last week to make his point, and a host of others who signed a petition supporting her, including: Former Gov. Roy Barnes, ex-gubernatorial nominee Jason Carter, and former mayors Shirley Franklin and Andrew Young.

Carstarphen is also said to have hired Barnes to serve as her attorney during the negotiations. The superintendent has said she wants to stick with the 52,000-student school system, and has noted gains in graduation rates and fundraising successes. 

Her opponents, including three members who sided against extending her contract in a previous vote, have expressed concerns about her financial stewardship and think too much emphasis has been placed on charter schools. 

One powerful figure to watch is Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who has stayed publicly neutral in the fight but has clashed repeatedly with the superintendent.

One hint from McCray’s piece is contained in the fact that the school board’s law firm is seeking out a publicist:

[Board chairman Jason] Esteves said the district’s law firm recommended seeking assistance from a public relations company “to help us communicate the will of the board.” 

That implies that something is about to happen that will require explaining. Carstarphen’s contract runs through June 30, 2020. Renewal will require a positive board action. Silence would amount to a pocket veto of her leadership.

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Over the weekend, former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford announced that he’ll join two other GOP rebels and mount a primary challenge against President Donald Trump.

However, Republican officials in three states -- including South Carolina -- said they won’t bother with GOP nominating contests next year. All delegates will be committed to President Donald Trump. Kansas and Nevada are the other two states.

Georgia won’t be joining the trio. State GOP officials say they’re planning on holding the primary and won’t seek a legislative change to give them an option to eliminate the contest.

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Sunday’s print column explored the increasing number of retail chains discouraging their customers from carrying guns in their stores. U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, whose name has emerged as a perceived favorite to be appointed to Johnny Isakson’s Senate seat, is skeptical of corporate America’s move toward gun control.

“They are looking for a solution that is not going to come in what they are asking for,” the Republican said on Fox News. Collins said he respects private businesses making their own decisions but warned about unintended consequences. “In fact, it could actually make things worse if people are not able to carry in those areas, people who are criminally minded will know this.”

Worth noting: Collins didn’t call out Walmart by name. The discount chain, which is leading the retail action, is a significant player in Georgia politics.

Collins is the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, which tomorrow is set to advance a half-dozen gun control bills in response to last month’s mass shootings. That includes a federal “red flag” measure that would empower judges to order the seizure of weapons from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

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Earlier this morning, we brought you news that Gov. Brian Kemp has tapped a group of bipartisan lawmakers to a Census committee charged with helping to promote the once-every-decade headcount of the U.S. population.

We’re told by Kemp officials that the governor’s office reached out to his arch-rival, Democrat Stacey Abrams, to join the committee. 

Her camp suggested someone else: Jeanine Abrams McLean, the program director of Fair Count, a group Abrams launced which focuses on minorities, non-English speakers, renters and others who are more likely to be skipped in the count. 

Read the story here.

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At a town hall meeting in Sandy Springs on Sunday, U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, said she’s ignoring the “chatter” about her running for the U.S. Senate that will be vacated at the end of the year by Johnny Isakson. Translation: She’s considering it, but not ready to talk about it.

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The Newnan Times-Herald is wondering whether a mysterious flood of robo-calls might have helped Republican Phillip Singleton take the top spot in last Tuesday’s special election for state House District 71. Another Republican, Marcy Sakrison, was the target but still made it into the Oct. 1 runoff. From the newspaper:

The call claims to be from a “John Anderson” of an organization that’s title ends in "Alliance for MARTA Access,” which he says is "the premier group for encouraging MARTA growth in the suburban Metro-area."

“Anderson” says he is calling on behalf of his friend Marcy Sakrison and that his organization is proud of endorse her “for her groundbreaking pledge to help extend the MARTA rail system from downtown Atlanta to Coweta County.”

Point of clarification here: MARTA’s bylaws don’t permit it to operate in Coweta County. Singleton says he had nothing to do with the robo-calls. Sakrison isn’t buying it.

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Our AJC colleague Kristal Dixon reports that Tania Robinson, a small business owner and community leader, will mount a primary challenge to state Sen. Horacena Tate, D-Atlanta, who was first elected to the chamber in 1998. Senate District 38 covers portions of Cobb and Fulton counties.

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Our WSB Radio colleague Jamie Dupree points us to the Tuesday canary in a North Carolina coal mine:

In a last-minute show of support, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will both go to the Tar Heel State on Monday, trying to rally Republicans to victory in a special election for a U.S. House seat, where an initial GOP victory in 2018 was overturned after investigators found evidence of absentee ballot election fraud by Republicans.

It's the second time in the last three months that President Trump has held a campaign rally in North Carolina, as GOP leaders try to push Republican Dan Bishop over the finish line against Democrat Dan McCready.

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In a Friday post on climate change, U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, voiced support for taxing carbon emissions, an idea once embraced by some in the GOP as a market-based approach to tackling global warming. “I believe that putting a price on carbon could be an effective way to both reduce carbon emissions and encourage innovation, but only in exchange for removing existing burdensome regulations that inhibit innovation and growth,” Woodall posted on Facebook after meeting with a climate-related group.

There’s only so much Woodall can do, given his impending retirement, but his position is a notable one for a Capitol Hill Republican. Woodall is a disciple of the Fair Tax, which seeks to replace federal personal and corporate income taxes with a national retail sales tax. We’re told he sees a carbon tax, coupled with regulatory cuts, as a similar tax on consumption.

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As the weekend began, an Illinois judge has ruled the operator of a suburban Chicago medical equipment cleaning plant its neighbors say emit cancer-causing fumes can reopen the facility, the Associated Press reports:

DuPage County Circuit Judge Paul Fullerton on Friday approved an agreement reached in July between Sterigenics, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and State’s Attorney Robert Berlin.

The agreement will allow Oak Brook-based Sterigenics to reopen the Willowbrook plant after additional emission capture and control equipment is installed. In February, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency shut down the plant after air quality monitoring spikes of ethylene oxide in surrounding neighborhoods.

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And this Reuters piece recounts the experience of jail monitor Steven Rosenberg, hired to examine Chatham County jail’s healthcare services after a string of deaths. A taste:

In late December, Rosenberg pressed CorrectHealth and Quick Rx, the jail’s pharmacy operator, to open their books for inspection; his firm was hired to assess the company’s compliance with the contract and tally penalties for shortcomings. Before the day was out, the county sheriff barred Rosenberg from the detention center.

Both companies were politically connected in Savannah. CorrectHealth, and its president’s wife, had donated $5,000 to the election campaign of Chatham County Sheriff John Wilcher. CorrectHealth also had hired a state senator to run the jail’s dental clinic. And pharmacy operator Quick Rx was owned by a powerful member of the Georgia House of Representatives.

The article identifies the two Savannah lawmakers as state Sen. Lester Jackson, a Democrat, and state Rep. Ron Stephens, a Republican.

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