An attendee inspects a handgun during the NRA annual meeting in Dallas, Texas, last week. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The Jolt: Two gun groups, two endorsements in Georgia’s GOP race for governor

Georgia’s OK Corral of a Republican primary for governor became even more so on Monday, with GeorgiaCarry.org’s endorsement of Brian Kemp.

While it was at it, the organization, which fancies itself an even more strident version of the National Rifle Association, also savaged the campaign of Hunter Hill with a rare anti-endorsement.

Which means two Republican candidates for governor will be carrying stamps of approval from two separate gun groups going into the final two weeks of the campaign. Casey Cagle was endorsed weeks ago by the NRA, after the lieutenant governor led the effort to punish Delta Air Lines for its criticism of the NRA’s response to a high school massacre in Florida.

From the GeorgiaCarry note sent to members:

“We believe that Brian, as a lifelong supporter of our Second Amendment rights and a life member of GeorgiaCarry.Org will protect and defend the Constitution of the State of Georgia and the United States on all rights, not just a few of them.”

Kemp, you’ll recall, has pledged to back a Fourth of July sales tax holiday on guns and ammunition in the wake of the uproar over the Parkland, Fla., killings. The secretary of state is currently airing an ad that shows him directing a shotgun toward a young man – an actor, we’re told – showing interest in one of his daughters.

On its website, GeorgiaCarry has actually devoted more space to its damnation of Hill, a former state senator from Atlanta who appears to be in a battle with Kemp for a primary runoff position against Cagle.

The group told its members it would “strongly oppose” his candidacy.

The former state senator alienated some Second Amendment advocates when he said he would support raising the minimum age to buy assault rifles from 18 to 21 after the mass shootings at the Florida high school. He quickly backtracked, saying he misspoke, and trumped his “A” rating with the NRA.

“Sorry, but true Second Amendment supporters do not make those types of mistakes,” the gun group’s website states. However, GeorgiaCarry appears to place more weight on Hill’s efforts to dilute legislation backed by the organization when he was in the Senate.

Read more: Politics may be shifting on guns, but Georgia GOP base is unmoved 

***

On the Democratic side of the race for governor, you know that Stacey Evans has a 30-second spot accusing Stacey Abrams, the former House minority leader, of an unholy collaboration with Gov. Nathan Deal in 2011 – over a bill that trimmed HOPE scholarships.

It may be having an effect. We received some apparently coordinated pushback on Monday from Abrams’ allies. State Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, sent us a note that included this:

“Evans’ accusation casts a pretty wide net and implicitly damns other House Caucus Democrats as well. Calvin Smyre co-sponsored the original version of the compromise that was reached on HOPE – was he selling out? “

State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, reached out to say much the same thing. The compromise struck by Abrams did trim the college scholarship program, Williams said, but it was done to save money that went to the state’s pre-k program.

“The pre-k program was vital to poor and African-American children. It was a tough decision to make. But she made the decision with our complete support, because we saw the rationale,” Williams said. “Because without early education, you’re dead anyhow. And we couldn’t have both. It became obvious. We chose to make a bad bill better by maintaining the pre-k funding.”

Williams said he respects Evans, but said her suggestion that Abrams had sold out was “asinine.”

But the fact that Evans, a former state lawmaker herself, has drawn a good deal of support from her former state Capitol colleagues indicates that Abrams’ moves didn’t always go down well with her caucus – which is largely African-American.

Williams explained: “African-Americans are like most people. You build up a lot of jealousy when you’re a strong leader,” he said. “Some of us wonder, ‘Why aren’t I that smart. Since I’m not, I’ll just beat up on her.’”

***

Endorsements and new videos are rolling in with breakneck speed:

-- U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday endorsed Republican Hunter Hill’s campaign for governor. Cruz, a Texas Republican who ran for president in 2016, called Hill a “conservative of conviction.” Expect Cruz to surface on Hill’s campaign literature -- with maybe a personal visit or two later this month. 

-- The Georgia Academy of Family Physicians PAC on Monday announced two endorsements in the race for governor: Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Casey Cagle. From the press release:

While coming from dramatically different political philosophies, both Ms. Abrams and Mr. Cagle support Medicaid waivers to cover more Georgians, state funding of family medicine residency programs and Medicare payment parity for family physicians who take care of Medicaid patients.

-- Former state Sen. Rick Jeffares, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, is about to launch a TV ad that appears designed to take him through the May 22 primary. It’s a feel-good that spotlight his family’s decision to take in a young Jamaican kid. Watch it here:

Jeffares (pronounced Jeffreys) has locked up support from many of his GOP colleagues in the state Senate. Among them are Burt Jones, Blake Tillery, Brandon Beach, Matt Brass, Steve Gooch, Lindsey Tippins Brian Strickland, John Albers, John F. Kennedy and John Albers. They are backing their ex-colleague over David Shafer, a former pro tem who is also running for the seat.

-- State Sen. David Shafer, a rival to Jeffares in the race for lieutenant governor, offered his own bit of news: Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, who was twice elected statewide, is backing his bid.

-- The third GOP candidate in the race for lieutenant governor, former state Rep. Geoff Duncan, has released a TV ad focusing on his baseball pedigree. It features him standing on a mound with a pledge to “play hardball” on conservative priorities:

-- Clay Tippins, a Republican candidate for governor, unveiled his closing TV spot this morning. The title: “It Matters.”

***

Andy Miller of Georgia Health News has a fine appreciation of Charles “Chuck’’ Ware, a longtime, cowboy-hatted lobbyist for good causes at the state Capitol. Ware passed away recently at age 88.

***

This caught our attention: The Working Families Party sent an email to supporters for a “day of action” on Saturday to support Democrat Stacey Abrams that included the nonprofit voter registration group she founded. The project’s director, Nse Ufot, said this was made in error and that the group does not endorse in political races. She said she reached out to the event’s organizers, who planned a correction. 

***

In Washington, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was on Capitol Hill last night meeting with the House GOP’s vote counters as they prepared to whip their colleagues on the new farm bill. The massive legislation, which would guide Perdue’s Department of Agriculture for the next five years, has two major fault lines at the moment. Nearly all Democrats plan to vote against it because it would impose new work requirements on food stamp recipients

That means GOP leaders (and Perdue, who backs the bill), need to rely on only Republican votes to move the measure through the chamber. That’s where things are getting tricky. Some conservative groups, including Heritage Action for America, are pushing for an overhaul of crop insurance and crop subsidies under the bill. GOP leaders are unlikely to grant those wishes, given the programs’ deep popularity in the Midwest. 

The farm bill is just one of several issues on Perdue’s plate these days that will put the former Georgia governor’s political muscle to the test in Washington. 

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