The Jolt: ‘When it comes to mental health, the attacks are no laughing matter’

June 6, 2019 Gwinnett County- State Senator Renee Unterman addresses the crowd during the announcement of her congressional bid on Thursday, June 6, 2019 in Buford, Georgia. Unterman will campaign to represent Georgia's seventh congressional district, and is running as a pro-life Republican. She strongly supported the passage of Georgia's heartbeat bill.(Christina Matacotta/christina.matacotta@ajc.com)
Caption
June 6, 2019 Gwinnett County- State Senator Renee Unterman addresses the crowd during the announcement of her congressional bid on Thursday, June 6, 2019 in Buford, Georgia. Unterman will campaign to represent Georgia's seventh congressional district, and is running as a pro-life Republican. She strongly supported the passage of Georgia's heartbeat bill.(Christina Matacotta/christina.matacotta@ajc.com)

Credit: Christina Matacotta

Credit: Christina Matacotta

If it weren't being done in the middle of a political campaign, we might call it a case of hostile stalking.

Last month, we told you of an anonymous mailer sent to GOP voters in Gwinnett and Forsyth counties. It targeted Renee Unterman, the state senator and Republican candidate in the Seventh District congressional race.

"Why the bimbo?" the headline asked, alleging she had "lost her looks" and indulged in Botox injections.

On Wednesday afternoon, Unterman let her supporters know that another anonymous mailer had surfaced, this one featuring a Photoshopped image of the candidate in a straitjacket. It alleges acts of family violence and threats of murder-suicide.

In her note to supporters, Unterman made reference to her bitter 2005 divorce from Dr. Marc Unterman. During the proceedings, the soon-to-be ex-husband accused Renee Unterman of striking him and their 14-year-old daughter, and alleged that she had threatened to end their marriage in murder and suicide. No criminal charges were filed.

Unterman has been open about her battles with depression. From her note to supporters:

"Years ago, I went through a tumultuous, painful divorce. Even though I was trapped in a manipulative, abusive relationship, I -- like so many women -- tried to keep my family together. The breakup of my marriage destroyed me. I suffered deep depression, an issue that I had faced at different points in my life. There were times when I thought I couldn't go on, and there were actions that I look back on now and know were desperate cries for help.

"Luckily, I was able to get help. Getting back to some sense of normal was a process, not a flip of a switch. But through it all, I continued to serve. I've found that helping others contributes greatly to the recovery process.

…[T]wisting someone's record is part of politics. When it comes to mental health, the attacks are no laughing matter."

Unterman is one of seven candidates in the GOP scrum for the nomination. Her chief rival is Rich McCormick, an emergency room physician. His campaign denies sending out the mailer, and indeed a contact for the Unterman campaign with whom we touched base didn’t accuse McCormick’s operation of direct involvement.

Republicans and Democrats are rallying to the side of a woman who has been a longtime presence on the Gwinnett County political scene. This was the message from Republican Karen Handel, a Sixth District candidate seeking a return to Congress:

"This attack is shockingly out of bounds. For too long, disgusting personal attacks — especially against women — have been met with abject silence or a shrug of acceptance that it's 'just part of politics.' How low is too low?"

State Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, did battle with Unterman in 2016 over legislation to require law enforcement agencies to process thousands of rape kits that had been in storage.

"This is a shameful ad," he Tweeted last night.

In fact, Republicans might want to look past June 9 and consider how this kind of messaging will reverberate in a November general election, when the GOP may be scrounging for every female voter it can find.

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Already posted: Gov. Brian Kemp has indicated he'll extend coronavirus restrictions on businesses and restaurants that are set to soon expire, and he could also outline new guidelines that allow bars, nightclubs and live performance venues to reopen.

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Over at Georgia Health News, Andy Miller points out that Milledgeville has surfaced as a national coronavirus hotspot -- "having the highest COVID-19 death rate among metro areas in the nation over the past two weeks." The stats are drawn from a New York Times data analysis.

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Stacey Abrams might be mounting a remarkably public campaign to be Democratic presidential presumptive Joe Biden's running-mate, but her operation has also stayed remarkably quiet about whether she's being vetted by the Biden camp.

The former gubernatorial candidate makes her case for Veep in just about every media interview. But she and her aides are tight-lipped over whether she’s advanced to a round of intense screening from the campaign.

That’s a contrast to some of her possible rivals.

U.S. Rep. Val Demings' camp leaked that she's "definitely" on the shortlist, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also confirmed she had been contacted by Biden's operation.

U.S. Sens. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have also been identified in news reports as either being contacted or in the pipeline.

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In the contest for U.S. Senate race No. 2, Democrat Raphael Warnock took a shot at U.S. Rep. Doug Collins late Wednesday, seizing on a YouTube interview in which Collins remarked that "too many times we paint the lobbyists brush with too big a stroke."

“There’s 535 members of Congress, there’s 435 and 100 Senators. We cannot be experts on everything,” the Gainesville congressman added.

The pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church said he couldn’t “disagree more” with Collins. “We’ve got to get government listening to regular Georgians, not the lobbyists.”

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But this tidbit on the Rev. Raphael Warnock might be more interesting. From Vanity Fair:

"I know him pretty well. He can bring the thunder. He's got some charisma, and he's got some promise," the Reverend Al Sharpton says. "But he's not an activist like me. If I was Raphael, I would have been going to Brunswick and become part of the Arbery protests. I've been doing more from New York than he's been doing down there. Issues like that would drive turnout for him. I don't think he can afford to play it safe."

Warnock is indeed no Sharpton when it comes to theatrics, though he has been arrested in two protests, both involving Republican attempts to weaken health care coverage. And on Mother's Day weekend, Warnock traveled to Brunswick and met with Arbery's father and uncles. The fact that Warnock has not publicized those conversations is emblematic of the tricky line he is trying to walk between his longtime role as a comforting pastor and his new identity as a candidate fighting for public office at an especially fraught moment.

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On that same note, Democrat Jon Ossoff, seeking the nomination to challenge GOP incumbent David Perdue, incorporated the Ahmaud Arbery slaying into a TV campaign. Earlier, his rival Sarah Riggs Amico also invoked Arbery's death in her ad.

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is among seven local leaders who will testify before a U.S. House committee on Friday.

Appearing by video before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, Bottoms and the other mayors will address the need of local governments for additional federal money in order to stabilize their operations.

House Democrats say the HEROES Act approved earlier this month provides the blueprint for another round of COVID-19 stimulus, but the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate is unlikely to take the legislation up in its current form and has not appeared to be in any rush to pass another coronavirus bill.

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Over at Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball, Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz takes a look at how the presidential contest is shaping up in critical swing states that gave the electoral college advantage to Donald Trump in 2016. A taste:

[B]ased on recent polling, Joe Biden is substantially outperforming both Hillary Clinton's actual vote margin and her final polling margin in these 13 states. Biden is currently leading Clinton in all 13 states by margins ranging from 0.3 points in Georgia to 17 points in Colorado. On average, Biden is running more than six points ahead of Clinton's 2016 margin in the polls.

Of course, the election is still more than five months away and a lot could change between now and November. The recent polls in several states including Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, show a very tight race. However, if these polls turn out to accurately predict the final results, Biden would win all 163 electoral votes from these 13 states with the possible exception of one electoral vote from the Second Congressional District of Maine.

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The National Republican Congressional Committee has promoted Karen Handel to its "Young Guns" program, which indicates she "met a series of rigorous goals" and is worthy of additional support from Republicans in the U.S. House.

Handel is one of five Republicans seeking the party’s nomination to the Sixth District congressional seat now held by U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta. But Handel has been endorsed by the leadership of House Republicans in Washington.

Three more congressional seats are open and have crowded GOP primaries. The NRCC has not elevated any candidates in those races to Young Guns status.

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