The Jolt: Will Democrats use a presidential debate to push into metro Atlanta suburbs?

News that a fifth Democratic presidential debate will take place here has set Georgia's political elite abuzz. MSNBC and the Washington Post will host it.

Eight candidates have qualified for the debate so far, according to the New York Times: Former Vice President Joe Biden; U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.; U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California; U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont; billionaire Tom Steyer; U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

The state’s party leaders, who have been pushing the idea, cited the Democratic National Committee decision as proof that Georgia will be a major player -- what with its two U.S. Senate races and two very hot U.S. House contests.

What Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Joe Biden advocate, said in September, after the Houston debate:

"When you look at what's at stake in Georgia — two Senate races — there aren't many opportunities like that. To have that opportunity in Georgia, it only makes sense that we bring this field of candidates to our state."

A location has yet to be announced. So here’s the question of the morning: If Democrats want to use this debate as a 2020 vehicle of conquest, do they hold the event in downtown Atlanta, conveniently close to the airport? Or do they hold it on their new frontier, somewhere in north metro Atlanta?

We scanned a few suburban sites:

-- The Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre has Straight No Chaser booked for Nov. 20, and so might be eliminated.

-- Infinite Energy Theater on Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth appears available. The Jonas Brothers appear there the night before.

-- Then there's the Byers Theatre at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, a venue that "features excellent sight lines, with seating for 1,070 on three levels including box seats. Superb acoustics, a full orchestra pit, and fly loft." The venue appears available on Nov. 20.

All are in traditionally Republican territories that have gone blue in the last two election cycles.


So far as we can tell, this will be the first Democratic presidential debate held in Atlanta since 1992, when Bill Clinton faced off against Bob Kerrey and Paul Tsongas. The Carter Center event was put on by WSB-TV and the Journal-Constitution. Click here for the archived C-SPAN video, which featured AJC veterans Cynthia Tucker and Dick Williams, and a young up-and-comer named Bill Nigut.

A Republican presidential debate was held in Atlanta in 1996, but it was missing U.S. Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, who would become the party’s nominee that year.


Two hundred years into its history, and 64 years after Rosa Parks was taken off a downtown bus, the city of Montgomery, Ala., on Tuesday elected Steven Reed as its first African-American mayor, the Montgomery Advertiser reports.


Our AJC colleague Meris Lutz reports that an African-American employee of the Cobb County Sheriff's Office has filed a racial discrimination suit alleging that he has been disciplined more harshly than his white colleagues. From the lawsuit:

Defendant assigned Mr. Coachman to work details that no similarly situated Deputy have had to perform, including cleaning showers, trash, dirty laundry and jail cells smeared in feces and old food without proper materials or equipment," the filing reads. "Rather than reinstate Mr. Coachman to a sworn deputy position like it had done to similarly-situated Caucasian officers following their P.O.S.T. recertification, Defendant continued to assign Mr. Coachman to less desirable work including detail picking up dirty trays and dirty laundry."

Keep in mind that Sheriff Neil Warren, a Republican, faces a tough re-election bid in 2020.


Republicans have announced plans to protest outside U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath's office in Sandy Springs at 11 a.m. today, citing her vote in support of an impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump. It's part of a larger campaign the Republican National Committee has dubbed "Stop the Madness."

The timing may raise some eyebrows, given that today is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and Sandy Springs has a strong Jewish population. But the Trump campaign is nonethless pushing its supporters to the event:

Meanwhile, McBath today announced she  will introduce H.R. 4618, the Medicare Hearing Act of 2019, intended to provide better coverage for hearing aids and services for seniors under Part B of the Medicare program.


Last week, Philip Singleton defeated fellow Republican Marcy Westmoreland Sakrison in a special election runoff for House District 71, a Coweta County-dominated seat.

Singleton attacked House Speaker David Ralston during the campaign. Sakrison accepted Ralston’s support. If you think that settled things between the speaker and the faction of the House GOP caucus that wants him gone, think again. Here’s the note that state Rep. Scot Turner, R-Holly Springs, sent to colleagues after Singleton’s victory on Oct. 1:

Dear Colleagues,

As I am sure many of you are doing this evening, I am examining the results of the race to replace David Stover and I am in awe.

First and foremost, I think it is important to note how much respect I have for Congressman Westmoreland and his service to our state and our country. By all accounts, he served us well as a solid conservative and he has earned that respect. His name and service should be honored at every opportunity.

Secondly, I have only had two conversations with Representative Elect Singleton, once when he called asking for advice, which I did not have much to give (he might even think our call was not at all helpful to him), and a second time, just now, to congratulate him on his landslide victory.

I intentionally stayed out of that race for a lot of reasons, chief among them because a colleague I admire and respect asked all of us to support Representative Elect Singleton's opponent. Besides, I am certain my own voice would have little to no weight with the voters of the 71st.

But I did, as many of you did, watch with great interest as a candidate who started out trying to remain neutral on the issue of Speaker Ralston realized the deck was stacked against him and could no longer remain silent about it. It is no secret that Representative Elect Singleton made Speaker Ralston's abuse of the legislative leave law a major issue during this campaign. 

And the voters rewarded him with a 58+% win over a candidate with all of the money she could use and a famous last name.

This should be a wakeup call for you. There is no amount of money that will save you from a challenger that makes your election a referendum on your support of Speaker Ralston. I say this not to spike the football, but because I care about having a conservative majority in the House of Representatives and it should be clear to you after tonight that Speaker Ralston is an albatross around our collective necks. 

If Speaker Ralston truly cared about you or our caucus, or caucus unity, or making sure we had a majority for years to come, he would step aside as Speaker and allow another to lead us.

I renew my call to you to ask Speaker Ralston to step aside before it is too late for our majority.


Scot Turner


Democrat Matt Lieberman said he has raised more than $250,000 in the race for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson's seat.

Lieberman, an entrepreneur who is the son of former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, said his cash haul shows that it’s a “winnable race.”

“A well funded campaign is critical to preventing Mitch McConnell from spending another two years as Majority Leader, and with the help of so many, we are on our way to doing just that. I am in this, ready to win this, and together I know that we will be successful.”

Lieberman became the first Democrat to announce a bid for Isakson’s seat last week, but he won’t be the last. It’s also not clear how quickly Lieberman raised the cash, and his camp didn’t immediately outline a time frame.


State Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, has made his interest in applying for the open U.S. Senate seat crystal clear, even though he hasn't submitted his resume yet. If he does end up seeking the seat, he had Gov. Brian Kemp's ear for a few hours last night, hosting a fundraiser for him at his Middle Georgia home.