A Washington Post columnist called recently for Stacey Abrams and some other prominent Democrats to run for the U.S. Senate, calling it an “all-hands-on-deck moment.” Abrams, who lost a close battle in last year’s race for governor, chose not to pursue either of the two Senate seats that will be up for election next year Georgia. Her mind appears to be on a rematch with Gov. Brian Kemp in 2022. BOB ANDRES /BANDRES@AJC.COM

Capitol Recap: Abrams’ pass on Georgia Senate race draws some heat

Democrat Stacey Abrams recently drew criticism from a Washington Post columnist over her decision not to run for the U.S. Senate.

It’s a matter of priorities.

Abrams appears to be playing the long game. Dana Milbank — please keep in mind that he’s an opinion columnist — doesn’t think we have that long.

Milbank lumped Abrams in with a pair of other Democrats who are currently running for president who might have better luck with a Senate campaign: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and former Texas U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke.

He stressed that for the good of the country, in what he called “an all-hands-on-deck moment not just for Democrats but for American democracy,” that the three need to help take control of the Senate away from the Republican Party that has so strongly supported President Donald Trump.

“If the anti-Trump majority doesn’t prevail next year and resoundingly repudiate the hatred, isolation and drift toward autocracy, it won’t much matter what happens later,” Milbank wrote. “Abrams, Bullock and O’Rourke owe it to the country to end the reign of President Trump’s enablers in the Senate. …

“(Abrams) has said it would be ‘arrogant’ to think she’s the only Democrat who could win a Senate seat in Georgia. Yet it appears she’s holding out for a vice-presidential nomination. ‘I would be honored,’ she told (Boston’s) WBUR’s ‘On Point’ on Tuesday.”

Abrams could be hoping that the Democratic presidential nominee picks her as a running mate, although that’s a plan that depends on a multitude of variables given how many people are running for the White House. She might as well be saying “I would be honored” to win Powerball.

Most believe Abrams’ goal, for now, is to run once again for governor in 2022. She barely missed winning that job in 2018.

Why choose governor over senator?

Here’s one reason: It’s a better job.

The Georgia Constitution gives the governor the kind of power that has a lasting impact. Consider the case of Sonny Perdue. When he won election in 2002 to become the state’s first GOP governor in modern times, Republican had only a slice of the pie that is Georgia government. Since the end of Perdue’s second term in 2011, Republicans have pretty much owned the pie pan.

If you want to talk about lasting power, though, it’s hard to top what’s possible in another 2020 contest, control of the state Legislature.

The winners of that race will hold the crayons when it’s time to draw the new maps for redistricting following the 2020 census. That could mean 10 years of control of the state Legislature and a majority of Georgia’s congressional districts.

And that’s the campaign that has drawn Abrams’ interest. She’s working with Georgia’s Democratic Party to capture control of the state House.

She’s taking that fight, overall, to 20 states where her voting rights group Fair Fight will train staffers to combat threats of voter suppression.

A Beijing hubbub: Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue spent several days in Beijing meeting with China’s top trade negotiator and other government officials.

Perdue and fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines of Montana discussed “security concerns and trade negotiations” with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He and other officials, a Perdue spokeswoman said.

The visit — occurring just as the U.S. put in place new 15% tariffs on a range of Chinese goods and while China was filing a complaint about the duties with the World Trade Organization — was meant to show solidarity between the White House and Congress on Trump’s tactics in the trade war.

But not everybody knew what to make of it.

The Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs said the senators “may well be undercutting U.S. and China trade negotiations.”

He then got a little personal.

“The two senators would hardly make, at least in my opinion, ideal emissaries under any circumstance,” Dobbs said. “Because both have a significant history of outsourcing American jobs.”

Perdue, a former CEO and one of Trump’s closest allies in the Senate, quickly fell under fire on Twitter.

He had to explain that he was still firmly in the Trump camp, even though at times he has been critical of the tariffs. He still backs the president’s overall trade strategy.

Trump then came to the senators’ rescue, saying he approved of the trip to China.

“I knew about the meeting. I approved of the meeting,” Trump said. “All they did was say we really have bipartisan support.”

Dobbs then had to scramble.

“Correcting last night’s report on Senators Perdue and Daines meeting with China’s Vice Premier Liu on trade and security,” Dobbs wrote on Twitter. “President Trump approved the trip.”

He added that Daines denied having a part in sending Proctor & Gamble jobs to China in the 1990s.

Showing another side: Sonny Perdue, now serving as Trump’s secretary of agriculture, caught a little grief recently for a joke he told while visiting Wisconsin (“What do you call two farmers in a basement? A whine cellar.”).

Wisconsin was not fertile ground for that bit of stand-up. It leads the nation in farm bankruptcies.

Perdue presented a more somber side this past week when a Wisconsin television station aired a report on suicides among farmers.

“Sometimes you get to the end of the rope, and you don’t know where to go,” Perdue said. “I know some people are like that right now.”

The Department of Agriculture says it’s working to create the first federally funded program to help farmers in distress.

A vote of support: Count former Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox as a fan of the state’s recently purchased voting system.

In an op-ed for The Marietta Daily Journal, Cox drew a connection between the debate to buy the $107 million system and what played out while she was the state’s top election official when Georgia bought the electronic voting machines now being replaced.

The earlier purchase followed the presidential election in 2000 — the year of the hanging chad — that saw the loss of about 94,000 votes to a patchwork of voting devices used across Georgia.

Cox, a Democrat and now the dean of the law school at Mercer University, said she was “impressed” by the new system of 30,000 machines, a combination of touchscreens and printers that will produce paper ballots to be fed into scanners for counting. The new system, she wrote, offers the “extra security that comes with a paper ballot, while the ‘ballot-marking’ touch-screen computer will ensure ballots are marked correctly.”

“I’m proud that we led the nation in 2002 to correct the election problems we found in Georgia, and I’m equally pleased that we are here, again, ready to lead the nation in assuring that accurate and secure voting is still a top priority in our state,” Cox wrote. “Faith in our democracy depends on trust in our elections.”

Candidates, endorsements, etc.:

— Teresa Tomlinson now has a pair of big names in her corner. Early this past week, Andrew Young, the former mayor of Atlanta and onetime U.N. ambassador, endorsed Tomlinson’s bid for the Democratic nomination to run against Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue. A few days later, former Atlanta Braves slugger Hank Aaron also stepped up to the plate to support Tomlinson.

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