Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg, shown speaking earlier this year at the African American Leadership Council Summit in Atlanta, appears to be having trouble connecting with black voters. An African American pastor in Atlanta pastor said nominating a gay man for president might hurt Democrats’ chances of drawing moderate voters in next year’s election. Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

Capitol Recap: Mayor Pete could test Democratic unity

Something to watch as this presidential campaign cycle plays out is whether cracks within the Democratic Party turn into chasms.

Consider Pete Buttigieg a stress test.

Will his sexual orientation drive a wedge between various components in the left’s coalition?

A key component, perhaps the most important component, for any Democrat trying to reach the White House is African American voters.

That could be a problem for Buttigieg.

The New York Times recently went to South Carolina, where it found that the gay mayor of South Bend, Ind., is having a difficult time connecting with black voters.

As the first primary state with a significant population of African Americans, South Carolina represents a key test for Buttigieg and any other Democratic candidate hoping to make gains with black voters. Georgia could serve as another testing ground when its primary is held March 24.

Buttigieg’s status as a gay man is a concern among older voters, U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat and the highest-ranking African American in Congress, recently told CNN. (U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, another member of the wide field of Democratic presidential contenders, quickly attempted to shoot down what she called “a trope” that black people are more homophobic than other groups, calling it “just nonsense.”)

A prominent African American pastor in Atlanta, Bishop Paul S. Morton Sr., hewed closely to the path set out by Clyburn. He said nominating a gay man is too big a gamble when Democrats will need the moderate vote to defeat Republican President Donald Trump.

On Twitter, the founder of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship wrote that “it is definitely not the time 4 POTUS 2b a man with his husband up there by his side.”

Stumping for Trump: Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, used a recent podcast interview to drum up support among Christian evangelicals for Trump’s re-election.

It came off rather Old Testament.

First, Reed brought up the things Trump has done for the Christian Right — such as the nominations of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court — and then he spoke about what evangelicals could lose if Trump is defeated in November 2020.

“If the Christian community doesn’t rise up like it never has in modern political history, and if we allow through our inaction, the left to remove this man from the Oval Office, then we will deserve everything that we get,” Reed told Steve Strang, the founder of Charisma magazine. “And if they get the White House back, it will be open season on Christian ministries, on churches, the IRS will be able to persecute those faith-based organizations again.

“They will — under Obamacare — be able to force them to pay for abortion again. They will be able to sue the Little Sisters of the Poor and drag God-fearing nuns into federal court again to make them pay for abortion. That’s what will happen. And if we don’t turn out and vote in the biggest numbers ever, then we deserve it to happen.”

Fired and fiery: Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Teresa Tomlinson has had fundraising problems. They grew into something else this past week, after she dumped her fundraiser.

Edana Walker, a former Democratic National Committee staffer and Washington consultant, went to Twitter to discuss how Tomlinson “fired” her.

There may not be a good way to fire somebody, but Walker seemed to think Tomlinson did it particularly poorly.

“She’s a politician so she talked about ‘valuing’ & ‘honoring’ me while telling me she wanted me out & asking me if I could recommend someone new. Which. Y’all. Don’t do that. If you ever fire someone, do not ask them to find their replacement. It’s thoughtless and cruel,” Walker wrote.

Then she added: “Do them the kindness of not requesting additional labor from them to recruit someone new for the position you had them move to a new town to occupy. And if you did value this person, don’t let them leave your office without even offering a handshake as a show of mutual respect.”

Tomlinson’s spokeswoman said the campaign would not address personnel issues.

It wasn’t the best of timing for Tomlinson, a former mayor of Columbus. Walker’s tweets came just a day after Tomlinson held a splashy event to open a new campaign office in the city she used to run.

Tomlinson was the first of four Democrats to enter the race for Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s seat.

But that head start wasn’t enough to help her raise cash.

Tomlinson took in about $520,000 in the first three months of her campaign as the lone candidate. She followed that up in the latest fundraising quarter, from July to September, by collecting about $380,000. She reported having less than $300,000 in her campaign bank account.

That may seem like a lot of money. But consider what a couple of her Democratic rivals raised.

At the end of the July-to-September quarter, Jon Ossoff reported having about $1.3 million in hand. Sarah Riggs Amico reported having $425,000 to spend, most of that coming from a personal loan. (The fourth Democratic hopeful, Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, says he is “definitely not the establishment-money candidate.” He reported taking in just $90,000 for the quarter.)

So Tomlinson replaced Walker — who had built a reputation for fundraising while working on Democrat Stacey Abrams’ 2018 campaign for governor — with Steve Leeds, whose resume includes work on the campaigns of both U.S. Sen. Max Cleland and Michelle Nunn, the Democrats’ Senate nominee in 2014.

Walker said she held off on announcing her termination because she didn’t want to “rock the boat.” But the seas got choppy when she added that she was “tired of tiptoeing around candidates who know how to lead but not necessarily how to listen.”

Flagged again: Perdue seems to have different types of fundraising problems: His campaign calls them “clerical errors.”

The Federal Elections Commission has flagged his re-election campaign for accepting “apparent excessive, prohibited and impermissible contributions” that include many super PACs.

The donors include Republican mega-donor Phil Wilheit; the Fulton County GOP; and groups affiliated with state Reps. Dave Belton, Katie Dempsey, Jodi Lott, Chad Nimmer and Rick Williams.

Among the super PACs listed as apparently donating excessively to Perdue are the National Cotton Council Committee, the American Peanut Shellers Association and Exxon Mobil’s PAC.

Perdue spokeswoman Casey Black said the concerns raised by the FEC were “routine letters” and that “any clerical errors are being updated to ensure full compliance.”

Perdue’s campaign earlier this year paid the FEC a $30,000 fine for campaign finance violations dating to his first Senate run in 2014.

An FEC auditor “found Perdue’s campaign took more than $117,000 in prohibited contributions during the previous campaign, as well as more than $325,000 that exceeded legal limits on campaign donations.”

At the time, Perdue’s aides blamed “some typical bookkeeping errors that occur on a campaign of this size in order to bring this matter to close.”

Just getting started: Abrams will share billing with former President Barack Obama at a closed-door meeting with some of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors.

They will hold a conversation at a conference the Democracy Alliance is holding Nov. 13-16 in Washington.

The Democracy Alliance is described as a “secretive” organization that spends millions supporting the Democratic Party. It doesn’t publicly disclose its donors, but members have included billionaire financier and philanthropist George Soros, current presidential hopeful Tom Steyer and hedge fund magnate Donald Sussman.

Obama’s appearance with Abrams is just one stop for the former president. From there, he will go to Silicon Valley for a big-ticket fundraiser. Then he’ll come to Atlanta to speak at an environmental conference on Nov. 20, the same day Democratic presidential contenders will debate in the city.

This one goes to seven: Georgia once again offers the nation’s top business climate, according to the niche publication Site Selection Magazine.

It’s the seventh year in the row that the magazine has placed Georgia at the top of the heap, and Kemp pointed out that no other state has been honored so many times.

That run, of course, began while Nathan Deal was governor, and he often called attention to Georgia’s standing in the eyes of the magazine, especially during election years.

How much Kemp cites it could be interesting, given that the governor has called for a 4% cut in state spending this fiscal year and 6% next year, in part as a hedge against a potential economic downturn. The state’s fiscal economist recently told budget writers in the state’s House and Senate that there was a 50-50 chance the state could experience a mild recession next year.

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