Capitol Recap: New Georgia senator likely to break out of Isakson mold

Georgia may be putting off a swing-state vibe, but signs indicate that U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson's immediate replacement will be a Republican of the hard-core variety.

Officially, Gov. Brian Kemp will be the one who selects a successor for Isakson, whose reputation plays up his credentials as a deal-maker.

But others will have a significant influence in the choice, and they’re looking for more of a purist, not a collaborator.

One of them is President Donald Trump, who can make a great case that Kemp owes him a favor. Without Trump’s endorsement, Kemp’s campaign for governor may have hit a wall in last year’s GOP primary.

Crossing lines to work out agreements, the way Isakson is known for, doesn’t appear to be a priority for the president right now.

He doesn’t even want to do it between factions in his own party.

At a rally this past week in New Mexico, the president took aim at RINOs (Republicans in name only).

“I hate to say this, but we have some Republicans, they are not good. You call them a RINO, they are RINOs, they’re RINOs or worse,” Trump told the crowd.

Isakson has been a strong and steady voice for Georgia Republicans throughout his career, but he and Trump have not always had a smooth relationship. The senator has called out the president for his continued criticism of the late John McCain, and they have not always seen eye to eye on issues involving the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Trump is much closer to Georgia’s other senator, David Perdue, one of the president’s chief allies in the upper chamber.

Perdue also has ideas about what he would like to see in a Senate colleague, who is expected to be on the same ticket when Perdue seeks re-election next year.

“The partner that I want is someone who can take this fight passionately to the voters,” he said.

Kemp has said there’s no timeline for naming a replacement for Isakson, who will step down Dec. 31.

"We're being very methodical, obviously hearing from a lot of people that have interest or think to recommend someone to me," Kemp told Richard Elliott of Channel 2 Action News during a plant visit in Monroe. "There's a deep, deep bench from us to pull from."

That methodical approach includes an online application process that the governor launched this past week. It sounds like RINOs need not apply.

Agreement on debate: Democrats have worked hard to cast Georgia as a battleground for the 2020 election, and the party's presidential hopefuls have listened, making more than two dozen visits to the state so far.

Is it time for all of them to come to Georgia at the same time for a presidential debate?

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms thinks so. Having two U.S. Senate races on the same ballot ought to clinch it, she thinks.

“I’m absolutely lobbying for it,” Bottoms said after this month’s debate in Houston. “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.”

The opportunities are there: The schedule for the monthly debates has not yet been set for November or December, and the setting for debates in early 2020 is also unclear.

The next debate will be Oct. 15 in Westerville, Ohio.

In addition to Houston, Democratic hopefuls have already squared off in Detroit and Miami.

State Sen. Nikema Williams, the chairwoman of Georgia's Democratic Party, is on board.

“Georgia represents the future of the Democratic Party,” Williams said. “We would love to see national candidates debate the issues in front of the Georgia voters who will take us to victory next year.”

A yes for reparations, but how? Jon Ossoff has joined two other Democratic challengers to U.S. Sen. David Perdue in backing an examination of the issue of reparations for African Americans.

Ossoff, the second-place finisher in the 2017 special election for the 6th Congressional District, told WAOK radio host Rashad Richey that he was “100 percent” in support of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s proposal to set up a commission to study reparations. Booker, a Democratic presidential candidate, has called for an assessment of the effects of slavery, Jim Crow and other forms of codified discrimination on African Americans.

Two of Ossoff's rivals for the Democratic nomination — Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry and former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinion — support House Resolution 40, a proposal by Texas Democratic U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee that would also create a committee to study reparations.

Faith out front: Another Democrat running for Perdue's seat, Sarah Riggs Amico, drew the attention of the Religious News Service. It credited her with a "bold strategy" by making her faith part of her "left-leaning" campaign.

The approach, the news service wrote, "is not only attracting accolades from liberals and conservatives alike, but also hinting at a new faith-fueled trend among Democrats running for office in the Deep South."

Amico, who called herself “a firm believer in the separation of church and state,” added that “we need to remember who Christ was.”

“This was a brown-skinned Jewish refugee and a wrongly convicted death-row inmate who told people to give away their possessions and help the poor and ministered specifically to the marginalized … bringing people together, not ripping them apart,” said Amico, who lost last year’s race for lieutenant governor.

Confirmed disapproval: Amico was also the first of the Senate candidates to call for the impeachment of Brett Kavanaugh after The New York Times published a new allegation of sexual misconduct against the Supreme Court justice.

As the week went on, the story evolved some — after the Times published a lengthy acknowledgement that relevant information had been omitted from its story — and so did Amico's position.

But in a lengthy interview with PeachPod, a Georgia political podcast, she still raised issues with Kavanaugh's Senate confirmation.

“What I’ve said publicly on Sunday and what I still believe and what I think a lot of Americans believe is that there wasn’t a proper process, there wasn’t a thorough investigation,” she told PeachPod’s Kyle Hayes. “There were corroborating witnesses. There were additional incidents reported. There were elected officials in the federal government who asked for further investigation and information. And none of that was vetted properly. This guy was rammed through the process at a federal level and we’re now unfortunately dealing with the consequences of that decision.

“I think this isn’t just about the Supreme Court. This is about the entire judiciary. … Look, I think these are serious allegations against Justice Kavanaugh. They should have been properly investigated at the time of his confirmation hearing. The federal government, for whatever reasons, failed to do that, and I think these are conversations that still need to be had as a result. But this is a much bigger question than just about Justice Kavanaugh.”

No time for tea: The Lanier Tea Party will no longer hold regularly scheduled meetings, its founder said this past week in an email to supporters.

“Attendance over the years has gone from our beginning of over a hundred to now only a handful, and since we have always operated on donations to rent facilities we simply can no longer make that work with the few that were attending,” Mike Scupin wrote.

One of the more noteworthy things about the group occurred in 2016, when three of its members, including Scupin, announced that they would try to oust Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville.

In his note this past week, Scupin urged the group’s followers to support the Georgia Republican Assembly, a more conservative element within the state GOP that includes many former tea party members.

“The GRA is making progress in our goal to change the thinking of the GOP,” Scupin wrote.

Misfire? Collins believes that Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke's declaration on guns during this month's debate — "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47" — was a stirring sales pitch for guns.

On his Facebook page, Collins posted a photo of O'Rourke identifying him as the "AR-15 Salesman of the Month."

“I’d have to agree,” Collins wrote.

Candidates, endorsements, etc.:

State Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, is throwing his support behind Tomlinson in the race for Perdue's Senate seat.

— The Medical Association of Georgia believes a doctor is the best man for the job of replacing U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall in the 7th Congressional District. It has endorsed Rick McCormick, an emergency room physician at the Gwinnett Medical Center and a member of the association. Rutledge Forney, the group's president, called McCormick the "ideal candidate to tackle the health care system's complex challenges."

Capitol Recap

Here's a look at some of the political and government stories that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's staff broke online during the past week. To see more of them, go to