Georgia House Speaker David Ralston has turned into an issue in a special election to replace state Rep. David Stover, R-Newnan. Stover was one of 10 GOP legislators who pushed earlier this year for Ralston to step down as speaker after an Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News investigation into his use of legislative privileges to delay court cases for his clients. Erick Erickson, a well-known pundit and Ralston critic, is backing Phillip Singleton in Tuesday’s election, saying he, too, will press for Ralston’s ouster. Ralston has given money to another candidate, Marcy Westmoreland Sakrison. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Capitol Recap: In this race, Georgia speaker isn’t on ballot — or is he?

The ballot for Tuesday’s special election in state House District 71 lists four candidates, but between the lines, you might spot Speaker David Ralston.

The contest to replace state Rep. David Stover of Newnan, one of 10 Republican legislators who had sought Ralston’s ouster as House leader, is shaping up as a proxy fight over the same issue.

Ralston has kicked money in the pot supporting the campaign of Republican Marcy Westmoreland Sakrison, as has the chamber’s second in command, Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones.

Sakrison has a link to previous GOP leadership in the House. Her father, former U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, had been the top Republican in the chamber before launching his bid for Congress.

She’s the top fundraiser in the contest, taking in more than $46,000. But not all the big names are lining up behind her.

Erick Erickson, a conservative host on News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB and the force behind The Resurgent website, is backing Phillip Singleton, as are many hard-line Republicans.

On Facebook, Erickson said he was supporting Singleton because he will vote for Ralston’s removal as speaker.

“Speaker Ralston is pouring money into the seat to make sure Singleton does not win because Singleton has said he would push for the Speaker’s resignation,” Erickson wrote. “Singleton is a strong conservative who will vote for limited government. Support him and we can have a runoff between two Republicans, one of whom backs the Speaker and one who wants to do the right thing.”

Ralston has faced pressure to step down following an Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News investigation into the speaker’s use of legislative leave privileges to delay criminal cases he was handling in his private legal practice. It found, among other things, that Ralston had stalled cases for clients accused of such crimes as child abuse, rape, assault, terroristic threats and drunken driving.

The nonpartisan election has opened a divide among the district’s Republicans.

That all-Republican runoff that Erickson wrote about isn’t a cinch.

When Sakrison declined to participate in a debate put on by the Coweta County GOP, second place in the straw poll went to Jill Prouty, a Democrat.

Also on the ballot is Republican Nina Blackwelder.

A Rosetta Stone Communications poll that was recently leaked to GeorgiaPol.com showed Sakrison leading, at about 30%. Singlton and Prouty were both at about 20%. Blackwelder’s support measured at 9%, and roughly 20% were undecided.

He’s got the president’s ear: President Donald Trump’s trade war with China means a steady focus on one of his battlefield commanders, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.

The New York Times recently examined Perdue’s efforts to keep farmers in line with Trump as the tariff dispute plays out between the two nations. The piece also noted Perdue’s own history with China when he was the governor of Georgia.

“Mr. Perdue is a somewhat unlikely lieutenant in Mr. Trump’s trade war,” the Times wrote. “As Georgia’s governor, he worked to strengthen ties between the state and China, welcoming Chinese companies and making economic development trips to Shanghai and Beijing. At one point he pushed for Atlanta to become a hub for the Free Trade Area of the Americas, a proposed 34-country trade pact that never came to fruition. …

“But in the Trump administration, Mr. Perdue has been a staunch backer of the president’s policies, publicly defending tariffs, working to shrink the federal government and expressing doubts about the science behind climate change.

The Times also quotes Neill Herring, a longtime lobbyist at the Georgia Capitol for the Sierra Club, calling Perdue “the Trump whisperer.”

“He can tell Trump exactly what he wants to hear,” Herring said.

You have to wonder whether Trump heard this joke: “What do you call two farmers in a basement? A whine cellar.”

It didn’t go over particularly well when Perdue told it during a meeting last month with Wisconsin farmers.

It’s a classic case of not knowing your audience.

In an Associated Press story, the American Farm Bureau Federation reported that from July 2018 to June 2019, Wisconsin farmers filed 45 bankruptcies under Chapter 12. That section of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code provides financially troubled family farmers with a streamlined path to repay all or part of their debts. While that was five fewer such bankruptcies than in the previous 12-month period, it was still the highest total in the nation.

This fight goes biblical: What would Jesus do — if he were to establish or advance a public policy?

Yeah, that’s a thing now.

The Rev. William Barber, a co-founder of the Poor People’s Campaign, introduced this mashup of theology and political science.

Speaking at last week’s summer meeting of the Democratic National Committee, Barber suggested that the Bible endorses socialism.

“Jesus offered free health care to everyone,” Barber said, “and he never charged a leper a co-pay.”

Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed, once a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia, inherited the other side of the argument.

Saying the Bible is not “a religious ‘Communist Manifesto,’ ” Reed made it clear he thinks Jesus would have opposed Medicaid expansion and would have supported work requirements for food stamp eligibility.

The Christian Post quoted Reed as saying:

“I don’t think that this is going to sell in the heartland because the good news is Christians in America know their Bible and they know that the Bible teaches that ‘he who does not work shall not eat,’ it talks about the importance of work, and it talks about the importance of being productive.”

Reed added: “Yes, we’re called to care for the poor, and the needy, and the infirmed, and the alien, and the stranger, but that call is to the faithful. It calls to those closest to the need to meet that need. Not big government, not bureaucrats in Washington.”

Put up your dukes: It’s still early — we’re still more than 15 months away from Election Day in November 2020 — but the contest for Republican David Perdue’s U.S. Senate seat is looking like a brawl.

Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico’s entry in the race triggered a round of verbal punches, beginning with whether she should have been identified here as “Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico.”

Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry, one of the two other Democrats currently running, greeted Amico’s announcement with a tweet displaying a screenshot showing that Amico had donated $973 — $973? — to Republican Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012.

“I was proud to support Barack Obama when he ran for re-election, it’s unfortunate that not all of my opponents feel the same way,” Terry wrote.

The campaign for former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, the other Democrat challenging Perdue, upped the political discourse with a GIF tweet: “Those are the facts.”

Perdue’s team also got involved, spotlighting the bankruptcy of the car-hauling company Amico has headed. The company, Jack Cooper Ventures, struck a deal this month with a New York-based firm that cuts more than $300 million in debt. Amico has said the agreement preserves the jobs and health benefits of the firm’s roughly 3,000 employees. It also limits the company’s obligations to the Central States Pension fund, a teetering program that has become a prime example of overextended U.S. retirement systems.

After Amico held her first campaign event on a picket line supporting striking AT&T workers, Perdue’s allies also pointed out that the Teamsters union accused Jack Cooper Ventures in February of participating in unfair labor practices.

Amico, who has described herself as a “recovering Republican,” did a little counterpunching, questioning the value of her Democratic opponents’ experience in local office.

“Look, there’s no question they have been in office. But they’ve also never run statewide,” said Amico, who was last year’s Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor. “They’ve never had to weather a private company and protect thousands of jobs through turbulent economic times. As far as I know, neither one of them has managed a business that’s dealing with the fallout of the trade wars or the pension crisis.

By the way, Amico, Terry and Tomlinson all said this past week that they still aim to replace Perdue instead of jumping into the special election in November 2020 to fill out the rest of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term.

Candidates, endorsements, etc.:

— State Rep. Calvin Smyre, the longest-serving member of the Georgia Legislature, is throwing his support behind former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign for president. The Democrat from Columbus cited Biden’s decades of experience in the U.S. Senate and as Obama’s veep as reasons for his endorsement.

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