It also has already begun to reshape the contours of Georgia’s 2020 election, when two U.S. Senate seats and a sweep of competitive suburban legislative districts are up for grabs.
Many of the state’s leading Democrats — but not all — dropped their long-held opposition to impeachment and demanded a formal inquiry to begin as details of the complaint ricocheted across Washington.
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi vowed Friday to protect Georgia’s most vulnerable Democratic lawmaker and flip another suburban Atlanta seat in next year’s election, even as the push for impeachment poses new challenges for her party’s candidates. In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s editorial board, the California Democrat vehemently defended her recently-launched inquiry against President Donald Trump, framing it in sweeping Constitutional terms. (Video by Ryon Horne, Greg Bluestein and Tyson Horne)
Others took a more nuanced approach by calling for more investigation or supporting impeachment only if the allegations proved true that Trump used his public office for political gain.
Georgia Republicans have rallied behind the president — no prominent GOP officeholder has endorsed impeachment — placing a bet that the issue will backfire at the ballot box. They’ve scheduled protests outside the office of a vulnerable Democrat and embarked on speaking tours to defend Trump.
The political calculations over impeachment add to the milieu that makes Georgia a top battleground in next year's presidential election, with Democrats hoping to carry Georgia for the first time since Bill Clinton's 1992 election and Republicans dead set on defending the state.
‘Disgracing the office’
The rat-tat-tat of revelations quickly changed Democratic calculations, as lawmakers from across the party’s ideological spectrum lined up to back impeachment, and those that had long supported the inquiry tried to remind voters of their stance.
“In my view, we cheated ourselves by not starting impeachment proceedings sooner,” said former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, one of four Democrats challenging U.S. Sen. David Perdue and the first to call for impeachment.
And U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who flipped on the idea last month as well, came to Georgia on Friday to hold a fundraiser with U.S. Rep. John Lewis — and present a defense of impeachment.
“Nobody came to Congress to impeach a president,” she told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution during an editorial board meeting, adding: “But we do take an oath to protect and defend our Constitution and to protect our republic if we need it. “
That focus also comes with a risk of alienating supporters, along with some swing voters, who don't want the next year to be consumed by debate over removing the president. Recent national polling shows voters are relatively split over the idea.
U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff, who narrowly lost a 2017 special election in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, often tried to avoid nationalizing that campaign over fears of losing moderate voters.
He’s taken a more nuanced approach to impeachment with his statewide race, saying he supports a formal inquiry only if the allegations prove true that Trump “pressured a foreign power to smear his political opponent” in exchange for security assistance.
"This Senate race is going to come down to issues — national and local. The country is in a bad way right now. It's not just Donald Trump, although this presidency is deeply disturbing," he said on GPB's "Political Rewind."
“He’s disgracing the office and he needs to lose, and he needs to lose badly,” Ossoff added. “But it’s deeper than that. It’s about the dysfunction of our political system, the corruption of our political system.”
No Democrat is in a tighter bind over the issue than U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, a gun control advocate who flipped the conservative-leaning 6th District last year by winning over suburban Atlanta voters frustrated with Trump and his agenda.
McBath voted last month to formalize House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry and said she’s supportive of the “responsibility of this Congress to uncover the truth and defend the Constitution.” But she’s stopped short of endorsing impeachment outright.
Republicans are trying to make her pay for her stance. Tea party groups held a protest last week at her Sandy Springs office, with some waving pro-Trump signs and wearing red “deplorable” T-shirts. The Georgia GOP followed up with plans to hold a demonstration next week outside her Roswell office.
“Democrats like Lucy McBath have been looking for any excuse they could find — no matter how baseless or ridiculous — to impeach the president,” said Stewart Bragg, the executive director of the state Republican Party. “It is outrageous and disgusting. So let’s do something about it.”
Other Trump allies have tried to ratchet up the pressure on Georgia Democrats who support impeachment. In an interview after a tour of a Red Cross facility, Perdue called the inquiry into Trump nothing more than a “show trial.”
“The people of America are fed up with this. People in Georgia want Congress to work. Why can’t we get past all the differences and get to business?” he said. “We’ve done some things that really affect people’s lives in a good way. People want us to legislate — and stop all this investigation.”
Homrich, too, has quickly made a critique of impeachment a central part of her message in the 7th District, a suburban stretch that covers parts of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties that last year was home to the nation's tightest U.S. House race.
Locked in a crowded primary, Homrich and other Republicans have positioned themselves as reliable Trump allies — and outspoken critics of the impeachment effort.
Schilleci didn’t need much convincing. Almost as soon as she told him her stance, he said she needn’t worry about his vote.
“We need lots of conservatives up there,” he said.
Homrich smiled as she headed to the next door.
She said, “I promise to make you proud.”