Former Vice President Joe Biden, a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, takes Virmania Villalobos, 10, back to introduce her to members of the media after she asked him a question during a town all meeting with a group of educators from the American Federation of Teachers on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Houston. Biden asked her what her favorite subject in school was and she responded: journalism. Which prompted Biden to walk her back to the media riser.
Photo: Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP
Photo: Brett Coomer/Houston Chronicle via AP

The Jolt: The Big Peach beckons to Biden, Beto, Booker and Buttigieg

An Atlanta fundraiser next week may look a lot like a warmup to the first Democratic presidential debate. That’s because four top-tier candidates have now signed up to appear at the June 6 event.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has joined a trio of other White House hopefuls who were already planning to headline the IWillVote Gala and African American Leadership Summit: Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker and Pete Buttigieg.

They’ll attend along with Stacey Abrams, the runner-up to last year’s gubernatorial race who has not ruled out her own bid for president.

Others set to attend the event are U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson, John Lewis and Lucy McBath; the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson; Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Democratic Party of Georgia chair Nikema Williams.

Booker, a U.S. senator from New Jersey, visited Georgia in April to highlight his pledge for a sweeping voting rights overhaul. But it will be the first public campaign stop in Atlanta for the other three.

The gala is sandwiched by a string of other events, including a prayer breakfast and an after-party hosted by the Democratic Party of Georgia. Biden also plans to hold an event in Atlanta on June 5, though details haven’t been released yet.

***

Expect state Sen. Renee Unterman to jump in the 7th District congressional race on June 6. We obtained an email sent to her supporters Wednesday with the headline: “Renee Announcing for Congress.”

Here’s the text: 

“Ladies- Our dear friend has dug down deep, and has decided to run for the 7th District seat focusing on issues she has fought for her whole life. Let's turn out in support as she makes this step on June 6, 2019 at 7:30 pm in front of the Bona Allen Mansion in downtown Buford. Spread the word to others that support Renee.”

The Republican would join an increasingly crowded field to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall. 

***

Another new 7th District candidate to add to your radar: Republican Richard McCormick. He’s an emergency room doctor and Marine Corps veteran. 

***

Expect more headlines today - but no progress - on the Senate's disaster relief deal. House Democrats will try a third and last time to speed passage of the $19 billion measure with unanimous consent, a request that will almost certainly be blocked again by conservatives requesting a roll call vote. 

We're expecting the real action to come on Monday night, when House members return from their Memorial Day recess. A vote could come as soon as 6:30 p.m. Consider passage a foregone conclusion.

***

A right-leaning watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, yesterday alleging the improper solicitation of free office space. The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, or FACT, urged Capitol Hill’s nonpartisan ethics panel to investigate the freshman’s workspace in the City of Brookhaven’s community center, which her team temporarily used while a permanent office was being set up in Sandy Springs earlier this year.

FACT alleges that the freshman violated the House’s gift rule, which bars members of Congress from soliciting “anything of value.” The group points to a Facebook post from Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst in February that said the City had been approached by McBath’s office about the space. 

We ran this by Robert L. Walker, an attorney who once served as the top staffer on the House and Senate Ethics committees. He disagreed with FACT’s interpretation and said the situation falls under a separate rule in the congressional handbook that allows lawmakers to accept free office “when such space is provided by a federal, state, or local government agency.” Meaning that McBath’s people were above board when they temporarily set up shop in Brookhaven’s community center. 

This isn’t FACT’s first tangle with Democratic lawmakers from Georgia. The group, once led by ex-acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, previously lodged complaints against U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson and John Lewis’ longtime top aide.

***

Now that special counsel Robert Mueller has essentially left the ball in Congress’ court, House Democrats must decide how doggedly to pursue their investigations of President Trump – and whether to open an impeachment inquiry. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler left all options on the table but stopped short of using the I-word yesterday. And Georgia Democrats appear to be falling in line with their party leaders for now.

Note the statement from McBath, a member of the Judiciary panel:

“Congress has a responsibility to further investigate the President’s obstructive conduct outlined in Special Counsel Mueller’s report. To do this, we need the full report and its underlying evidence, and we need this Administration to stop stonewalling Congress. This blanket policy of refusing to comply with congressional oversight must end.”

***

Then there are Georgia Republicans, who are very much eager to move on from the Mueller probe. From U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, the top Republican on Judiciary:

“Special Counsel Mueller confirmed today what we knew months ago when his report was released: there was no collusion and no obstruction. Relitigating the 2016 election and reinvestigating the special counsel’s findings will only further divide our country."

Collins and several others have advocated for a counter-investigation into the origins of the Russia probe, a call that U.S. Rep. Jody Hice echoed yesterday: 


***

This may pay dividends for Georgia in the future: Mary Walker was appointed this week as the Environmental Protection Agency’s regional administrator across a swath of eight Southeastern states.

Walker has worked at the agency since 2016 and was the acting regional administrator before getting the full-time gig. 

But Georgians may recognize her for her in-state work, including roles in the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget and as a deputy director and chief operating officer in the state environmental protection division.

In that role, she worked with Judson Turner, who as “water czar” under Gov. Nathan Deal headed the state’s legal fight with Alabama and Florida over regional water rights.

Walker replaces Trey Glenn, who stepped down from the EPA in November after he was indicted for violating Alabama ethics laws.

***

Democrat Marvin Lim jumped into the race this week for the Gwinnett-based House district vacated by Brenda Lopez Romero, who is running for the open 7th District U.S. House seat. 

The 35-year-old is a native of the Philippines who moved to the district in 2001, graduated from Emory University and Yale Law School and helped found a grassroots progressive group.

What also caught our eye is his law firm: Holcomb + Ward LLP. If he wins, the small boutique firm will boast three Democratic state legislators: State Rep. Scott Holcomb is a partner and state Sen. Elena Parent is of counsel. 

***

Stacey Abrams is headed overseas: She’s listed as a speaker at the Bilderberg Meeting, an annual event designed to foster warmer relations between the United States and Europe. This year, the secretive meeting is being held in Montreux, Switzerland. 

Other American participants include Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and retired Army General David Petraeus. 

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X