A screenshot of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms testifying before the House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Innovation on Capitol Hill on June 25, 2019.

The Jolt: In two hearings, two Georgia Democrats ask for Congress’ help

One of your Insiders spent yesterday afternoon tracking former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who testified on Capitol Hill about the need for Congress to update national voting rights protections.

But she wasn’t the only Georgia Democrat in Washington making the case for more federal involvement in a pressing state and local matter.

Two office buildings over from the standing room-only voting rights hearing, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was a witness before the House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Innovation.

Bottoms recounted the cyberattack that hobbled the city of Atlanta in March 2018. A criminal group – the Justice Department later indicted two Iranian men– encrypted thousands of city computers and demanded a $51,000 bitcoin ransom in exchange for unlocking the data. The city refused to pay.

Bottoms said the attack cost the city some $7.2 million, even though it didn’t affect emergency services such as fire and police. It did halt work for weeks at the city’s municipal court and delete years of Atlanta Police footage from officers’ patrol cars.

The mayor, our colleague Stephen Deere reported, urged lawmakers to pass legislation that would provide funding for state and local governments to prevent and respond to cyberattacks.

“We are living in a different digital world now,” Bottoms told lawmakers. “Nation-state actors and other foreign adversaries are on the attack. We need a strong federal partner to defend against them.”

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Over in the Rayburn House Office Building, Abrams was the star witnesses testifying in favor of Congress updating the Voting Rights Act formula that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.

The hearing room, packed with students and young people visiting D.C. to lobby Congress, grew hushed as Abrams walked in to testify, and committee members took turns introducing themselves to her ahead of the event. 

With that in mind, the Washington Post raises this interesting question about national Democrats as they look to replicate and expand on Abrams’ strategy in the South: “Does the Stacey Abrams method — a charismatic figure painstakingly courting disadvantaged and often-ignored voters — really work for anyone besides Stacey Abrams?”

***

Sure, Agriculture chief Sonny Perdue has been criticized for downplaying scientific research, but what does the former Georgia governor have to say for himself about the causes of climate change?

Via CNN:

Perdue told CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich in the interview released Tuesday that "we don't know" the cause of climate change, adding, "and obviously scientists -- many scientists believe that it's human caused, other scientists believe it's not," Perdue

"So if it's not human caused, then what is it?" Yurkevich asked.

"You know, I think it's weather patterns, frankly. And you know, and they change, as I said. It rained yesterday, it's a nice pretty day today. So the climate does change in short increments and in long increments," Perdue responded.

***

The Democratic Party of Georgia went with a familiar face for its pick of a new executive director. 

The party selected Scott Hogan, a veteran of the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns, to fill the opening. 

But the more important part of his resume: He ran the campaign of James Smith, last year’s Democratic nominee for governor in South Carolina, who lost his underdog bid by about eight percentage points. Still, it was the strongest Democratic turnout in a governor’s race there in decades. 

“I am confident that he will be an outstanding leader of our party as Georgia takes our rightful place as a national battleground state,” said party chairwoman Nikema Williams. 

***

The anti-David Ralston caucus just got a little bit smaller. 

David Stover, a state lawmaker from Coweta County, says he’s resigning from the Legislature -- effective immediately. From the Newnan Times-Herald:

Stover married a woman from England last summer, but following his reelection in 2018, he said he intended to serve through the end of his term in 2020, and then would evaluate whether to run again. 

In his letter, Stover said the couple is now expecting their first child, with a due date early in the 2020 Georgia General Assembly session. 

Stover called the pregnancy a “game changer.” 

Stover is one of 10 Republican House members who signed onto an effort calling for the resignation of Speaker Ralston, who has been beset by accusations that he has used his status at the Capitol to benefit courtroom delays for clients of his law firm.

Stover has a complicated family life and was accused last year of living in Britain rather than his district. You can catch up on those details here. 

***

Hmmmm … Our AJC colleague Rodney Ho has the scoop on a new Will Packer TV series on the OWN channel featuring an ambitious mayor facing a federal investigation who wants to be governor. Oh, and it’s set in Atlanta. 

From his piece: 

Packer said he is friends with Kasim Reed, the most recent male Atlanta mayor, and insists none of the story lines have to do with him.

"Kasim couldn't have been mayor doing the things that Brian's character gets away with," Packer said. "I was talking to Kasim over the weekend. He's aware the show is coming. He said he can't wait to see it. He's going to find it fun."

***

Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson announced this morning that he plans to run for a fourth term. Jackson was first elected in 2008, and he's been endorsed by Atlanta Braves legend Hank Aaron and former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young.

***

The Los Angeles Times is out with a nuanced look at Georgia’s new anti-abortion law and the film industry. A taste:

Evangelicals portray Hollywood as an elitist carpetbagger peddling bankrupt morals. But a number of those in the entertainment industry here are conservative, including crew members who support Trump and a set worker who named his dog after the president. Trump won Georgia with 50.4 percent of the vote in 2016. Two years later, though, progressive TV and film transplants helped the state nearly elect Democrat Stacey Abrams as its first black female governor.

Liberals celebrated Abrams’ campaign as a sign that Old South attitudes were succumbing to younger generations in a state where film crews and production companies, including Tyler Perry Studios, are more diverse than in Hollywood. But liberals were whipsawed last month when newly elected Republican Gov. Brian Kemp rallied his conservative base by signing one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country.

Such a landscape blurs assumptions on both sides and reveals the fissures running through Georgia politics. It leaves film and TV workers troubled over the state’s conservative legacy. They’re also angry at calls for boycotts by celebrities and threats by studio leaders, including Ted Sarandos at Netflix and Bob Iger at Disney, to stop production, which could jeopardize jobs while further emboldening right-leaning politicians. Abrams opposes a boycott for those reasons.

***

Michael Owens plans to primary U.S. Rep. David Scott on a platform that embraces “Medicare for All,” the Green New Deal and other sweeping proposals embraced by progressives. The former Cobb County Democratic chairman unveiled his policy priorities Wednesday with a pledge to “focus on improving the lives of every citizen and those who seek to be citizens and create a better future for our next generation.” Owens’ platform also includes tuition-free college, removing marijuana as a scheduled controlled drug and creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. 

***

Our colleague Ariel Hart sent this dispatch from a health care conference yesterday: 

Lt. Gov Geoff Duncan on Tuesday told a group of national health care journalists that he expected the direct primary care model to be included in the health care waivers that Gov. Brian Kemp’s office is developing.

Direct primary care is where a patient pays a primary care physician a set amount of money over time to see and treat him or her as the need arises. 

The “waivers” would ask the federal government to waive parts of Medicaid and Obamacare law to let Georgia develop new health care programs tailored for the state’s needs.

The idea behind a waiver promoting direct primary care is that people on such a plan will be more likely to get care before small problems fester into bigger, expensive problems.

Duncan said he saw it as a way to attract physicians to rural areas. The Republican was fresh off a visit to the White House, where he stood behind President Donald Trump on Monday as Trump signed an executive order calling for price transparency in medical costs.

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