Speaker David Ralston with Georgia GOP chair John Watson and his wife Kimberly in Savannah on Thursday.

The Jolt: Will Georgia GOP condemn Ralston or Beck at convention?

The text message came from an influential Republican activist anxious about the GOP convention that kicks off today in Savannah: “Are we really going to pass a resolution to condemn David Ralston but not Jim Beck?”

It’s no secret that some elements of the party’s base have grown increasingly frustrated at Ralston, the House speaker, after Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports showed how he used legislative leave privileges to delay court proceedings for clients in his private practice.

And there’s an array of possible resolutions that could be presented at this weekend’s meeting that could range from a formal reprimand of the Blue Ridge Republican to a tamer effort that applauds legislation that tightens how the privileges can be used.

But there’s a buzz building among other delegates to the convention who are aghast that the party could sanction the longtime House speaker while ignoring Beck, the embattled insurance commissioner facing federal fraud charges.

Gov. Brian Kemp has called for Beck to resign, as has Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and a raft of party leaders. Beck has voluntarily suspended himself from office. And it’s impossible to paint this as a partisan attack from the U.S. Attorney: B.J. Pak is a former GOP state legislator.

It’s not yet clear what resolutions will come up, and these party meetings are notoriously unpredictable. And GOP chair John Watson is expected to try to block sharper-edged resolutions. 

Ralston probably won’t be around for that fight. He’s got a fundraiser for a House incumbent lined up in north Georgia. 

But unlike other politicians who have skirted such meetings when they fall out of favor with the grassroots base, Ralston was in Savannah Thursday for a string of pre-convention events.

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“I was wrong.” Stacey Abrams said in a NowThis video released late Thursday that she grew up “believing that a right to an abortion was wrong” but that she changed her stance long before she ran for office. 

Now one of the state’s leading critics of the anti-abortion “heartbeat” law, Abrams said the “right to abortion is a right - a decision that women can make to determine their futures, their economic future, their healthcare.” 

“As an elected leader for more than 11 years, I am more than familiar with groups of men making decisions for women,” she said in the video. 

“But what I also know is too often women are participating in electing these men and ceding power to them. And that’s why I believe that the best way to fight back is to elect people who truly represent our values.”

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Meanwhile, The New York Times breaks down how the GOP’s more aggressive messaging on abortion has put Democrats around the country on the defensive. A key passage: 

Much to the distress of abortion rights supporters, their own polling is showing that the right’s message is penetrating beyond the social conservatives who make up a large part of the Republican base. Surveys conducted for progressive groups in recent weeks found that more than half of Americans were aware of the “infanticide” claims that President Trump and his party have started making when describing abortions that occur later in pregnancy.

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Congresswoman Lucy McBath is looking to get ahead of that GOP messaging push. The Marietta Democrat tweeted out a campaign ad she debuted during last year’s campaign against then-U.S. Rep. Karen Handel knocking her vote in favor of a bill that would have banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 


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Things are still uncertain, but Washington leaders appear to be zeroing in on a disaster relief agreement. We’ve heard encouraging things in recent days about negotiations over Puerto Rico money, which has been the largest hurdle for the now $17 billion package. And yesterday Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats will agree to some money to address the humanitarian crisis on the Southern border, a recent request of Trump’s. "What is happening at the border is tragic and we hope to address some of that in the supplemental that is coming — the disaster supplemental," the California Democrat told reporters.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced plans to put a disaster aid bill on the floor next week – whether lawmakers reached a bipartisan agreement or not. Georgia boosters seeking money for Hurricane Michael relief want both chambers of Congress to pass a bill before lawmakers depart for their Memorial Day recess on the 23rd. 

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Democratic Senate candidate Teresa Tomlinson gave a lengthy interview with Project Q about her position on LGBTQ issues.

The piece, which you can find here, included the former Columbus mayor’s early support for same-sex marriage and federal legislation which would add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. Here’s a snippet: 

Tomlinson, an Atlanta native, has a close connection to LGBTQ Georgia — her sister Tonya is a lesbian.

“People will say, ‘When did you know?’ and I say, ‘I don’t know, when I was 2?’” Tomlinson said. “I grew up with that and I grew up with a family that celebrated us all and celebrated her.”

“I think one of the reasons why I’ve taken on human equality and basic human respect as an issue all of these years is because it pains me to think others didn’t have that support and that celebration of their lives,” she added.

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Expect most Georgia Republicans to vote against a bill on the House floor today that would extend federal civil rights protections to the LGBTQ community. The Equality Act is a major priority of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said sexual orientation and gender identity “deserve full civil rights protections - in the workplace and in every place, education, housing, credit, jury service, public accommodations.” 

In a press conference on Thursday, Cassville Republican Barry Loudermilk said the bill “prioritizes the rights of some to the point that it violates the rights of many.” 

Opponents warned the legislation threatens women’s shelters, same-sex schools and the survivors of sex abuse. “Churches and faith institutions would have to abandon the teachings of their church in order to participate in federal-funded programs,” said Monroe Republican Jody Hice, a former pastor. 

***

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue expects to make up to $20 billion available to farmers to mitigate the damage from recent Chinese tariffs, the former Georgia governor said. Politico has more background:

Perdue had said for months that the administration's initial trade aid program would not be replicated this year and that farmers would have to navigate turbulent trade markets on their own as they made decisions for 2019 planting.

But the administration changed course after the U.S.-China tariff battle intensified earlier this month. Trump hiked tariffs to 25 percent on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports, from 10 percent previously, after U.S. negotiators charged that Beijing had backpedaled on specific commitments made during the yearlong trade negotiations.

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Several Georgia Republicans in the U.S. House have signed onto a push by their party leadership to put their Democratic colleagues on the defensive on Israel. The so-called discharge petition, which passed the Senate earlier this year, denounces the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. If it receives the support of 218 members of the House, Democratic leaders would be forced to bring it up for a floor vote.

"The growing anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attacks we've recently seen even in Congress are appalling," said U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler. "America should stand with our ally who is the stronghold for freedom and stability in the middle east and this bill ensures states are able to reject economic warfare targeted at them."

Their effort will be an uphill climb. Republicans need to win over at least 21 Democrats, and Democratic leaders have announced their own anti-BDS plans. But it shows that the GOP is continuing to ramp up its messaging on Israel as a wedge issue for Democrats. 

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