Capitol Recap: Foes of Georgia voting law open front at Home Depot

Home Depot, the largest company based in Georgia, now faces a boycott organized by faith leaders who oppose the state's new election law. (Bloomberg photo by Mark Kauzlarich)
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Home Depot, the largest company based in Georgia, now faces a boycott organized by faith leaders who oppose the state's new election law. (Bloomberg photo by Mark Kauzlarich)

Faith leaders launch boycott; Kemp calls it ‘absolutely ridiculous’

A coalition of Georgia clergy, looking to punish companies it says have not done enough to oppose the state’s new voting law, called for a boycott of Home Depot.

Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, who heads the Sixth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and has led the coalition’s opposition to the law, accused the Vinings-based retailer of being “silent and indifferent” to the plight of Black voters.

Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed the new law, Senate Bill 202, called the boycott “absolutely ridiculous” and warned that it could cause lasting harm to the state’s economic reputation.

“This bill makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat,” Kemp said. “And no one — no one — no matter what political side of the aisle you’re on, should be boycotting because of that.”

Democratic Party leaders — including Stacey Abrams, who could face Kemp next year in a rematch of the 2018 governor’s race — have also cautioned that it’s too soon to do something as drastic as launching a boycott.

The new law requires voters to verify their identification to request an absentee ballot, lengthens early voting before general elections but shortens it before runoffs, curbs the use of ballot drop boxes, tightens the window for requesting an absentee ballot and gives the GOP-controlled Legislature new powers over local election offices.

Republicans who pushed SB 202 through the General Assembly said they were responding to their voters’ demands for change following former President Donald Trump’s false claims about widespread voting fraud.

Trump’s claims fueled numerous lawsuits in Georgia and across the country alleging voter fraud, although none of them produced any evidence of irregularities on a scale large enough to affect the election’s outcome. Three separate audits and recounts, done both by hand and machine, also confirmed Georgia’s election results.

Clergy and voting rights advocates singled out several companies for criticism for saying nothing or offering bland statements about new restrictions in SB 202. Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola then used more forceful language, calling the law “unacceptable.”

In addition to speaking out collectively against Georgia’s law, the faith leaders are demanding that the companies back court actions aiming to block the law, oppose similar measures in other states, and support federal legislation they say would provide uniformity in voting laws across the country.

They said they targeted Home Depot because it did not respond to their requests to discuss its stance on SB 202 and did not publicly speak against it.

The clergy made it clear that the boycott could evolve to include other companies, and the protests could escalate.

“We’re not on your property. Today. We’re not blocking your driveways. Today. We’re not inside your store protesting. Today,” the Rev. Timothy McDonald III, senior pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church and founder of the African American Ministers Leadership Council, said at a press conference across the street from a Home Depot store in Decatur. " ... The reason that we are here today (is) because of the actions of Gov. Kemp.”

A new University of Georgia poll showed 72% of its respondents, including 56% of Republicans, tied passage of Georgia's new voting law to Donald Trump's loss of the state in the presidential election.  (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/TNS)
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A new University of Georgia poll showed 72% of its respondents, including 56% of Republicans, tied passage of Georgia's new voting law to Donald Trump's loss of the state in the presidential election. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Poll: Division over election law; solidarity on its cause

A new University of Georgia survey shows division among voters over the state’s new election law.

But both conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, seem to agree that the law — which the GOP majority pushed through the General Assembly — was motivated by Donald Trump’s loss to Joe Biden.

The poll found that 72% of the respondents, including 56% of Republicans, tied passage of the law, Senate Bill 202, to Trump’s loss. Trump falsely claimed he had won the election, and that led to calls from his supporters to tighten voting rules.

GOP lawmakers have maintained that they needed to restore their voters’ confidence in the system. They apparently succeeded. Nearly 82% of Republicans who responded to the poll said the law either greatly or somewhat increased their confidence in the state’s election system, compared with just 17% of Democrats.

UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs conducted the poll of 887 voters between March 31 and April 19. The margin of error is 3.3 percentage points.

The part of the law that gained the widest support in the poll, about 75%, calls for mandatory voting on two Saturdays during the state’s three weeks of early voting before general elections, as well as the option of Sunday voting.

The least popular part of the law bans anyone other than election workers from distributing food and drinks to voters waiting in line, with only 30% saying they supported that provision.

Also unpopular, with support of only 34%, is a measure that would allow the State Election Board to appoint an administrator to replace county election boards that it deems are underperforming.

Republicans continue to fight among themselves

Infighting continues among Georgia Republicans following the party’s loss of the state in November’s presidential election and a Democratic sweep of two U.S. Senate races in January.

Some of the biggest punches were thrown at the party’s establishment.

At meetings in more than a half-dozen counties, GOP delegates passed resolutions attacking Gov. Brian Kemp for not doing enough to help then-President Donald Trump overturn the outcome of the state’s vote in November.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger also came under fire for rejecting Trump’s false claims of voting fraud.

Kemp had been seen as regaining lost ground with the state’s GOP base through his forceful defense of Georgia’s new election law. But the new county-level votes demonstrate that he has much left to do before he wins the favor of many of the party faithful.

If he’s to win reelection next year, Kemp will need to turn out as many Republicans as he can in what’s expected to be another tight race. He will likely face Democrat Stacey Abrams in a rematch of the 2018 contest that Kemp won by about 1.4 percentage points.

But bringing all Republicans together may prove to be too tough a task, especially since Kemp remains a target of heavy criticism from Trump.

“Many of the Trump supporters that did not return and vote in the January runoff (when the GOP lost both U.S. Senate seats) will not return to vote for Kemp in 2022,” said Brian Pritchard, a North Georgia GOP activist and commentator. “The only way to get a Trump supporter to vote for Kemp is to get Trump to endorse Kemp. And we don’t see that happening.”

The battles within the GOP also shook up party leadership in some of the state’s largest counties and blocked establishment-friendly figures from becoming delegates to the state GOP convention in June.

In Fulton County, delegate slots were denied to such high-profile Republicans as former U.S. Reps. Karen Handel and Tom Price, as well as former state Rep. Betty Price.

Expressing concern about whether the divisions within the Republican Party can be healed was Randy Evans, Trump’s former ambassador to Luxembourg but also the embodiment of establishment within the state GOP.

“I’m convinced that if infighting escalates, we could easily blow it, as well,” Evans told Politico. “... The consultants and the insiders will undoubtedly attempt to shift the focus toward a message that we can all agree on, like we’re not Biden-Harris, and so let’s just focus on that. But I think some of these divisions are so deep that I don’t know that that’s enough.”

DeKalb County Republicans censured Baoky Vu, a member of the county's election board and a longtime opponent of Donald Trump. AP/David GoldmanJC file
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DeKalb County Republicans censured Baoky Vu, a member of the county's election board and a longtime opponent of Donald Trump. AP/David GoldmanJC file

Credit: Jim Galloway

Credit: Jim Galloway

DeKalb GOP censures election official

The influence of former President Donald Trump could be felt throughout the recent gathering of Republicans in DeKalb County.

In addition to rebuking Gov. Brian Kemp, they elected an ardent Trump supporter, Marci McCarthy, as their new chair.

They also took aim at a longtime Trump opponent within their ranks, voting to censure Baoky Vu, the vice chairman of the county elections board.

In 2016, Vu chose to resign as a GOP elector rather than cast his ballot for Trump.

This time, Vu went down swinging.

In a statement before the rebuke vote, Vu said the state GOP was risking the loss of independents and some Republicans by entertaining “the pathetic claims of widespread fraud and dangerous conspiracy theories propagated by their tax-cheating, draft-dodging RINO presidential candidate after he lost this past November.”

The Rev. Abraham Mosley, the pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Athens, is Gov. Brian Kemp's choice to serve as chairman of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. He becomes the first African American to hold that position. SPECIAL PHOTO
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The Rev. Abraham Mosley, the pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Athens, is Gov. Brian Kemp's choice to serve as chairman of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association. He becomes the first African American to hold that position. SPECIAL PHOTO

Credit: SPECIAL PHOTO

Credit: SPECIAL PHOTO

African American to head Stone Mountain Park board

Gov. Brian Kemp has named the Rev. Abraham Mosley of Athens the first African American to serve as chairman of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association.

Mosley, the pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Athens, takes over the chairmanship as the park faces renewed calls for change over its numerous displays of Confederate imagery amid national protests over systemic racism.

Georgia law mandates that the memorial association maintain a tribute to the Confederacy at Stone Mountain Park and otherwise makes it difficult to remove or alter such monuments, such as the massive carving of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Gens. Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. But the association’s board at its last meeting in November instructed CEO Bill Stephens to explore ways to “bring Stone Mountain Park into the 21st century.”

“The decisions made in the next few months are crucial to the future of the park,” Stephens said in a statement provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We look forward to working with (Mosley) as we take on the hard issues and tough choices ahead.”

Kemp charged Mosley with following his moral compass while considering changes to the park.

Mosley said he plans to take a measured approach but will do all he can “to move the ball forward.”

“Certainly, there are mounting problems that have been brought before us. But we’ve got to handle them one at a time,” Mosley said. “We’ve got to be patient. I don’t want to be the man who prayed, ‘Lord, give me patience, but give it to me right now.’ ”

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwanee, has turned down a $5,000 campaign contribution from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic Socialist from New York. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwanee, has turned down a $5,000 campaign contribution from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic Socialist from New York. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Bourdeaux to AOC: Your money’s no good here

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwanee, will likely face a tough reelection fight next year in the 7th Congressional District — so campaign donations would be helpful.

But it has to be the right kind of donation. A $5,000 check from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the self-described Democratic Socialist from New York known to many as AOC, isn’t worth the trouble to someone running in a district where moderates and independents could be the deciding factor.

The 7th District saw the nation’s tightest U.S. House race in the 2018 midterms, a contest Bourdeaux lost. In 2020, Bourdeaux’s win made it the only House seat that went from Republican red to Democratic blue. So the ground is still a little shaky there.

Bourdeaux is one of three U.S. House members occupying swing seats who have either declined or pledged to return checks from Ocasio-Cortez, according to Politico.

Candidates, endorsements, etc.:

State Rep. Derrick Jackson of Tyrone, a U.S. Navy veteran, opened his campaign for lieutenant governor. Jackson joins state Rep. Erick Allen, who jumped in the race in late March, as the only two Democrats so far to launch bids for Georgia’s No. 2 job. Over on the GOP side, activist Jeanne Seaver of Savannah is the only candidate so far. Other Republicans, however, are said to be mulling runs for the post Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said he plans to give up.

T.J. Hudson launched his campaign for the Republican nomination for secretary of state by resigning his position as Treutlen County’s probate judge. He becomes the third Republican challenger to Brad Raffensperger, following announcements by U.S. Rep. Jody Hice and former Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle.

— The Savannah Morning News reports that Democrat Sabrina Greene-Kent is running for the state House seat that ailing state Rep. Mickey Stephens, D-Savannah, is giving up. Chatham County Elections Board Member Antwan Lang, another Democrat, is also running in the special election, and more candidates could be coming. Gov. Brian Kemp still must schedule the special election.

— Two prominent Georgia Democrats, former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young and former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, are throwing their support behind Marcus Flowers in his bid for the 14th Congressional District seat held by U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

— Two leading Georgia prosecutors — Douglas County District Attorney Dalia Racine and Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis — are backing Democrat Charlie Bailey’s campaign for attorney general. Bailey lost a tight race for the job in 2018 to the Republican incumbent, Chris Carr. This time, Bailey will face a primary fight against state Sen. Jen Jordan who announced her candidacy last week. She also has a prosecutor in her corner: DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston is her campaign chair.