PG A.M.: Georgia Democrat shares unlikely tie with potential Trump VP pick

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State Sen. Josh McLaurin, D-Sandy Springs, was once a college roommate of U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

State Sen. Josh McLaurin, D-Sandy Springs, was once a college roommate of U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, an Ohio Republican.

As former President Donald Trump narrows his choices for a vice presidential running mate, skeletons from their closets are quietly emerging. And none has greater Georgia resonance than the unlikely ties between U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance and a local liberal.

The Ohio Republican — long seen as one of Trump’s most likely picks — was roommates with Democratic state Sen. Josh McLaurin of Sandy Springs in their first year at Yale Law School.

But there’s more. McLaurin, as we’ve reported previously, has produced texts from Vance in which he wrote that the GOP has “only itself to blame” for Trump’s rise to power.

“We are, whether we like it or not, the party of lower-income, lower-education white people, and I have been saying for a long time that we need to offer those people SOMETHING (and hell, maybe even expand our appeal to working class black people in the process) or a demagogue would,” Vance wrote in the text. “We are now at the point.”

U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio (right), points toward former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Vandalia, Ohio.

Credit: Jeff Dean/AP

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Credit: Jeff Dean/AP

The text continues: “I go back and forth between thinking Trump is a cynical (expletive) like Nixon who wouldn’t be that bad (and might even prove useful) or that he’s America’s Hitler. How’s that for discouraging?”

Back when McLaurin first shared screenshots of the texts in 2022, they went viral — and “America’s Hitler” briefly trended. Vance’s aides haven’t disputed the texts but said his criticism of Trump and other GOP leaders was old news.

Trump is expected to decide between Vance, Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and other contenders by the start of the Republican National Convention next week.

McLaurin will join the “Politically Georgia” radio show and podcast on Friday to discuss the 2024 race — and his former roommate.

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Numerous Georgia delegates to the Democratic National Convention told the AJC they still support President Joe Biden.

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

DEMOCRATIC DELEGATES. More than 50 of Georgia’s delegates to the Democratic National Convention talked to AJC reporters this week and overwhelmingly stressed their support for President Joe Biden as the party’s nominee.

Only two of those interviewed advocated for Biden to be replaced. All 109 Georgia delegates are pledged to Biden, and the president would have to formally withdraw from the race for their votes to go to another candidate.

Should Biden step aside, the Georgia delegates said Vice President Kamala Harris should be the new nominee. Read more takeaways from the interviews conducted by the AJC’s Greg Bluestein, Tamar Hallerman and Michelle Baruchman here.

Perhaps Georgia’s most prominent Democrat, Stacey Abrams, is also ridin’ with Biden. In a commentary published Wednesday, Abrams writes that Biden remains the Democrats’ best bet to defeat Trump.

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U.S. House Republicans are taking aim at Attorney General Merrick Garland.

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Credit: AP

GARLAND CONTEMPT. House Republicans continue to raise questions about President Joe Biden’s mental acuity and are pushing forward on an effort to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt of Congress. Conservatives are accusing Garland of blocking access to audio recordings that some members say could show that the White House knew months ago that the president was in decline.

The tapes in question are of special counsel Robert Hur’s interview with Biden as part of an investigation into the president’s possession of classified documents. Hur described Biden in his investigative report as “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” in explaining why he decided Biden should not face charges.

The Department of Justice has made transcripts from Hur’s conversations with Biden public. But Republicans said the tapes are needed to provide a fuller picture of Biden’s performance.

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee recently filed a lawsuit in hopes that a court would force Garland to turn over the tapes. But Florida Republican Rep. Anna Paulina Luna filed an “inherent contempt” resolution to provide another avenue to obtain the tapes. The House has already passed a regular contempt resolution on the matter.

House Democrats attempted to table the resolution on Wednesday but lost on a mostly party line vote with all but four Republicans opposed. A second effort to send the resolution to committee also failed.

Georgia’s delegation split strictly along party lines. The contempt resolution is scheduled for a final vote today.

If it passes, Garland would be fined $10,000 a day until he turns over the tapes.

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Rep. Jasmine Clark of Lilburn (center) has the backing of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

Credit: Olivia Bowdoin for the AJC

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Credit: Olivia Bowdoin for the AJC

GEORGIA 2024. It turns out Gov. Brian Kemp and national Democrats have something in common. Both see a handful of state legislative races as the top targets in November.

The governor said in June his political operation would spend $1.5 million to boost four vulnerable GOP incumbents and target a handful of Democratic-held seats.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee announced Wednesday it was focusing on many of the same posts.

The group plans to defend several Democratic incumbents, including state Reps. Jasmine Clark of Lilburn, Farooq Mughal of Dacula and state Sen. Nabilah Islam Parkes of Lawrenceville.

It will also boost several challengers: Susie Greenberg is taking on state Rep. Deborah Silcox in Sandy Springs; Laura Murvartian is trying to unseat state Rep. Scott Hilton in Peachtree Corners, Michelle Kang aims to oust state Rep. Matt Reeves in Duluth, and Ashwin Ramaswami is competing against state Sen. Shawn Still in Norcross.

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‘BIG FIRE’ LAWSUIT. Savannah GOP activist Beth Majeroni tried to parlay the notoriety she gained over being physically removed — carried hand and foot – from a 2023 Chatham County Board of Elections meeting into a Georgia Senate seat. She lost a challenge in the May primary to a veteran incumbent, Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah.

On Wednesday, she launched a bid to win in court in lieu of at the state Capitol. Majeroni, who adopted the nickname “Big Fire” during her Senate campaign, has filed a lawsuit against the Chatham Elections Board, its chairman and the two police officers who carried her from the meeting on July 10, 2023. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Savannah, claims Majeroni’s civil rights were violated and seeks unspecified damages.

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U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., wants to prohibit members of Congress from owning stock in individual companies.

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

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Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

STOCK BLOCK. U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., has a new proposal on the table to prohibit members of Congress from owning stock in individual companies.

The bill, which has bipartisan support, is a continuation of a position Ossoff took in his 2020 campaign for the Senate. Both of Georgia’s senators at the time, Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, had faced scrutiny for trades made on their behalf during the coronavirus pandemic.

Former U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler (left) and David Perdue (right) faced scrutiny for stock trades made on their behalf during the coronavirus pandemic. Both were cleared of any wrongdoing.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/AJC

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer/AJC

Loeffler and Perdue were cleared of any wrongdoing, but their robust portfolios became a point of contention on the campaign trail and something Ossoff has attempted to address ever since taking office.

The bill would require members of Congress to immediately divest of any stocks they own in individual companies. Their spouses and dependent children would have to do so by 2027. The president and vice president would also be prohibited from trading stocks under the proposal.

Lawmakers and their families would be allowed to invest in mutual funds or exchange traded funds. They also could continue to put their investments in qualified blind trusts, but those also would have to adhere to the stock trading ban.

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U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, co-sponsored a bill on federal prisons that is now headed to President Joe Biden to sign into law.

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

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Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

PRISON REFORM. Legislation sponsored by U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., and U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, to strengthen oversight of federal prisons is headed to President Joe Biden to sign into law.

The bill requires the Justice Department to routinely inspect facilities, provide recommendations to address concerns and assign each prison a risk score. Facilities deemed the most at risk would be inspected more frequently.

The legislation also creates a new ombudsman position to investigate complaints about the treatment of prisoners and staff.

Ossoff introduced the legislation in 2022 after spearheading an investigation of safety concerns and allegations of mismanagement at the United States Penitentiary, Atlanta and across the federal prison system.

The House passed the bill in May with McBath as its lead sponsor. The Senate approved it on Wednesday by unanimous consent.

“My bipartisan Senate investigations of corruption, abuse, and misconduct in the federal prison system have revealed an urgent need to overhaul federal prison oversight,” Ossoff said in a statement. “I now look forward to President Biden signing our bipartisan bill into law.”

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Former Georgia Lt. Gov, Geoff Duncan is a guest today on the "Politically Georgia" show.

Credit: Bob Andres/AJC

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Credit: Bob Andres/AJC

LISTEN UP. Today on “Politically Georgia,” former Congressman Michael Barnes of Maryland talks about his failed effort in 1980 to change Democratic Party rules in hopes of removing then-President Jimmy Carter as the party’s nominee. He shares how that experience could shed light on the current debate about whether President Joe Biden should be replaced on the ticket.

Former Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan discusses his latest column in the AJC, where he shared his concerns after watching Biden’s disastrous debate performance.

Listen live at 10 a.m. on WABE 90.1 or follow “Politically Georgia” on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

In case you missed it on Wednesday, the AJC’s Tamar Hallerman discussed her reporting on where 50 Georgia delegates to the Democratic National Convention stand on whether Biden should remain the party’s nominee.

Also, AJC education reporter Martha Dalton talked about how states like Louisiana and Oklahoma are inserting religion in schools.

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President Joe Biden (left) will meet with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (right) today.

Credit: Pavel Golovkin/AP

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Credit: Pavel Golovkin/AP

TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • President Joe Biden attends work sessions at the NATO Summit, meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and answers questions at a news conference.
  • The House could vote on a resolution to hold U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in contempt in hopes of compelling him to release audio tapes of President Joe Biden’s interviews with special counsel Robert Hur.
  • The Senate has a confirmation vote lined up and could also vote on a resolution from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that would prevent the U.S. from continuing to support or maintain the humanitarian aid pier in Gaza.

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In this file photo, a sticker celebrating the Geechee heritage is seen on a truck as passengers board a ferry to the mainland from Sapelo Island, Ga.

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

SAPELO REFERENDUM. The effort by Sapelo Island’s Gullah Geechee residents to overturn a zoning ordinance change that would allow for larger homes in their community hit a milestone Tuesday. The residents, all descendants of enslaved Africans who worked the island’s plantations in the 1800s, submitted petitions signed by themselves and about 2,300 of their neighbors in McIntosh County that seek a citizen referendum on the revised law.

The signature drive could trigger a vote on the matter in the same way a citizen-led referendum led to the abandonment of a spaceport project in Camden County in 2022. The 2,300 signatures surpasses the 1,764 signatures required to put the issue on an election ballot, although those signatures are subject to verification over the next two months.

If enough signatures are certified, the referendum could go to a vote as early as this fall.

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Augusta Mayor Garnett Johnson (center) now has a vote at commission meetings.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

MAYOR VOTES YEA. Garnett Johnson on Tuesday became the first Augusta mayor to cast a legislative vote in a commission meeting that wasn’t prompted by a tie among commissioners.

Augusta residents gave the mayor the power to vote on every commission item in a referendum conducted during the May election. The measure passed overwhelmingly with 74% of the vote.

Johnson’s first vote was in favor of the commission going into executive session to discuss legal matters.

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AS ALWAYS, Politically Georgia readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to greg.bluestein@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com, patricia.murphy@ajc.com and adam.vanbrimmer@ajc.com.