PG A.M.: Georgia Democrats back Biden amid calls for new candidate

Your daily jolt of news and analysis from the AJC politics team

President Joe Biden’s defiant letter to congressional Democrats promising to stay in the presidential race did little to contain the political fallout as lawmakers returned to Washington after a Fourth of July holiday recess.

Despite a handful of fellow Democrats saying publicly that Biden should drop his bid for a second term, there has been no groundswell of opposition as the president and his allies scramble to quell the dissension.

But there are also few signs that Biden has put down the rebellion within the party’s ranks, as more House Democrats expressed concerns about his reelection chances or called on him to quit the race.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, said Democrats should not abandon President Joe Biden because of a poor debate performance.

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

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Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

Biden turned to a bastion of support as he fought for his political life, holding a Zoom call with members of the Congressional Black Caucus late Monday that was to include three Georgia Democrats: Reps. Sanford Bishop of Albany and Hank Johnson of Lithonia, along with Sen. Raphael Warnock of Atlanta.

Every Democrat in Georgia’s congressional delegation has publicly said he or she supports Biden as the party’s nominee, and all except U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff are members of the CBC.

Johnson said before the call that Biden’s poor debate performance in Atlanta was not reason to turn away from him.

“Presidents are not hired because they are great debaters,” he said. “Presidents are hired because we expect them to govern our country, and they have the knowledge and the wisdom and experience to do so. And President Biden has done just that.”

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U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-St. Simons Island, said President Joe Biden needs cognitive testing. Carter is pictured at the opening of a campaign office in Savannah for former President Donald Trump.

Credit: Adam Van Brimmer/AJC

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Credit: Adam Van Brimmer/AJC

MENTAL FITNESS. Republicans have made it clear that President Joe Biden’s ability to not just serve another term but to complete the current one that ends in January has become a focus of theirs, too.

Some, like Georgia Reps. Buddy Carter and Austin Scott, have said Biden should undergo cognitive testing to ensure he has the capacity to do the job.

“I mean, it’s obvious that he has lost mental capacity and physical capacity and on behalf of all Americans — Republicans, Democrats, Independents — we should know,” said Carter, R-St. Simons Island.

Others, like Cassville Republican Barry Loudermilk, want a court to force Attorney General Merrick Garland to release audio tapes of special counsel Robert Hur’s interview with Biden as part of the investigation of his possession of classified documents.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during the daily briefing on Monday.

Credit: Susan Walsh/AP

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Credit: Susan Walsh/AP

Hur described Biden in his investigative report as a “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” and the Department of Justice later made transcripts from their conversations public.

There is even talk among some House Republicans to require Biden’s doctor to appear before Congress to answer questions about the president’s health.

The media is also starting to ask more pointed questions, including peppering Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre with questions about a Parkinson’s disease expert who has visited the White House several times. She initially resisted providing details about the doctor’s visit or even confirming his name.

But late Monday, Biden’s doctor released a letter acknowledging that a neurologist who specializes in treating Parkinson’s and similar disorders had seen Biden as part of his annual physical exam. No signs of Parkinson’s were found and that specialist has not met with Biden since, Dr. Kevin O’Connor wrote.

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In 2018, an officer at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison told investigators that she was paid to provide a man on death row with information on shakedowns and on the staff.

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

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Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

PRISON STUDY. In the latest acknowledgement of deep problems within the Georgia Department of Corrections, House Speaker Jon Burns announced Monday the creation of the Special Subcommittee of Appropriations on State Prisons.

The state’s prisons are experiencing record levels of violence and homicides, including the fatal shooting of a kitchen worker by a prisoner at Smith State Prison in June. The Georgia prison system has been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice since 2021.

Last month, Gov. Brian Kemp announced that the Department of Corrections would undergo an in-depth assessment to identify ways to improve the prison system. Kemp said outside consultants will visit prisons, conduct interviews with stakeholders, work with GDC personnel and do research, before coming up with recommendations. The study would take a year, Kemp said.

Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns has announced the creation of a special committee to examine ongoing issues at state prisons.

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

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Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

“With Gov. Kemp’s ongoing assessment of Georgia’s prisons, we want to ensure we are prepared to take immediate action when subsequent recommendations and appropriations requests are delivered in January or during the interim,” Burns said in a statement announcing the subcommittee. “I look forward to the work of the committee and its support of efforts to restore law and order to Georgia’s prison system.”

Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, was appointed as chairman of the subcommittee. The other members are Rep. Leesa Hagan, R-Lyons; Rep. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon; Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta; Rep. Alan Powell, R-Hartwell; Rep. Bill Werkheiser, R-Glennville; and Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway.

An investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution last year exposed widespread corruption in the prison system, including how hundreds of GDC employees had smuggled in drugs and other forms of contraband. The stories also detailed extreme understaffing, extensive illicit drug use by inmates, record numbers of homicides and suicides and large criminal enterprises run by prisoners that killed and victimized people on the outside.

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Former football great Champ Bailey is participating in public service announcements for the Technical College System of Georgia.

Credit: Pro Football Hall of Fame

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Credit: Pro Football Hall of Fame

JONES AD. Lt. Gov. Burt Jones teamed up with fellow Georgia football veteran Champ Bailey and the Technical College System of Georgia for a series of workforce public service announcements released this morning.

Check them out:

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GOP REVOLT. A contingent of Georgia Young Republican chapters leveled formal protests against the national organization after it decided to nullify the results of the state’s officers election.

Cobb Young Republicans and Rome Young Republicans were among the groups that publicly opposed the Young Republican National Federation’s decision to toss out results of the May election and blame the Atlanta Young Republicans for the reversal.

Some Georgia Young Republican chapters have leveled formal protests against the national organization.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/AJC

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer/AJC

Among the critics is Preston Parra, an activist who called the effort to toss the convention’s results a part of a “smear campaign by a few RINOs and anti-Trump operatives more interested in power than integrity.”

Leaders of the Georgia Young Republicans and Atlanta Young Republicans didn’t comment. But we’re told the complaint came from two members of the Atlanta Young Republicans board, and not from the organization itself.

One member told us this was a bunch of hooey: “This is all noise and petty. It has nothing to do with Trump.”

So what’s next? The national organization said a new convention will be held Aug. 31 after a “dispute resolution committee” found that the vote violated the organization’s rules.

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Former Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is a guest today on the "Politically Georgia" show.

Credit: Chuck Marcus for the AJC

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Credit: Chuck Marcus for the AJC

LISTEN UP. Today on “Politically Georgia,” former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms discusses her new role in President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign and what she thinks should be done to reassure supporters after recent questions about his ability to serve a second term.

State Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas, talks about former President Donald Trump’s campaign, Trump’s search for a running mate and the party platform that will be discussed at next week’s Republican National Convention.

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

On Monday’s episode, media analyst Brian Stelter talked about the state of the presidential contest and questions facing Biden after his poor performance at the Atlanta debate.

University of Georgia Professor Charles Bullock, Emory University Professor Andra Gillespie and Democratic strategist Rick Dent also joined the show to discuss how voters are responding to Biden and the state of the race.

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The State Election Board is meeting today.

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

ELECTION BOARD. The State Election Board meets later today and the agenda is stacked with proposed voting rules changes and poll security measures to be implemented in Fulton County for the November election.

The board, which investigates allegations of fraud and creates election rules, will review nine proposals ranging from standards for verification of vote counts, absentee ballot mail tracking and election certification, our AJC colleague Mark Niesse reports.

The meeting is likely to include some post-July 4 fireworks, as the gatherings are frequently marked by incivility and activists airing false and unfounded conspiracy theories.

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A water tower is under construction at the edge of the Hyundai Metaplant site in Ellabell, Ga.

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for the AJC

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Credit: Stephen B. Morton for the AJC

HYUNDAI WATER. State regulators on Monday moved closer to issuing permits to allow the drilling of four new drinking water wells to serve the Hyundai electric vehicle manufacturing plant and related development near Savannah.

The Environmental Protection Division published draft versions of the permits, which would allow the pumping of 6.6 million gallons of water daily from the Floridian aquifer. The water is needed at the still-under-construction Hyundai plant, which is anchored by an assembly facility measuring more than 16 million square feet. The factory is projected to employ 8,500 once fully built out.

The AJC’s Drew Kann reports the release of the draft permits opens a public comment period that runs through Aug. 20. After that window closes, EPD typically reviews comments it receives — a process that often takes months and depends on the amount and type of feedback it receives. After that is complete, the agency will decide whether or not to issue final permits.

The wells have sparked controversy because they are to be drilled in Bulloch County, which neighbors the Hyundai site and not in Bryan County, where the plant is located. The water has to come from elsewhere due to withdrawal limits in place for most of the Savannah region.

Bulloch residents have said they fear the withdrawals will cause residential and agricultural wells to go dry. Earlier this year, EPD staff shared modeling with the public showing the pumping to supply Hyundai could lower the water table by as much as 19 feet within a five-mile radius of the wells.

The Hyundai factory is nearing completion with production to begin by the end of the year.

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Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is scheduled to appear at a Senate Banking Committee hearing today.

Credit: Susan Walsh/AP

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Credit: Susan Walsh/AP

TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • President Joe Biden delivers remarks in Washington to kick off the NATO summit, focusing on the alliance’s 75th anniversary.
  • The House votes on legislation opposing clean energy efforts by the Biden administration.
  • The Senate has more confirmations lined up.
  • Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testifies about the state of the U.S. economy during a Senate Banking Committee hearing.

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In 2020, WNBA players wore "Vote Warnock" T-shirts to protest then-U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler At the time, Loeffler was co-owner of the Atlanta Dream and a critic of Black Lives Matter.

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

WATCH THIS. There was a special screening on Capitol Hill on Monday of the Amazon Prime documentary, “Power of the Dream.” The film’s focus is the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream and its political activism, with special attention paid to team members’ support of Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock during his 2020 run against then-Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a part-owner of the team at the time of the election.

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams in remarks made ahead of the screening, said the players on the team showed they can have impact beyond the game itself. Warnock won his election and Loeffler sold her stake in the Dream ended soon after the election.

“The Atlanta Dream used their influence to change the world, and that’s what I love about their story,” the Atlanta Democrat said. “Some say athletes should just play sports and keep politics out of it, but these issues affect their lives and the lives of their fans.”

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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.