PG A.M.: Georgia’s new nuclear reactors are becoming political footballs

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Gov. Brian Kemp and a host of other state officials will visit the site of new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Credit: John Spink/AJC

Credit: John Spink/AJC

Gov. Brian Kemp and a host of other state officials will visit the site of new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Today, Gov. Brian Kemp and a host of other state officials are set to visit the new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle to celebrate a milestone. The oft-delayed and far-over budget commercial reactors are the first newly built from scratch in the U.S. in more than three decades.

We’re told Kemp will honor the late U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s role in securing tax credits and legislation to pave the way for the expansion — and emphasize how the new power generators could fuel future business growth in Georgia. The second of the new reactors came online in April, nine months after the first entered service.

Spectators look at new units 3 and 4 before a ceremony at Plant Vogtle in Burke County last July.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Later this week, a delegation from the White House is also set to swing by the east Georgia plant to commemorate the achievement, which Georgia Power says will make Plant Vogtle the country’s largest generator of carbon-free electricity. The visit will serve as a reminder of the Biden administration’s decision to join an international pledge to triple the world’s nuclear energy by 2050.

Will history look back at the project as a blessing or a boondoggle for Georgians, who are paying the lion’s share of the $17 billion in cost overruns? Political leaders are already working to shape the narrative.

So is Georgia Power, with a 30-second TV ad featuring a long-time employee gushing about working at the “largest generator of clean energy in the United States.”

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Katy Stamper, a Woodstock attorney, won the Georgia Democratic primary in the 11th Congressional District.

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

A REAL DINO? Katy Stamper won the Democratic primary in Georgia’s 11th Congressional District last week and will challenge U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk for the seat in November, but she is a longtime Republican primary voter who supports Republican candidates.

Stamper’s history supporting the GOP came to light in the days after the primary as Democrats began to scrutinize the 11th-hour candidate who managed to win the contest.

The Democratic Party of Georgia is bound by law to qualify any candidates who meet the criteria, and there is no loyalty oath. But Stamper’s history appeared to also take party officials by surprise.

Party leaders blamed her campaign on a GOP effort to deceive voters, though it’s not clear what that would accomplish. Stamper has little chance of beating incumbent U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, in a solidly GOP district.

Democratic leaders are more concerned about the bid by JaNice VanNess, a former Republican state senator now running as a Democrat against incumbent Rockdale Commission Chair Oz Nesbitt. The two wound up as the top finishers in the five-candidate race and are headed to a June 18 runoff.

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, is critical of Republicans running as Democrats.

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

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Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, the Atlanta resident who chairs the Democratic Party of Georgia, made clear neither candidate had the party’s blessing in a statement late Tuesday.

“Georgia Republicans know their extreme agenda is out of touch with voters, which explains why Republicans across the state, including Katy Stamper in the 11th Congressional District and JaNice VanNess in Rockdale County, felt the need to deceive Georgians about their true partisanship in order to win votes,” she said.

“Republicans’ ploy to effectively take away the choice that voters should have in November by disguising themselves as Democrats is shameful and anti-democratic, period.”

They aren’t the only Republicans who might be masquerading as DINOs, or Democrats in Name Only. A handful of far-right “renegades” in deep-red Oconee County also ran for local posts as Democrats this cycle.

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Republican Mike Dugan faces Brian Jack in a June 18 runoff.

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

GEORGIA THIRD. Brian Jack boasts the blessing of former President Donald Trump and a host of MAGA loyalists in the June 18 runoff for Georgia’s 3rd District. Mike Dugan is emphasizing a more local appeal.

The former state Senate GOP leader unveiled endorsements on Wednesday from sheriffs representing eight counties in the west Georgia-based district. He plans to use them to highlight his calls for stricter border security and tough-on-crime crackdowns.

“Just as they have tirelessly worked to protect and serve our communities, I’ve consistently championed public safety during my time in the community and Legislature,” he said.

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U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, is the top-ranking Democrat on the Agriculture Committee.

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

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Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

GRIPES ON DAVID SCOTT. Now that U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, has won his primary and is on a glide path to reelection in November, there is yet another article questioning whether he is capable of filling his duties.

Scott serves as the top-ranking Democrat on the powerful Agriculture Committee. Politico is reporting once again that some members of his party are looking for a workaround because they believe Scott isn’t pulling his weight as the farm bill comes up for debate.

“Several Democrats have told fellow lawmakers that they want someone besides Scott to negotiate the bill going forward, including if there is any effort to move the bill on the House floor, according to two other people familiar with the conversations,” Politico wrote last week.

Scott delivered prepared remarks at the start of last week’s Agriculture Committee meeting, laying out his opposition to the GOP-drafted farm bill.  As debate on amendments continued past the 12-hour mark, Scott remained a presence in the room. Afterward, he released a statement criticizing Republicans for pushing a package that doesn’t have enough support to become law.

“This bill may have advanced out of committee, but it has no future,” he said.

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Former Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker has millions in unspent campaign cash.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

MORE MONEY, MORE PROBLEMS. We’ve told you plenty about former Senate hopeful Herschel Walker sitting on more than $4 million of unspent cash in his campaign account from his failed 2022 challenge to U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

But in a comment to Politico, the leftover money seemed to be news to Walker. From Politico’s Brittany Gibson:

“It wasn't money left in my account. Everyone keeps saying that," Walker said.

Asked to clarify what he meant, Walker quickly ended the call, saying he was in the middle of writing a paper. He said, “we could talk about it some time" but did not respond to multiple further inquiries, including most recently last week.

- Politico

Whether Walker acknowledges the cash or not, it’s right there, detailed in multiple federal campaign filings. And fellow Republicans are eager to see him spend it on Republican candidates — or to refund donors.

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State Sen. Shawn Still, R-Norcross, faces a preliminary hearing today in the 2020 election interference case in Fulton County.

Credit: AJC file photo

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Credit: AJC file photo

COURTHOUSE STEPS. After a delay for the legislative session, a preliminary hearing is scheduled today for state Sen. Shawn Still, a Gwinnett County Republican who was among the 19 charged in Fulton County’s election interference case.

Preliminary hearings rarely make news, but Still’s Democratic opponent, Ashwin Ramaswami, is trying to capitalize on the moment nonetheless. His campaign staff has put out the word that he’ll be on the steps of the Fulton County Courthouse this afternoon to comment on the case.

Still pleaded not guilty to charges of racketeering, impersonating a public officer, forgery and other crimes. Before he was elected to the Senate in 2022, he served as one of 16 Republican electors who cast their votes to certify then-President Donald Trump as the election winner weeks after Joe Biden had won the state.

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U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, is a guest today on the "Politically Georgia" show.

Credit: Jenni Girtman for the AJC

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Credit: Jenni Girtman for the AJC

LISTEN UP. Today on “Politically Georgia,” U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, talks about running for reelection in a newly drawn district and her relationship with President Joe Biden.

Later in the show, University of Georgia professor Audrey Haynes weighs in on political news of the day, including the Republican voter who won a Democratic congressional primary.

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

If you missed it, on Tuesday’s episode Chase Oliver talked about becoming the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president and being a potential third-party spoiler. The AJC’s Shannon McCaffrey also joined the show to talk about the latest updates with the Fulton County election interference case.

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Chase Oliver of Atlanta is the Libertarian Party nominee for president.

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

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Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

SPOILER ALERT. Speaking of Atlanta’s Chase Oliver, who became the Libertarian Party nominee for president over the weekend, the AJC’s Michelle Baruchman has published a story looking at the impact he could have on the election in Georgia.

Third-party candidates typically get between 1% and 2% of the vote, but Oliver is a Georgia resident and has been a candidate in other Georgia races. Yet politics experts project Oliver doesn’t have enough name recognition to attract a significant number of voters. What is more likely is Oliver playing a spoiler, drawing Republican votes away from former President Donald Trump.

“Their main impact is to elect Democrats,” said Kerwin Swint, director of the School of Government and International Affairs at Kennesaw State University.

TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris appear at a campaign event in Philadelphia to launch a new effort appealing to Black voters.
  • The House and Senate are on recess until June 3.

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STAFFING UP. Collin Cummings is heading back to Gov. Brian Kemp’s Georgians First political operation after a stint as deputy campaign manager for former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s presidential campaign.

Cummings previously ran voter turnout operations for Kemp’s 2022 campaign and will now spearhead the governor’s state legislative priorities from the Georgians First Leadership Committee.

He joins Georgians First executive director Chelsey Ruppersburg and senior adviser Cody Hall.

Earlier today, we posted a deeper look at why Kemp is staffing up and loading his schedule with out-of-state events, including a trip to the Republican National Convention.

Keep an eye on this space. We don’t know many second-term governors who staff up their political operations without a good reason for doing it in the future.

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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.