On the Georgia Trail: Politicians mourn Vince Dooley

Georgia coach Vince Dooley hands the ball off to freshman tailback Herschel Walker in a posed photo from the 1980 season. (Photo provided by UGA Athletics)

Georgia coach Vince Dooley hands the ball off to freshman tailback Herschel Walker in a posed photo from the 1980 season. (Photo provided by UGA Athletics)

The late Vince Dooley was a legendary football coach and University of Georgia athletic director. His legacy was also intertwined with Georgia politics.

The history buff took steps to run for Georgia governor in the early 1980s and weighed a U.S. Senate bid as a Democrat in 1985 before abandoning the idea. His wife, Barbara Dooley, waged an unsuccessful campaign as a Republican for a U.S. House seat in 2002.

Long after he retired, Dooley’s endorsement was coveted by candidates from both parties. One of his last public acts was taping a TV ad for Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker, who was the star of Dooley’s 1980 national championship team. Walker said he was “like a second father” to him.

“Without Coach Dooley, there is no Herschel Walker,” Walker said. “He helped make me the man I am today and I will never be able to thank him enough for everything he did for me.”

He was also a dear friend to Gov. Brian Kemp, an Athens native whose childhood was shaped by Dooley. From a 2019 AJC story:

“To say Kemp is friendly with the Dooley family is like saying Georgia’s mascot has a few wrinkles. The governor vacationed with the Dooley family as a child and roomed with the coach’s son, Daniel, in college. They remain very close.”

In a statement Friday after Dooley’s death, Kemp said his family “was profoundly influenced and made better by personally having known this man of greatness.”

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Black male turnout remains a priority for Stacey Abrams’ campaign

The men’s Bible study breakfast at St. Philip A.M.E. Church had a political theme Saturday morning, specifically Black men and why they tend to vote at a lower rate than Black women.

Over sausage, grits and eggs, roughly 50 Black men pushed back on the narrative that they aren’t as enthusiastic this year although they acknowledged that Black women tend to show up stronger and harder.

Chris Bruce, who serves as the political director for Stacey Abrams’ campaign for governor, said Black male voters aren’t a monolith and choose their candidates based on different issues and values.

“This is not based on race, gender or anything else,” he said. “This is more based on what do you think is the best person for this job.”

Bruce and the other panelists — state Rep. Billy Mitchell and Sam Tillman, former chairman of the DeKalb County elections board — said the Democratic ticket is what Black men will overwhelmingly support as they have in the past. And the pointed to numbers that show Black men are showing up this year in record raw numbers.

The Rev. William Watley, head pastor of this church in the part of Atlanta found in DeKalb County, said Black men are with Abrams.

“We are supporting Stacey Abrams and others not just because they are Black but because they are the best,” he said. “And when they are elected, all of Georgia prospers.”

Warnock rallies with supporters in Douglasville before knocking on doors

DOUGLASVILLE — U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock kept up his pointed criticism of opponent Hershel Walker during a short rally ahead of a canvassing event in Douglasville.

Walker’s controversies and questionable statements on health care and drug prices show that he is unprepared for office, Warnock said outside of RainFire Church.

“There is no evidence that this man has spent any time thinking and agonizing over the things that keep me up at night because I want people to have a chance,” he said. “That’s all I want. People have to deal with their own lives but this public policy helps them make the best out of their own lives.”

Warnock also said he wasn’t giving much attention to attacks from Republicans regarding an apartment building owned connected to the church he pastors, Ebenezer Baptist Church. Walker’s campaign has said that tenants have been unfairly evicted during the pandemic, but Warnock says the allegations are unfounded and an act of desperation from those looking to deflect attention away from Walker’s misdeeds.

Warnock said Saturday he is unbothered by these attacks because his priority is being elected to a full six-year term.

“I’m going to keep the faith, and I’m going to stay focused on the work that you have me to do,” he told the crowd. “And I need to know are you ready to get this thing done one more time?”

Warnock encouraged those in the crowd to vote early. Many churches are hosting Souls to the Polls events on Sunday.

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Democrats push abortion message in crucial Atlanta suburbs

SANDY SPRINGS-- Democrats led by Stacey Abrams finished a full day of campaigning with a rally in all-important Sandy Springs Saturday night.

The fast-growing Atlanta suburb has been crucial to Democratic gains in the last several elections, thanks to increasing support from highly educated women in the area. In 2020, Joe Biden won the once-conservative stronghold 61% to Donald Trump’s 37.5%.

Winning suburban women once again is a must for Abrams and other Democrats to secure statewide victories, so their singular focus Saturday night was on Georgia’s newly enacted six-week abortion ban, passed by the Republican General Assembly and signed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

The Democratic attorney general nominee, state Sen. Jen Jordan, has represented portions of Sandy Springs in the state Senate throughout her time in office. She told the crowd Georgia’s new abortion law means, “Women have literally been relegated to second-class status, and we have worked too damn hard” to let it stand.

State Rep. Bee Nguyen, running for secretary of state, wrapped abortion into her remarks, too. “Right now we know that our basic freedoms are under attack, including the freedom to vote and the freedom to choose,” she said. “And I tell you, Hell hath no theory like an angry Southern woman.”

Abrams told the 200-or-so Democrats on hand that Kemp Kemp had failed Georgians in many ways, but most especially by signing the new restrictive abortion law.

“We need a governor who will protect a woman’s right to choose,” she said. “Over the last 20 years, it has taken men to break the promise of Georgia and it’s gonna take a woman to put it right.”

In an interview ahead of Abrams’ appearance, Democratic state Rep. Josh McLaurin, who is running to represent the area in the state Senate, said he recently got an email from a Republican woman who said she is voting for him on the abortion issue specifically.

“Her feeling, which I’m sure a lot of conservative women share, is that the abortion ban went too far and that some sort of corrective force needs to be put in the legislature to switch it back,” he said.

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Warnock says Schumer ‘hot mic’ comments don’t reflect record early voting turnout

JONESBORO — In comments to President Joe Biden picked up by television cameras, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer appeared to express pessimism about U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s ability to retain his seat this election. Schumer told Biden that the Georgia Senate race is “going downhill.”

Warnock said that he doesn’t give those remarks much thought because what he sees on the ground in Georgia indicates his support is strong.

The voters of Georgia already voted, and they are smashing records,” Warnock said after a campaign stop in Jonesboro Saturday evening. “And I think that’s because they see the huge difference between me and my opponent.”

Warnock said he has made a case differentiating himself from Republican challenger Herschel Walker, who didn’t hold any public campaign events Saturday, by working to lower health care costs and cut taxes for working families. The Jonesboro event was dubbed an “Educators for Warnock Meet & Greet,” and Lisa Morgan, president of the Georgia Association of Educators teachers union, was among the warming acts.

Warnock told reporters Schumer’s comments are not what will win or lose an election.

" I think the voters of Georgia are what matters right now: their voices,” he said. “And I think we’re hearing their voices loud and clear as they’re turning out in record numbers. And we need people to keep it up because the four most powerful words in a democracy are, ‘The people have spoken.’ And those are the voices that I’m focused on right now.”