PG A.M.: Georgia GOP House candidate targeted by Kemp allies

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Gov. Brian Kemp’s political machine is taking aim at C.J. Pearson (left), the 21-year-old Republican who is running in a special election for a vacant Augusta-based Georgia House seat.

Credit: Courtesy photo

Credit: Courtesy photo

Gov. Brian Kemp’s political machine is taking aim at C.J. Pearson (left), the 21-year-old Republican who is running in a special election for a vacant Augusta-based Georgia House seat.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s political machine is taking aim at C.J. Pearson, the 21-year-old Republican operative who is running in a special election for a vacant Augusta-based Georgia House seat.

The broadsides by Kemp’s leadership committee come as no surprise, given that Pearson was the top aide to former gubernatorial candidate Vernon Jones. He is the party-switching former Democrat whose far-right challenge to Kemp imploded in spectacular fashion in 2022 after former President Donald Trump refused to back him.

But what’s more noteworthy is the ferocity of the attacks against Pearson. His main Republican rival in the four-candidate race on Feb. 13 is Gary Richardson, a former Columbia County commissioner.

Flyers targeting reliable conservative voters dub Pearson, a first-time candidate and former chair of “Teens for Trump,” as “Pacific Coast Pearson” because he said he dropped out of the University of Alabama to join PragerU, a conservative online media outlet based in Los Angeles, as a commentator. The materials also note that Pearson endorsed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders in 2015, though they don’t mention Pearson was just 13 years old at the time.

Kemp’s allies are also behind a residency challenge filed last week that raised “significant questions” about how long Pearson has lived at the Grovetown address he claims as his residence. Under Georgia law, legislators must live in their districts for a year before they’re elected.

Pearson spokesman Dan McLagan said Pearson has tax records and driver’s licenses to verify his residency. He suggested Kemp’s machine was hijacked by drunken kids who “took Daddy’s super PAC out to do donuts in the parking lot.”

“This looks like a rogue operation. I can’t imagine Gov. Kemp signing off on fake attacks against a Gen Z Republican who is growing our party with both African-Americans and young people,” he said. “Those constituencies could really help Republicans win in 2024″

The second-term governor has reasons beyond Pearson’s ties to Jones to oppose his candidacy. Pearson teamed with disgraced former Trump attorney Sidney Powell, who recently pleaded guilty to election interference charges in Georgia, to file a baseless federal lawsuit against Kemp that sought to overturn Trump’s defeat.

Many Republicans worry that a victorious Pearson will use his platform to throw far-right grenades and spread baseless election fraud conspiracy theories that Kemp has warned will turn off middle-of-the-road voters in 2024.

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The Georgia State Capitol. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Casey Sykes

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Credit: Casey Sykes

UNDER THE GOLD DOME:

  • 8:30 a.m.: Committee meetings begin.
  • 10 a.m.: The House gavels in.
  • 10 a.m.: The Senate convenes.

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AJC reporter Greg Bluestein (left) and editor-in-chief Leroy Chapman before an AJC Town Hall on Jan. 26, 2024. (Arvin Temkar/arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

LISTEN UP. Our boss’s boss’s boss’s boss — AJC editor-in-chief Leroy Chapman — joined the “Politically Georgia” radio show Friday to give his insights into the upcoming South Carolina presidential primary and answer audience questions.

Coming up today, West Virginia U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin joins the show to talk about the growing partisanship on Capitol Hill and his potential run for president as a third-party candidate in 2024.

Listen at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. And listen to Monday’s show live at 10 a.m. on WABE 90.1 FM, at AJC.com and at WABE.org.

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U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge will visit Savannah today to talk about the Biden Administration’s efforts to tackle homelessness. (Natrice Miller/natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

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Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

HOMELESS HELP. U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge will visit Savannah today to talk about the Biden administration’s efforts to tackle homelessness.

Fudge and Savannah Mayor Van Johnson will meet at City Hall with representatives from local agencies, including the Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless, the Savannah-Chatham Interagency Council on Homelessness, Union Mission and Family Promise.

Afterward, Fudge will tour low-income housing sites in Savannah.

The lack of affordable housing is a major issue in the increasingly pricey city. The Housing Savannah Task Force commissioned a study in 2021 that concluded that 40% of households in Savannah can’t afford quality housing.

Fudge is the former mayor of a small Ohio town who faced issues similar to Savannah’s during her two terms.

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Rabbi Peter Berg told the New York Times that he felt the demand for a cease-fire from some did not fully consider the feelings of Jews with ties to Israel. (Miguel Martinez/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

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Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

CEASE-FIRE FIGHT. The New York Times’ Maya King writes this morning that the ongoing war in Gaza is causing deep anxiety inside President Joe Biden’s Democratic base, especially among a group of Black pastors calling for a cease-fire in the region. Among the pastors featured is Atlanta’s Timothy McDonald of the First Iconium Baptist Church.

McDonald told the Times, “We are afraid. And we’ve talked about it — it’s going to be very hard to persuade our people to go back to the polls and vote for Biden.”

But the article also includes a response from Atlanta’s Peter Berg, senior rabbi at The Temple in Atlanta. From the Times:

(Berg) added, though, that he felt the demand for a cease-fire, from some pastors whom he has long considered friends, did not fully consider the feelings of Jews with ties to Israel.

“While we all want peace and for this war to end, I was disappointed to see that some faith leaders call for a cease-fire without focusing on bringing the hostages home and holding Hamas accountable for the atrocities they have committed," Rabbi Berg said, adding, “This is the time to double down on our strong relationships and to be open and honest with each other."

- The New York Times

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INFRASTRUCTURE DOLLARS. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens is featured in a video with President Joe Biden on the White House’s social media accounts, talking up the federal dollars that helped finance an upcoming expansion at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

“Right now, we are expanding Concourse D, thanks to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that you put in place,” Dickens tells Biden. “And this thing here enables us to build it a mile away and then transport it in with a millimeter like precision.”

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens is featured in a video with President Joe Biden on the White House’s social media accounts. (Jason Getz/Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

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Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

“Well, you know, it is the busiest airport in the world,” Biden quips.

The AJC has previously reported that the Concourse D expansion is a $1.4 billion project. The infrastructure law allocated $40 million in funding, making Atlanta among 85 airports nationwide to receive dollars.

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TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • President Joe Biden has no public events on his schedule.
  • The U.S. House has evening votes scheduled on non-controversial legislation such as naming post offices.
  • The Senate returns Tuesday.

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An aerial view of the Port of Brunswick. (Courtesy of the Georgia Ports Authority)

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

BRUNSWICK PORT DOLLARS. A bulk goods terminal at the Port Authority’s Brunswick complex will receive $15 million from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Act to upgrade ship berths.

Georgia U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both Democrats, announced the investment in the East River Terminal last week. The facility is largely used to ship biomass products, such as wood pellets. The port’s automobile and other roll-on, roll-off cargo business goes through a nearby terminal.

The improvements will be completed by 2027, according to the Ports Authority.

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Nathan Deal recently received an appreciation award for his efforts to build trade relations with Japan during his two terms as Georgia’s governor. (Hyosub Shin/hyosub.shin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

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Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

DECORATION FOR DEAL. Japan’s government recently conferred one of the nation’s highest honors, the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, to former Republican Gov. Nathan Deal in appreciation for his efforts to build trade relations with Japan during his two terms as Georgia’s governor.

Deal received the medal in December during a ceremony at the Consulate General of Japan’s offices in Atlanta.

Deal made multiple trips to Japan during his time as governor, attending the Southeast U.S.-Japan Alliance conference in 2012 and leading trade missions to the country in 2013 and 2017. Georgia is a hub of business activities for Japan-based companies, with more than 400 facilities, according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Former Deal aide Brian Robinson noted the governor is only the third Georgian to receive the honor, joining a club that includes baseball hall of famer Hank Aaron.

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DOG OF THE DAY. If the term “dog days” sounds like negative drudgery to you, then you have never met Luna Durrett, the two-year-old borderdoodle who calls the Durrett family her people.

One-quarter border collie, three-quarters standard poodle, and 100% adorable, Luna was a COVID-19 era acquisition for the Durretts. She now splits her time between Atlanta; Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and wherever else Jim Durrett, the executive director of the Buckhead Coalition, goes.

Luna Durrertt looking out at the mountains in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

Luna, for living your best life, and hopefully swapping with us some day, you’re our Dog of the Day!

Send us your dogs of any political persuasion and location, and cats on a cat-by-cat basis, to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, or DM us at @MurphyAJC.

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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.