PG A.M.: Morehouse leaders wrestle with criticism ahead of Biden grad speech

Your daily jolt of news and analysis from the AJC politics team
Morehouse College reportedly extended an invitation in September asking President Joe Biden to speak at commencement this year.

Credit: Curtis Compton/AJC

Credit: Curtis Compton/AJC

Morehouse College reportedly extended an invitation in September asking President Joe Biden to speak at commencement this year.

President Joe Biden could be in for a tumultuous welcome when he delivers the commencement address at Morehouse College’s graduation ceremony in May.

Social media was buzzing with calls for students and faculty to stage a walk-out in protest of the Democrat’s support for Israel in its ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza after the terror group’s Oct. 7 attack.

Morehouse College provost Kendrick Brown reportedly reached out to faculty members after it was announced President Joe Biden was slated to speak at graduation.

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

And NBC News reported that Morehouse College provost Kendrick Brown sent faculty members an email outlining a virtual meeting on Thursday to offer a chance for professors with “different perspectives” on the commencement speaker to have their say.

Campuses have become staging grounds for protests over Biden’s pro-Israel stance during the Jewish nation’s seven-month-long war against Hamas. And recent polls suggest Black voters aren’t as enthusiastic about his reelection bid.

A pro-Palestinian demonstration encampment at Columbia University in New York on  Monday. U.S. colleges and universities are preparing for end-of-year commencement ceremonies with a unique challenge: providing safety for graduates while honoring the free speech rights of students involved in protests over the Israel-Hamas war.

Credit: AP

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Credit: AP

In the email to faculty, Brown wrote that Morehouse extended an invitation to Biden in September and “does not plan to rescind” the request. The meeting Thursday is intended as a forum for discussion and questions.

The White House didn’t immediately comment but is expected to formally announce Biden’s plans later today.

Plenty were enthusiastic about Biden’s decision, too. Among them was U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, an Atlanta Democrat and a Morehouse Man who posted on social media that he was proud Biden was the commencement speaker at his alma mater.

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CAMPAIGN CASH. Some of the best-known challengers of Democratic incumbents in Congress are struggling to raise enough cash to rent office space, let alone run full-fledged campaigns.

Marcus Flowers raised more than $16 million two years ago in a failed bid against Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome. Now in a crowded 13th Congressional District primary race against U.S. Rep. David Scott, newly released financial records show Flowers has just $30,000 cash on hand, partly due to a $15,000 loan, and another $10,000 in debt.

Democrat Marcus Flowers faces U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, in the upcoming election. Scott is running for a 12th term in office.

Credit: Ben Gray for the AJC

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Credit: Ben Gray for the AJC

Then there are the two Democratic elected officials competing in the May 21 primary versus U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath in the 6th Congressional District. State Rep. Mandisha Thomas is in the red, with about $10,000 in the bank and $12,000 in debt, while Cobb County Commissioner Jerica Richardson’s campaign reported just $1,200 in its coffers — and $8,000 in debt — despite launching her bid in August.

The incumbents, by contrast, are sitting pretty. McBath of Marietta had $1.3 million in the bank through March, while Scott, an Atlanta resident, reported ending the first quarter with $545,000.

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Former state Sen. Mike Crane is running for the congressional seat now held by retiring U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson.

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

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Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

GEORGIA THIRD. While we’re diving into campaign figures, AJC data guru Phoebe Quinton scoured campaign finance reports for the top Republicans running to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-The Rock, in the 3rd Congressional District.

She found that almost 80% of the itemized donations to former Donald Trump aide Brian Jack’s campaign came from out of state, equaling roughly $250,000. Floridians sent the most donations with about $48,000, followed by New York and Virginia.

By contrast, only about 20% of itemized donations to ex-state Sen. Mike Crane and former state Rep. Philip Singleton came from outside of Georgia. And only 8% of donors to former Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan were from beyond the state.

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Bill Jones (far right), the father of Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, was among the state officials and local leaders photographed with Gov. Brian Kemp at a bill signing event in Athens.

Credit: Nell Carroll for the AJC

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Credit: Nell Carroll for the AJC

PLUS ONE. In yesterday’s newsletter, we told you that Bill Jones, the father of Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, was among the state officials and local leaders photographed with Gov. Brian Kemp in Athens last week as Kemp signed House Bill 1339, legislation to overhaul rural hospital regulations and expand rural health options.

But unlike the others in the photograph, the elder Jones is neither an elected official nor health care policy leader. Instead he is a wealthy oil executive in Jackson, Georgia.

The elder Jones also owns a large tract of land in Butts County where his newly formed company, Interstate Health Systems, was granted a zoning permit last year to develop a 45-acre medical office complex. Butts County is among those that will be eligible to expand health care offerings because of the new legislation.

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones was a supporter of the bill that overhauled hospital regulations.

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

The lieutenant governors’ office has never answered questions about a potential financial benefit to the Jones family from HB 1339. Asked this week why Jones’ father was standing behind the governor as he signed the major new law, they said only the signing event was “open to the public.”

“If the AJC spent less time obsessing over the Jones family and doing the bidding of major hospitals, their readers might be more informed about a major piece of legislation that will end hospital monopolies and expand health care access for Georgia families, especially in rural Georgia,” said a spokesperson for the lieutenant governor.

If you’ve missed our colleagues’ extensive coverage of HB 1339, you can read about its proposal, negotiation, passage, the bill signing, and past scrutiny at AJC.com.

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Georgia Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, is a guest today on the "Politically Georgia" show.

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

LISTEN UP. Today on the “Politically Georgia” radio show, state Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, will talk about his failed efforts this past legislative session to expand Medicaid and provide compensation for people wrongfully convicted of crimes.

Robert Schwartz, who once led a PAC supporting former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s bid for president, also joins the show to discuss the “Haley Voters For Biden” initiative.

The show airs at 10 a.m. this morning on 90.1 FM, at AJC.com and at WABE.org.

In case you missed it, Monday’s show featured NPR’s Ayesha Rascoe, who discussed her book “HBCU Made,” and Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis, who provided the latest on the various trials involving former President Donald Trump.

Listen at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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FOREIGN AID. Members of the U.S. Senate will return to the Capitol today to begin deliberations on the $95 billion foreign aid package the House passed on Saturday.

If there is cooperation among all 100 members, final passage could happen as early as this evening, allowing lawmakers to return to their home states and resume what was supposed to be a weeklong recess. If not, members will likely need to stay through Wednesday to see things through.

The foreign aid dollars are expected to pass the Senate with bipartisan support just as they did in the House. However, just like in the House some of the most conservative members opposed money for Ukraine and some progressive Democrats are not in favor of funding for Israel.

A fourth bill is also included in the package and includes language that could lead to a ban of TikTok, the social media network owned by a Chinese company.

If the Senate approves the bundle of legislation, President Joe Biden has pledged to quickly sign it into law.

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FUNDS FLOOD. Sea level rise and hurricane-related flooding are a perpetual threat to Savannah and its many low-lying neighborhoods. Later today, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell will formally award a $30 million grant to address drainage issues around the Springfield Canal, which borders two of the city’s predominantly Black neighborhoods, Carver Village and Cloverdale.

The Springfield Canal, which links to the Savannah River, is a long-term focus for Savannah officials. Not only is it a flood risk for neighborhoods along its path, but the canal also passes by the city’s sports and entertainment venue, Enmarket Arena, which opened in 2022 and is the centerpiece of a broader redevelopment project known as the Canal District.

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President Joe Biden will be in Tampa today to deliver a campaign speech on abortion access.

Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

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Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • President Joe Biden travels to Tampa, Florida, to deliver a campaign speech on access to abortion.
  • The Senate is expected to take procedural votes to advance a $95 billion foreign aid package.
  • The House is on a weeklong recess.

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 Carol B. Tomé, CEO of UPS, is slated for honors in Georgia.

Credit: UPS

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Credit: UPS

TOP HONOR. To commemorate the 291st anniversary of the founding of Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia Historical Society will induct Carol B. Tomé, CEO of UPS, and Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, founding dean of the Morehouse School of Medicine and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, as Georgia Trustees. It is the highest honor the state of Georgia can confer.

The award is meant to recognize individuals’ accomplishments and community service. The induction ceremony is Saturday in Savannah.

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Former President Donald Trump, right, appears in a Manhattan court Monday for opening statements in his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments. An Emory University professor recently contributed to a book about Trump.

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

THE TRUMP EFFECT. An Emory University professor is among the academics who contributed to a recent book examining the effect former President Donald Trump had on the makeup and work of the U.S. Senate.

The book, titled “Disruption? The Senate During the Trump Era,” looks into how Trump worked with the Senate during his four years in office and provides a glimpse at what could happen if voters put him back in the White House in November.

Joseph Crespino, who serves as the Jimmy Carter Professor of History at Emory, is among the 19 contributing authors. He wrote Chapter 2, which he titled “The Filibuster and the Trump Senate: The View from the Mid-Twentieth Century American South.”

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DOG OF THE DAY. Tuesday is a good day to sleep in, at least for our furry friends. So we’re giving them a break. As for you, their people, send us your dogs of any political persuasion, and cats on a cat-by-cat basis, to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, or DM us at @MurphyAJC. Horizontal photos are especially welcome.

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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.