The Jolt: A biracial coalition of Georgia Democrats shows signs of growth

A new AJC poll is out this morning, but if we had to pull out the most important stat, it wouldn’t be any of the straight-up horse race numbers – though those are interesting enough:

The poll pegged Trump and Biden at 47% apiece, with an additional 1% of voters backing Libertarian Jo Jorgensen. Only 4% were undecided in the survey of 1,150 likely voters, which was conducted Sept. 11-20 by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs.

Georgia’s twin U.S. Senate races are also competitive. U.S. Sen. David Perdue (47%) and Democrat Jon Ossoff (45%) are neck-and-neck, within the poll’s margin of error of 4 percentage points. Libertarian Shane Hazel has 4% support, and about 5% are undecided.

The special election for U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s seat is still highly unsettled. Loeffler is pegged at 23.5%, echoing other polls that suggest she’s built a slight lead. But U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, her fiercest Republican rival, and Democrat Raphael Warnock are within striking distance at 20.5% and 20.3%, respectively.

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No, the big number in this poll is the 29.4% of white Georgia voters who say they intend to vote for Democrat Joe Biden in the presidential contest. A biracial Democratic coalition capable of carrying the state, fractured 18 years ago, may be coming back together – at just the right time for Joe Biden.

That which was broken up by a fight over – among other things – a state flag dominated by the Confederate battle emblem, has been pushed back together by – among other things – suburban angst over President Donald Trump.

In the 2014 race for governor, Democrat Jason Carter – grandson of the former president – won about 23% of the white vote, losing to Republican Nathan Deal, 53-45%.

In 2016, Trump carried Georgia with 51% of the vote to 46% for Hillary Clinton. Exit polls showed she captured 21% of white voters, dooming her chances of flipping the state for the first time since her husband’s victory in 1992.

But in the 2018 race for governor, the Democratic share of white voters began to inch up. Though she lost to Brian Kemp by a slim 50.2 to 48.8% margin, Democrat Stacey Abrams won the votes of an estimated 25% of white voters.

The old coalition was an alliance of urban Black voters and older rural white voters. The new one is suburban-urban – and younger. Which makes it a growth stock.

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More from the AJC poll: Among voters who identified themselves as Republicans, nearly half said they’ll show up at the polls on Nov. 3. Just 19% of Democrats — amid concerns about the coronavirus — intend to vote on Election Day, with 44% saying they plan to cast absentee ballots and 33% during three weeks of early voting.

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After doing some number-crunching, the Augusta Chronicle reports that Black adults in Georgia are dying at much higher rates from COVID-19 than whites across all age groups, “sometimes by as much as three or four times the rate of whites even at relatively younger ages.”

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More signs of turmoil at the highest levels of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from the New York Times:

Just days after publishing significant new guidance on airborne transmission of the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday withdrew the advice, saying only that it had been “posted in error” on the agency’s website.

The rapid reversal prompted consternation among scientists and again called into question the credibility of the world’s premier health agency, even as President Trump and his senior health officials have sought to undermine C.D.C. scientists.

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The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has sparked fresh talk about a push to increase the number of justices on the Supreme Court, an idea called “court packing” that is dividing Georgia Democratic Senate candidates:

-- Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is challenging U.S. Sen. David Perdue, flatly rejected the idea, saying “we shouldn’t expand the Supreme Court just because a justice may be confirmed with whom we disagree on policy.”

-- But in Georgia’s other U.S. Senate contest, a special election challenging Republican Kelly Loeffler, educator Matt Lieberman said he’d support a new law adding an unspecified number of justices to the bench if Democrats win the White House and gain control of the Senate.

“Mitch McConnell can’t be allowed to create new rules when they suit him and then flout them when he finds his own precedent to be inconvenient,” Lieberman said.

-- The Rev. Raphael Warnock, the frontrunner in that contest, declined to comment on whether he supports the idea. (Separately, state Sen. Jen Jordan, a future potential statewide candidate, endorsed expansion of the high court.)

-- U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, the top GOP rival to Loeffler, said he would introduce a constitutional amendment to ban any change to the number of seats on the Supreme Court until 10 years after legislation that alters the bench’s numbers.

Though the Supreme Court has had nine justices for more than 150 years, the number is set by Congress and not the U.S. Constitution.

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We warned you even before the Rev. Raphael Warnock jumped into the race against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler that Republicans would try to use his words from the pulpit of Ebenezer Baptist Church against him.

Late Monday, Fox News personality Tucker Carlson aired a string of the Democrat’s comments criticizing the police response to the protests in Ferguson, Mo. following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a law enforcement officer.

Warnock accused Carlson of a “smear” and sent out a tweet urging donors to contribute to his campaign. “Let’s be clear, I’m for appreciating our officers AND for ending police brutality,” he said. “You can do both.”

In a rare direct attack on Warnock, Loeffler assailed the Democrat for fueling “anti-police sentiment in this country.”

“It’s anti-cop radicals like Raphael Warnock who are turning our police officers into targets and inciting violence across our country,” she said in a statement.

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As we mentioned Monday, Georgia Democrats are stepping up their criticism of U.S. Rep. Doug Collins. The state party launched the site DCDoug.com to slam the Senate candidate’s “out of touch record” and assail him for supporting a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

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U.S. Sen. David Perdue has picked up the endorsement of the Georgia Fraternal Order of Police, a show of support the Republican plans to promote to emphasize his law-and-order message.

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In celebration of Clean Energy Week, the Republican-oriented group Conservatives for Clean Energy has put out a four-minute video interview with Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, a 22-year veteran of the state Public Service Commission – who is now being dubbed the “godfather of solar power” in Georgia.

McDonald described how he approached the issue of solar power after his his 1998 appointment to the panel by Gov. Zell Miller.

“I made friends with my colleagues from California, New Jersey, and Arizona. Being a conservative, I kept all this inside of me,” he said. “I didn’t talk about it with my folks at home or anything. But I looked at what they were doing and what had happened in their development of solar energy.”

In 2013, McDonald said he made his move. "I went to Georgia Power, which did not have a single kilowatt of solar in their [20-year plan]. I didn’t start at the bottom rung of the ladder. I wanted to go to a decision-maker.

“So I had that meeting, explained what I wanted to do with 525 megawatts of solar power in the integrated resource plan,” McDonald said. “After spending 20 years in the state Legislature, I knew what really counted. So I said, ‘By the way, I have three votes.’”

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The four Democrats representing Georgia in the U.S. House have sent a letter to the GBI requesting a criminal investigation into a whistleblower’s report that immigrants held at the Irwin County Detention Center have been given hysterectomies without their full consent.

U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson, David Scott, Sanford Bishop and Lucy McBath also sent a second letter to Georgia’s medical board, asking for an investigation of Mahendra Amin, the doctor who allegedly performed the procedures.

The complaint from nurse Dawn Wooten included no documents supporting the hysterectomy claims, but her lawyers have supplied second-hand information regarding concerns from detainees about Amin’s bedside manner.

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A North Carolina voting rights group believes it was infiltrated by an activist who has connections here in Georgia.

Now there are questions whether the man was sent by organizations supporting President Donald Trump in hopes of catching or trapping the election fairness groups into breaking the law. The subject’s name is James Fortune, the Georgia Recorder reports:

Fortune has since disappeared. But he left behind a crucial thread that could unravel what appears to be a sprawling scheme by far-right groups with ties to the Trump administration to entrap several North Carolina nonpartisan voter education nonprofits into violating election laws.

These connections begin with a $3,000 wire transfer to the employee’s North Carolina nonprofit from Fortune’s “business partner,” Blue Sky Med Labs, based in Georgia. Policy Watch received a copy of the transfer receipt and verified the name.

Blue Sky Med Labs, which is located in a dull suburban office park in Roswell, is run by Jason Boles, according to Georgia Secretary of State records. Those same state records show Boles is entwined with more than 50 organizations and political campaigns, including that of Marjorie Taylor Greene, the controversial QAnon candidate for a Georgia congressional seat; and a political action committee headed by Stefan Passantino, the former deputy White House Counsel under President Donald Trump.

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The Raleigh News and Observer, which first broke the story, has more news about the strange case here.

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Two paragraphs worth noting from a piece by our AJC colleague Chris Joyner:

Chester Doles, a North Georgia man who has spent decades in white supremacist groups, was a vocal champion of Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene ever since she posed for a photo with him earlier this year. But when he showed up to a rally in Ringgold Saturday, he was escorted out on Greene’s orders….

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The event was briefly visited by U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, Joyner reports:

At Saturday’s rally, Greene and Loeffler talked with constituents ringed by a protective circle of far-right militia members who call themselves the Georgia III% Martyrs. Greene said the security was needed to protect her from “multiple violent, disgusting death threats” she said she has received from left-wing groups.

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Speaking of the 14th District Republican candidate, Marjorie Taylor Green on Sunday tugged on the cape of future Democratic colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Via Twitter:

As a blonde woman, I would like to take a moment to thank Congresswoman @AOC.She has single handily put an end to all “dumb blonde” jokes.

Blondes everywhere appreciate your service and your sacrifice!

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Replied AOC on Monday:

Don’t worry Mrs. Greene, I completely understand why you need to swing + miss at my intellect to make yourself feel better.

You seem to have some trouble spelling your own insults correctly.

Next time try “single-handedly,” it’ll work better.

Good luck writing legislation!

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All seven candidates vying to complete the remainder of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis’s term have temporarily suspended their campaigns to speak out about complaints of long-times and confusion at the polls.

Early voting is underway ahead of the Sept. 29 special election to determine who will fill Lewis’s Fifth District seat through January. The candidates, along with the Concerned Black Clergy of Metro Atlanta, instead spent Monday morning at a news conference speaking about the so-called “voting irregularities,” according to reporting by 11Alive.

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