The Jolt: A Donald Trump ticket in Georgia, without a pick for governor

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
President Donald Trump watches Herschel Walker, the retired football star, throw a pass at the White House Sports and Fitness Day, in Washington, May 30, 2018. Standing with Trump are Mariano Rivera, the retired New York Yankees closer; and Ivanka Trump. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Credit: NYT

Credit: NYT

President Donald Trump watches Herschel Walker, the retired football star, throw a pass at the White House Sports and Fitness Day, in Washington, May 30, 2018. Standing with Trump are Mariano Rivera, the retired New York Yankees closer; and Ivanka Trump. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

No other state has drawn former President Donald Trump’s obsession quite like Georgia. Not Arizona, where Trump still perpetuates lies about the election results. Not even Pennsylvania, whose final tally officially sealed his defeat.

The former president has sent dozens of emails attacking Georgia officials lashing out at his narrow loss. He brings up his disdain for Gov. Brian Kemp unprompted in media interviews.

And late Thursday, he showed once again his fascination with the state with a pair of endorsements when he formally threw his support behind newly minted Senate candidate Herschel Walker, whom he repeatedly urged to run.

Later, he sent word backing state Sen. Burt Jones for lieutenant governor after disavowing one of Jones’ primary opponents, Senate leader Butch Miller.

Jones’ has repeatedly called for investigations of the 2020 Georgia elections- and it’s certainly helped his case with Trump. In the Jones’ endorsement, Trump wrote, “He will also get to the bottom of the Nov. 3rd Presidential Election Scam.”

It’s typical for Trump to take sides in a Senate race. But with Jones’ endorsement, Trump has now endorsed in two lower-tier contests in Georgia. He also backed U.S. Rep. Jody Hice over Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

He’s steadily building a pro-Trump Georgia ticket for the ballot next year and we won’t be surprised if he takes sides in other down-ticket contests.

Still, the biggest void continues to be the race for governor. Trump vowed to take revenge against Kemp after the governor refused to illegally overturn Trump’s election defeat.

But Trump hasn’t yet found the right candidate to deliver the hammer. He has steered clear of backing Vernon Jones, the party-switching former Democrat with a long record of opposing GOP policies and a history of misconduct toward women.

And other potential contenders, such as former small-town mayor Ames Barnett, are seen as only slightly more credible threats than Vernon Jones. Which isn’t saying much.

Still, we know Trump allies are scouring for more palatable alternative to challenge Kemp.

The biggest wildcard might be David Perdue. Members of Trump’s inner orbit want to nudge the former U.S. senator into the race, and they recently released a poll trying to hasten his decision. But we haven’t heard of any significant movement on that front yet.


Shortly before Donald Trump touted his endorsement of Herschel Walker, CNN landed a story that brings more scrutiny to the Republican Senate candidate’s history of violent behavior.

The cable network reported that a Texas woman, who was friends with Walker’s ex-wife, told police in 2002 that the football star had threatened and stalked her. It didn’t specify the nature of the threats to Walker, whose campaign declined to comment about the incident.

The AJC previously reported that two other women -- Walker’s ex-wife and a former girlfriend -- told authorities in separate incidents that Walker threatened to shoot them in the head. He’s denied making the threats.


Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey says Georgians aligned with the anti-vaccination movement have harassed health care workers and disrupted several recent drives to boost the state's inoculation rate against the coronavirus. “It’s wrong. It’s absolutely wrong,” Toomey said. (Steve Schaefer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

A few days ago, we brought you the troubling news that anti-vax demonstrators had disrupted several vaccination drives and forced one to shut down.

We checked in with several law enforcement agencies since then, and none report any active investigations into what the Department of Public Health characterized as “organized” opposition to the life-saving vaccine.

That could soon change. Gov. Brian Kemp sent a letter to police chiefs and county sheriffs across the state on Thursday urging them to “please keep an eye on this activity in your community and coordinate with local public health officials if they need additional support on site.”

The letter said health care workers are “just doing their job and trying to protect the health and well being of their fellow Georgians.”

The governor also reminded law enforcement that “making terroristic threats” to public health workers is a crime and said that Attorney General Chris Carr’s office stands ready to assist.


The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to allow Texas to enact its law barring most abortions also opened up a sharp divide on the issue between four of the five men in the U.S. Senate race.

The Texas law will ban abortion in the state when a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is typically before most women know they are pregnant.

First came the statement from the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Raphael Warnock. Calling himself a “pro-choice pastor,” he said the Supreme Court decision “runs afoul of the basic principle that health care is a right and that decisions should be made between a patient and their provider.”

Three of Warnock’s Republican opponents jumped in to support the Texas decision. Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black called Warnock’s stance “appalling.”

“It’s appalling that Georgia has a U.S. Senator who doesn’t believe in protecting the unborn,” he said. “It’s doubly appalling that he calls himself a reverend. Shame on you, Senator. Every life is precious.”

Construction executive Kelvin King also applauded the ruling and criticized Warnock’s stance.

“Senator Raphael Warnock uses the title of Reverend to preach the word of God, but the title of Senator to proudly advocate for abortions,” he said in a statement. “How can a pastor promote the killing of our innocent unborn?”

Former Navy SEAL Latham Saddler contended that if the Texas law can take effect, then Georgia’s similar anti-abortion law, which passed in 2019, should now go forward, too.

“Today we see the importance of having judges who protect life, the kinds of judges I’ll vote to approve as Georgia’s U.S. senator,” he said.

The newest Republican candidate in the race, former football star Herschel Walker, declined to comment on the high-profile Supreme Court decision.


Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue speaks via video monitor during a rally ahead of a Senate runoff in Dalton, Georgia on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. (Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

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As we mentioned higher up, we still don’t know if former U.S. Sen. David Perdue has any real plans to get into the Georgia governor’s race. But the Sea Island Republican can’t seem to get enough of the lieutenant governor’s race for now.

First, Perdue headed to Gainesville to introduce state Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller at Miller’s huge kickoff north of Atlanta. Last week, Perdue headed to Flovilla to speak at state Sen. Burt Jones’ launch for his LG campaign.

And yesterday, your Insiders obtained a copy of the invitation for a fundraiser for Jeanne Seaver, the Savannah-based GOP activist who was one of Donald Trump’s biggest boosters in the Lowcountry.

Seaver, who is also running on the Republican ticket for lieutenant governor, will be joined by “special guest,” David Perdue at her event later this month.


Yet another federal lawsuit is taking aim at Georgia’s voting law, this time in a case filed by a Gwinnett County prosecutor who objects to a ban on handing out food and water to voters in line.

It’s the ninth lawsuit seeking to throw out parts of the new law, known as Senate Bill 202, according to the tally kept by the AJC’s Mark Niesse.

Gwinnett Solicitor-General Brian Whiteside, who prosecutes misdemeanor offenses, said he needs to protect citizens from a restriction that he views as unconstitutional.

“The implementation of SB 202 destroys trust in law enforcement and has the potential to cause chaos, riots and possible resisting (sic.) of arrest at the polls,” Whiteside said.

The voting law prohibits distributing food and drinks to voters within 150 feet of the outer edge of a polling place or within 25 feet of any voter standing in line. Poll workers will be allowed to install self-service water stations for voters waiting in line. Violations would be prosecuted as misdemeanors, punishable by up to a year in jail and fines up to $1,000.

Georgia election officials have asked a judge to dismiss other lawsuits against the voting law. Supporters of the law have said the ban on giving out food and drinks will reduce the possibility that voters would face undue influence or pressure while waiting in line.


The Democratic Party of Georgia wrapped up a statewide tour in Atlanta touting the bipartisan infrastructure plan.

The “Democrats Deliver” tour promoted the $1 trillion Senate-passed package to build new roads, bridges, broadband internet pipelines and other projects -- and attempted to raise the pressure on Republicans to back the proposal in the House when it comes up for a vote later this month.

“There’s no such thing as a Republican bridge. There’s no such thing as Republican infrastructure needs. There’s no such thing as Republican broadband issues. This should be a bipartisan issue that’s a win for workers, farmers, businesses, and families alike,” said state Rep. Billy Mitchell.

But U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams had a more partisan message. “I want to remind you that not one Georgia Republican voted for the American Rescue plan,” she said.


State Rep. Becky Evans, an Atlanta Democrat, said she and her husband were diagnosed with a case of breakthrough COVID-19.

The couple is fully vaccinated and her symptoms are similar to those of a bad cold. Evans said she believes she caught the coronavirus from a houseguest who believes she caught the virus from her husband, who had been traveling.

In an email to supporters, Evans apologizes to those she may have exposed before testing positive and said she wanted her experience to be a cautionary tale:

Thankfully, so far, none of our exposed friends have shown symptoms or tested positive. But our selfishness, desire to be social, and a little bit of denial has caused a ripple effect. To our friends and family who have been affected by our actions, David and I sincerely apologize.

The Takeaway from my nurse friend, who has reviewed this story and timeline (and been affected by our actions): “We all need to mask up indoors, monitor ourselves, and encourage more people to get vaccinated.”


Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-GA, will be one of his chamber’s primary sponsors of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which will be known as S.4. (BILL CLARK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

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We told you in Thursday’s Jolt that the New York Times had included a story about U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff in its roundup of Congress members who got involved with efforts to evacuate American citizens and allies from Afghanistan.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s team also flagged remarks during Monday’s Rotary Club of Atlanta meeting about Warnock’s recent effort to aid in the rescue of 18 Afghan Christians from the country.

Richard Kannwischer, who serves as senior pastor at Peachtree Church in Atlanta, recounted the story of learning about the members of the group, who had recently converted from Muslim to Christian and quickly feared for their lives when the Taliban took power in the country.

They tried and failed to get a flight out of the Kabul airport. So Kannwischer said he called Warnock, a fellow pastor, on his cell phone to ask for help.

“Within 36 hours of the conversation the senator and I had, the U.S. military came and picked them up in the middle of the night,” he said. “And I’m pleased to announce that they are in Qatar right now, fully in safety.”

Kannwischer credited his partnership with Warnock with helping save their lives. Warnock said he was happy to use whatever influence he has, “But the credit belongs to the military men and women who lay it all on the line every single day.”

The senator also quoted scripture and asked the group to remember the 13 American soldiers who were killed in the final stages of the Afghan evacuation.


The Brunswick-based district attorney who was initially tasked with the prosecution of the Ahmaud Arbery case has been charged with two crimes.

More from the AJC’s Bill Rankin and Brad Schrade:

A Glynn County grand jury on Thursday handed up a criminal indictment against former district attorney Jackie Johnson for her handling of the aftermath of Ahmaud Arbery's killing.

Johnson is charged with obstruction of a police officer, which is a misdemeanor. On the day of the shooting, she allegedly told two Glynn County police officers not to arrest Travis McMichael, the man who shot and killed Arbery, the indictment said.

Johnson is also indicted for allegedly violating her oath of office, a felony, for “showing favor and affection" to Greg McMichael, who is Travis McMichael's father and is also charged in the case. Johnson failed “to treat Ahmaud Arbery and his family fairly and with dignity," the indictment states.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath will wrap up her “McBath Summer Storytime” virtual children’s reading program on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. The tenth and final book for the program will be, “I’ll Love You Forever.”

The Marietta Democrat began the summer reading program last year to encourage children to read during the summer months. Tune in on Sunday here.


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