The Jolt: A Kansas abortion vote emboldens Georgia Democrats
Supporters of the group Value Them Both, who support Amendment 2, in Shawnee, Kan., July 30, 2022. Millions of dollars’ worth of advertising has flooded the airwaves in Kansas, part of a sudden burst of attention and spending as voters prepare for the country’s first electoral test addressing abortion since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. (Arin Yoon/The New York Times)
The resounding defeat of a Kansas amendment to erase the state’s abortion protections has emboldened Georgia Democrats who see it as a signal the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade will fuel a turnout surge in November.
In the first major vote on abortion since the June decision, voters in the reliably Republican state rejected a Kansas ballot question that would have allowed the Republican-controlled legislature to adopt anti-abortion restrictions.
With polls showing the economy as the paramount concern in Georgia, the Kansas vote indicated to state Democrats that the state’s new anti-abortion could have the same energizing effect ahead of the November midterm.
“If they did it in Kansas, I know the Peach State can deliver,” said state Sen. Elena Parent, a DeKalb Democrat.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Stacey Abrams, the party’s nominee for governor, have both pledged to protect abortion rights if elected. Abrams has also promised to reverse a new law that bans abortions as early as six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.
Gov. Brian Kemp and GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker both back strict abortion limits. But they’ve focused their campaign messages on the nation’s uncertain economy, ground they hope favors Republicans.
Democrats say the vote in Kansas should be a wakeup call to Georgia’s political class.
“Anti-abortion zealots thought that if they gamed the Supreme Court and gerrymandered state legislatures, they could impose their regressive views on the majority of voters,” said state Rep. Josh McLaurin. “But Kansas proves that when you underestimate democracy, you lose.”
ABORTION AD. Stacey Abrams is out with a 30-second TV spot that criticizes the anti-abortion law that took effect last month. It might be the Democrat’s sharpest attack yet targeting Gov. Brian Kemp for championing the new limits.
It features a series of women speaking direct to camera while assailing the law, which bans most abortions as early as six weeks – before many women know they’re pregnant.
“It’s an attack on the women of Georgia,” said the first speaker. It closes with a montage of voices: “The only way to stop this attack on the women of Georgia is to stop Brian Kemp.”
DEBATING DEBATES. Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker went on Fox News last night to declare he would participate in an Oct. 14 debate. The problem is, it’s not one of the three debates that U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock has already accepted.
Walker has long refused to commit to any debates, leaving him open to criticism from Warnock and other Democrats who label him a coward. For the first time on Tuesday, Walker committed to a specific time – a debate in Warnock’s hometown of Savannah.
Warnock has already accepted invitations from WTOC in Savannah, Mercer University in Macon and the Atlanta Press Club. Walker’s aides said the Savannah event the Republican proposed would be sponsored by WSAV.
CHANGEOFHEART. We told you that a bipartisan bill regarding health care for veterans was filibustered last week by U.S. Senate Republicans in an apparent act of protest after Democrats announced they reached a deal on a separate reconciliation package.
Politically, Republicans suffered for that power move. Comedian Jon Stewart blasted them at every turn, and a group of veterans and their supporters camped out on the Capitol steps in protest.
On Tuesday, Republicans reached a deal with Senate Leader Chuck Schumer and passed the veterans legislation, a bill known as the PACT Act that would extend insurance coverage for former military members who were exposed to toxic chemicals during their years of service.
And it wasn’t close. The bill passed 86-11 and without any substantial changes to the language compared to what was filibustered last week and the language many Republicans had supported for month.
Georgia’s two Democratic senators, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, were with the majority that included all but 11 conservatives. The bill now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker also said he would have voted for the measure, which came under fire from some fiscal conservatives who worried it would lead to more spending unrelated to healthcare.
MENTAL HEALTH. When a candidate says he’ll probably get in trouble for saying something, reporters have a knack for paying closer attention.
That’s what happened on Tuesday at Herschel Walker’s town hall event in Kennesaw, which focused on military veterans. As the Senate nominee often does, he mentioned his own struggle with dissociative identity disorder.
Then he warned the crowd he was about to say something controversial.
“Everybody are mentally crazy. But some people handle it better than others. So I’m saying it’s OK if you’ve got a problem because there are people out there that can help you. But you’ve got to be willing to step up to the plate.”
DEEP DIVE. A review of Herschel Walker’s campaign finance disclosure reports turned up a few interesting tidbits. Among them: The Republican Senate nominee has shelled out close to $200,000 to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club.
Walker paid $64,152 in April for a golf fundraiser there. That comes on top of the $135,314 the Walker campaign spent for catering and use of the former president’s Palm Beach, Florida venue in December 2021. (Walker’s campaign said it raised $1.3 million).
It’s also notable that the Walker campaign spent more than $5,600 to rent rooms and venues at the Georgian Terrace in Atlanta and the DeSoto Hotel in Savannah. Both are owned by Sotherly Hotels, our AJC colleague Shannon McCaffrey reports.
Walker sits on the board of Williamsburg, Va.-based Sotherly, a real estate investment trust and he earned $13,625 as a board director, records show.
Robert Maguire, research director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told McCaffrey it is legal for a candidate to pay a company he has a financial interest in as long as they are paying market value.
So, were they?
Walker hosted his GOP primary night victory party at the Georgian Terrace and paid $3,566, the finance disclosure showed. The Georgian Terrace’s website did not list a price for event space rental. A phone call to the hotel was not returned.
While the cost for room rentals at the DeSoto seemed roughly in line with the rates posted online, the campaign reported $50 apiece for lodging at the Georgian Terrace. That’s well below the cheapest $184 rate for a “petite” room the AJC found online.
A Walker campaign aide said they paid market rate. But Maguire said the use, by Walker and other Republican candidates, of Mar-a-Lago raises other questions.
“This is a new phenomenon where you have candidates intentionally spending large amounts of money in order to curry favor with the standard bearer of the party,” Maguire said.
“It has elements of ‘pay to play’ where you pay fealty to the head of the party.”
ELECTORALCHANGES. Lawmakers have proposed changes to the Electoral Count Act in hopes of clearing up some of the ambiguity that Donald Trump’s supporters attempted to exploit in hopes of overturning the 2020 election.
By insisting that Vice President Mike Pence had the power to reject electoral votes for Joe Biden, Trump’s allies put a target on Pence’s back as highlighted in footage and testimony about the Jan. 6 riot. And their scheme sowed doubt about the integrity of the election system in swing states like Georgia.
Sens. Joe Manchin, D-West Virginia, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, will appear at a hearing hosted by the Rules Committee today to discuss their legislation to address these issues.
One bill would make it clear that the vice president’s role in counting electoral votes is largely ceremonial and puts into law that each state’s votes for president cannot be changed. It also addresses the transition of power when a new president is elected.
A second measure seeks to protect election workers and addresses election security issues like record keeping, voting by mail and cybersecurity.
U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff is a member of the committee, so we’ll be watching to see how he links the discussion to Georgia’s battle with election fraud lies.
TODAY IN WASHINGTON:
The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on a resolution approving the addition of Finland and Sweden to NATO.
The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on threats to election workers.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver remarks at the first meeting of the task force that was created as part of the White House’s response to the fall of Roe v. Wade.
IMPERSONATE THIS. Comedian Blaire Erskine, a Georgia native who gained national fame for her parody videos and political commentary, gave her Twitter account to state Rep. Jasmine Clark to help her win another term in the Georgia House.
The Twitter takeover helped Clark appeal to Erskine’s nearly 500,000 followers, bringing more attention to her campaign.
Hi y’all! I’m GA State Rep Dr. Jasmine Clark (@jasmineforhd108) taking over Blaire’s page for the next few days! Looking forward to telling you about how a science nerd like me ended up in politics and why November’s election is so critical, especially down here in Georgia! pic.twitter.com/Pv4br05Ujn
— Rep Dr. Jasmine Clark standing in for Blaire 😊 (@blaireerskine) August 1, 2022
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