The Jolt: A Kasim Reed emoji shakes up Atlanta City Hall

Kasim Reed introduces Atlanta mayoral candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms, who is claiming victory over Mary Norwood, during a runoff election night party at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Atlanta.  BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL
Kasim Reed introduces Atlanta mayoral candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms, who is claiming victory over Mary Norwood, during a runoff election night party at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Atlanta. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

Credit: Branden Camp

Credit: Branden Camp

Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed might have receded from the political spotlight, but he offered a reminder this week how he can still shake the city’s political scene with but a simple emoji.

The aforementioned symbol was a simple hand pointing downward — to a statement from Councilman Howard Shook ripping Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ response to the shooting of a 7-year-old in Buckhead.

Shook’s message didn’t mention the mayor by name but pointed to a lack of leadership in responding to the city’s spiking crime rate and accused the administration of downplaying the issues.

“It will take a lot to turn this around,” wrote Shook. “But here, in descending order, are the three things we need to begin: 1). Leadership; 2). Some Leadership; 3). Any leadership.”

Reed was one of Bottoms’ most important — and forceful — supporters during her 2017 run for City Hall and slim victory over former Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who Reed had also narrowly defeated in 2009.

And his emoji-ed critique sent Atlanta politicos into a frenzy. “Chats are blowing up,” wrote one, describing the messages flying back and forth in the wake of the tweet.

Not long ago, Reed was seen as a surefire candidate for higher office, perhaps as a U.S. Senate candidate this year. And he made clear that he “definitely” wanted to run for office again after his two terms as Atlanta mayor.

But Reed assumed a lower profile amid a federal investigation into corruption at City Hall during his administration, a probe that has led to several guilty pleas. Reed has not been charged and he’s repeatedly said he’s done nothing wrong.

We’re not sure when Reed’s relationship with Bottoms grew strained, but two City Hall insiders told us it’s not a new development. Recall that Bottoms distanced from Reed after she took office as the ongoing probe threatened to stain her administration.

A Bottoms ally described the former mayor as a drag on the ticket and noted that Shook, who is gearing up to run for another term, isn’t likely to cozy with Reed, who is pushing to be “relevant again.” The former mayor’s exact aims aren’t immediately clear.

Reed is unlikely to mount a comeback bid against Bottoms, who is seeking a second term in 2021 after refusing a job in President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet.

But his support could be valuable for a potential challenger, though several of the possible contenders, including former Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, have long been at odds with him.

On Twitter, Reed said he had no hidden agenda with his message.

“I am saying the current level of violence in our city can’t stand. We all have to work to push back against it. It is a solvable problem. We have done it before. Full stop.”

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Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., clasp hands during a campaign rally, Monday Dec. 21, 2020, in Milton, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., clasp hands during a campaign rally, Monday Dec. 21, 2020, in Milton, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

Georgia’s Republican U.S. senators were ready to take a victory lap this week after the overwhelming passage of a bipartisan $900 billion coronavirus relief package. Now they have to deal with President Donald Trump’s demands to sweeten the pot — something their Democratic rivals have loudly advocated.

Trump released a video statement late Tuesday demanding direct stimulus checks nearly three times larger than those in the bill: “I am asking Congress to amend this bill and increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000.”

This is unwelcome news for Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue who hoped to highlight the legislation in the closing days of the race. Perdue, for one, cut an ad Tuesday praising the virtues of the relief package.

It plays directly into the arguments from Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who have argued that Congress should offer more generous incentives ahead of Jan. 5 runoffs for control of the U.S. Senate.

“President Trump is, as ever, erratic and all over the place. But on this point, tonight, he’s right: $600 is a joke,” Ossoff said on CNN late Tuesday. “They should send $2,000 checks to the American people right now because people are hurting.”

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We told you yesterday that Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene was among the conservative Republicans invited to the White House on Monday for a strategy session with President Donald Trump.

Now we are hearing that Greene was the force behind the meeting, which also involved U.S. Rep. Jody Hice and other members of the Trump-supporting House Freedom Caucus.

Greene chatted with the president on Saturday about ways to overturn Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory when Congress meets on Jan. 6. She is the one who suggested a powwow and set the ball in motion for Monday’s summit, people familiar with the talks tell us.

Greene also is claiming to be the first member of Congress to publicly state she will attempt to disrupt what is normally a routine congressional ratification of the presidential election.

She contended she first made the pledge on Dec. 2, days before Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks and other sitting members of Congress began vowing to do the same.

Greene, who will be sworn in on Jan. 3, is clearly jockeying for the position of “most loyal to Trump” in Congress.

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Surprise, surprise: White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows dropped in Tuesday on Georgia’s audit of absentee ballot signatures, the AJC’s Mark Niesse reports.

Meadows, accompanied by Secret Service agents, showed up at the Cobb County Civic Center, where investigators from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and secretary of state’s office were reviewing absentee ballot envelopes to check whether voter signatures match those on file.

He met with Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs in a hallway to inquire about the signature audit and what it would find. He wasn’t permitted inside the room where investigators were examining ballot envelopes.

“I’m not making any allegations as much as I am trying to get to the truth,” Meadows was overheard saying.

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Tom Bonier, head of the left-leaning TargetSmart consulting firm, has an important point about the staggering early-voting turnout in Georgia’s special elections:

Oftentimes, when pundits talk about “rural” and “suburban” voters, they are using an outdated code for white voters. In the 2020 General Election, nearly 20% of all votes cast in rural communities were cast by people of color.

So far in the runoff, 119,095 African Americans in rural communities have cast a ballot. That’s up slightly from 117,773 at this point in the 2020 General Election.

Let that sink in: more rural African American voters have participated so far in the special election than they did at this point in the run up to the presidential.

By comparison, the white non-college rural vote is down from 284,984 at this point in 2020 to 262,861.

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A programming note: Your Insiders will go on semi-vacation on Thursday and Friday and there will be no Jolt those two days. We wish you, dear readers, the happiest of holiday seasons — and hope you get at least a brief respite from the Senate runoffs.

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