The Jolt: Are Sonny Perdue chancellor hopes still alive?

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue talks about the Farmers to Families program at Flavor First Growers & Packers in Mills River, N.C., Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue talks about the Farmers to Families program at Flavor First Growers & Packers in Mills River, N.C., Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Will Gov. Brian Kemp still back Sonny Perdue to lead Georgia’s higher education system, even as his first-cousin David Perdue tries to unseat Kemp in the Republican primary?

It’s one of the biggest questions that Kemp will have to answer soon-- and it’s not as cut-and-dry as you might think.

Multiple people close to Kemp say he still might pick Sonny Perdue for the coveted post, in part because he feels duty-bound to stick to his initial decision.

At first glance, it seems like a no-brainer for Kemp to withdraw his support for Sonny Perdue, since one of the original benefits of backing the former governor was the hope that it could keep the former President Donald Trump at bay – and perhaps persuade his famous cousin to stay on the sidelines of a GOP primary.

Instead, David Perdue has joined in, calling Kemp a weakling who has so thoroughly alienated the MAGA crowd that he will lose to Stacey Abrams in 2022.

But Kemp also has good reason to feel beholden to the former governor. He supported Kemp’s first foray into public office, a state Senate bid, in 2002. And Perdue chose Kemp to fill the open post of secretary of state in 2010 and talked Trump into giving Kemp his endorsement in the race for governor in 2018.

All of this might upset the regional accrediting association, which has already issued warnings about an overly politicized process.

(We should note that the final say belongs with the Board of Regents, whose members are appointed by governors to staggered seven-year terms. But Kemp has broad discretion over the decision and will have fresh Regents appointments to make in January.)

Ultimately, Kemp’s embrace of Sonny Perdue could neutralize him in next year’s primary. David Perdue hinted as much at a campaign stop last night in Dalton, when our pal Emma Hurt from Axios probed him on the topic.

“You’d have to ask him. He’s in a delicate situation,” said the former U.S. senator, who added that his cousin was in the running for chancellor. “And I hope they’ll look at that seriously and take that separately from what I’m doing.”

For the record, we did ask Sonny Perdue a few days ago. And he declined to comment.


Georgians First Leadership Committee, the leadership PAC supporting Gov. Brian Kemp, is up with its first ad against David Perdue, which includes hits we’ve heard before about the former senator-- that he outsourced jobs to China as a Fortune 500 CEO.

A Kemp ally tells us the $1 million ad buy is just the start of what the Perdue camp can expect in his primary challenge against the governor. He can rely on a new “leadership committee“ that can raise unlimited funds to finance these attacks.

“The fireworks on New Year’s Eve will pale in comparison to what’s about to happen.”


David Perdue has set up his campaign operations in all-important Cobb County, the Marietta Daily Journal reports.

Financial adviser John Beville and political consultant Stan Fitzgerald are co-chairing the Perdue campaign in Cobb.

Both men told the paper they believe that the GOP base can be turned out on Election Day in a way that did not happen for Perdue earlier this year in his 2021 Senate runoff.

“I think with President Trump’s help, we can unify the base and get people out to vote,” said Fitzgerald, who was visiting Mar-a-Lago this week.


A line in U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde’s endorsement of a Republican state legislator for a neighboring congressional district caught our eye.

Clyde asserted that state Rep. Timothy Barr had “withstood the pressure of establishment politicians, including threats to take his office and remove him from his committees.”

We checked in with House Speaker David Ralston’s office, since he was name-checked in Clyde’s endorsement. And Ralston’s deputies say nothing of the sort happened.

In fact, Ralston top aide Spiro Amburn produced a text from Barr in which he recounted thanking the Speaker for allowing him to keep his chairmanship of the Code Revision Committee even after he entered the congressional race.

“I really appreciate him allowing me to keep that over the last six months,” Barr texted Amburn on Friday, “however for the good of the House and the Republican caucus it’s time for me to resign that.”


Speaking of state Rep. Tim Barr, he was among a handful of Georgia lawmakers on hand at the Capitol to kick off the new Georgia Freedom Caucus, a first state-specific version of the ultra conservative House Freedom Caucus in Washington.

State Rep. Philip Singleton hosted the press conference, which featured dozens of lawmakers from across the country standing behind him, but just six other Georgia lawmakers on hand.

With more than 130 Republicans in the state Capitol, seven total seemed like a light turnout. But Singleton said at the event Tuesday, and again in a comment on Facebook, that not all members of the caucus have been made public.

“In Georgia, there’s a long history of retribution against members who don’t toe the line,” Singleton said.

The Sharpsburg Republican said the Freedom Caucus membership “is much deeper and wider than expected.”

But he added, “We’re much stronger if our full strength is not known. So there’s strategic reasons and there’s tactical reasons we’re not listing our membership…and it’s also the way D.C. does it.”


Georgia’s U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock renewed his push to pass voting rights legislation Tuesday, first in a private lunch with Democratic colleagues and later in a speech on the Senate floor.

Those remarks preceded Warnock’s vote in favor of lifting the debt ceiling, a decision he said he struggled with. He said he supported the policy but that it was a “moral contradiction” for him to allow the Senate rules to be bent to save the economy, but not for proposals he said would help defend the very nature of the American government.

“We need to acknowledge that the ceiling of our democracy is crashing in on us; it needs to be raised and repaired,” he said. “And voting rights need to be next in the queue. It is the very next thing we should take up. And we should not leave for recess until we, at a minimum, have a clear path that we’ve all agreed on how to get there.”

Although many of Warnock’s Democratic colleagues, including West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, said they share his goal, none were willing to outline a pathway or timeline to get it done.


The chair of the U.S. House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack said Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is part of the panel’s search for proof of election interference from former President Donald Trump.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, spoke for the first time publicly about Raffensperger’s recent testimony to the panel. Thompson said the Republican official faced intense pressure campaign from Trump and his allies to overturn the election, and it came at a cost.

“Well, obviously if the President called him, if Mark Meadows went to Georgia, if countless other people communicated with him, then clearly he stood his ground and he’s a principled person,” Thompson said. " And because of that, he’s being criticized by people because he didn’t cheat.”


POSTED: The idea to expand the Gwinnett County Commission from four members and an at-large chair is now bipartisan.

The AJC’s Alia Malik explains:

“State Rep. Pedro Marin (D-Duluth) said he and a bipartisan group of Gwinnett legislators want to try again to add two more seats to the board after a failed attempt four years ago.

The commission has remained the same size since 1968, but since then Gwinnett's population has grown exponentially. According to last year's census — the basis for redistricting — the county grew by 19% in the past decade alone, to more than 957,000 residents.

“If we can increase the board by two, that will be a great service for our constituents because you will have more access to your commissioner," Marin told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They would have less people to represent."

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

State Rep. Clint Dixon, a Republican from Buford, introduced a bill last month to expand the commission to nine seats, but quickly withdrew the proposal.


As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to, and

Sign Up to receive the Morning Jolt & AJC Politics newsletters in your inbox.