Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday scheduled a major address in McDonough to blame state and national Democrats for the uncertain economy. Around the same time, Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker held court 55 miles to the north with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
The dueling Republican events underscored a dynamic playing out in both of Georgia’s top races with fewer than 100 days until the election: The Democratic and GOP candidates for governor and U.S. Senate aren’t running as a package deal – and sometimes they’re not on the same page on key issues, either.
Let’s start with the GOP side. Walker never cozied up to Kemp during the primary, lamenting he was “mad” at both the governor and former U.S. Sen. David Perdue for the nasty internal feud. He later wouldn’t say whether he even voted for Kemp.
Ahead of Stacey Abrams in the polls, there’s good reason for Kemp to continue running his own state-centric campaign. But Walker wouldn’t mind the support from a governor whose approval ratings in the latest AJC poll is about 54% - and who is outpolling him among Republicans.
“There’s no doubt I’m going to support the governor. We’ll be a tag team,” Walker said at a recent campaign stop in Alto. “I’ll be a tag team with anyone else who is running on the Republican ticket.”
As for the Democratic ledger, Abrams and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock are personally very close – and Abrams helped clear the way for Warnock in early 2020 when he launched his bid for the late U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat.
This all brings back memories of the last time a governor’s race and U.S. Senate seat were up for grabs in Georgia in the same cycle. In 2014, all four candidates for the two offices rarely campaigned together – and each held separate bus tours in the closing weeks of the race.
RUNNING MATES? Speaking of tag teams, Stacey Abrams and Charlie Bailey, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, have campaigned together at a string of recent events. But we haven’t seen Gov. Brian Kemp and GOP nominee Burt Jones stump with each other.
Bailey brought that up at a Friday campaign stop in Dalton, noting that Jones wasn’t among the slate of GOP statewide candidates who stood beside Kemp as he gave his economic address. He also alluded to Jones’ role as a fake GOP elector in 2020.
“He’s not been seen with him one time,” Bailey said. “He hasn’t uttered his name. Is it because the governor is uncomfortable with campaigning with somebody under federal and state investigation for trying to overthrow the United States government?”
We’re told by allies of Kemp and Jones that the two men are friendly, and that they recently met at the Governor’s Mansion for a fruitful conversation.
”The governor stands shoulder to shoulder with the entire GOP ticket to keep Georgia red this fall, and looks forward to working alongside soon-to-be Lt. Governor Jones and Senator Walker to keep our state the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” said Kemp spokesman Cody Hall.
“I wonder why Georgians haven’t seen Abrams, Bailey, or Warnock campaign with Joe Biden yet?”
Jones spokesman Stephen Lawson said the Democrat is trying to distract attention from his campaign’s struggles.
“After a public embarrassment for Bailey and his BFF Fani Willis, the only good news for Democrats is that they’re about eight months away from asking him to bow out of another primary,” he said.
AD WARS. Stacey Abrams has already filmed a direct-to-camera ad trying to redraw the contours of the public safety debate in Georgia. Now she’s airing a new 30-second ad featuring three law enforcement officials who endorse her plan.
The Democrat has been pummeled by attacks from Gov. Brian Kemp accusing her of supporting the “defund the police” movement, armed with a clip from a 2020 CNN interview. She says the footage was taken out of context and notes her plan to hike salaries of some law enforcement officials.
The new ad features endorsements from Douglas County District Attorney Dalia Racine, along with testimony from a retired police lieutenant and a former deputy sheriff from Florida. The ad, called “Don’t Believe It,” accuses Kemp of “flat-out lying” about Abrams’ record.
The plan included her vow to expand Medicaid, fight anti-abortion restrictions and deliver a $1 billion tax refund. But it also referenced proposals we haven’t heard much about, such as a plan to immediately publish lobbyist expenditure information and hold a slate of listening sessions.
Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee held a roundtable with Insurance Commissioner John King and other GOP figures to highlight efforts to organize grassroots voters and blast Democratic policies.
DELAYED VOTE. State Democratic leaders will have to wait until after the midterm election to find out if Georgia will join the slate of states that hold early presidential votes.
Politico reported that the Democratic National Committee told its members an August vote on the lineup will be delayed until after the November election. Georgia is among the states competing for a coveted slot earlier in the schedule.
ASSAULT WEAPON BAN. Voting largely along party lines, the U.S. House on Friday approved restrictions on the sale, manufacture and importing of most semi-automatic rifles, pistols and shotguns.
The bill passed narrowly, 217-213. Five Democrats and two Republicans broke ranks, but Georgia’s delegation stuck to the party-line split. All six Democrats voted in favor and all eight Republicans opposed.
The legislation has very little chance of clearing the Senate, a vote that would require support from at least 10 of 50 Republicans.
On Wednesday, Republicans filibustered what had been a bipartisan bill to extend health care and other benefits to veterans injured by exposure to toxins and chemical agents. So there isn’t much hope for the passage of a more controversial assault weapon ban.
Senate Leader Chuck Schumer indicated he may try again this week on the veterans bill. But he hasn’t said what he will do about the assault weapon ban headed to his chamber, too.
EYES ON RECONCILIATION. U.S. Senate Democrats are hoping for a positive ruling from the parliamentarian regarding whether their climate change, healthcare and tax package fits the rules of reconciliation.
But an even larger question is whether moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema will go along with the provisions ironed out by Sens. Joe Manchin and Chuck Schumer, include a tax provision that she had earlier opposed.
This is the Senate’s last scheduled working week before the August recess. The House finished on Friday, although members are expected to return mid-month to vote on the reconciliation package if the Senate can get it done this week.
We’ll also be looking to see if the reconciliation package is amended to include the $35-per-month cap on out-of-pocket insulin costs championed by Sen. Raphael Warnock.
He and his partner in the House, U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, both issued press releases in reaction to rumors that Senate negotiators were going to add the insulin language to the package but it’s not done yet.
TODAY IN WASHINGTON:
· The Senate is working through nominations as it waits for the go-ahead to reconciliation.
· The House is on a five-week recess.
· President Joe Biden is back in COVID-19 quarantine but working virtually.
ALABAMA BOUND. Senate hopeful Herschel Walker is headed across state lines to deliver a keynote on Aug. 12 at the Alabama GOP’s summer dinner. We expect the former Georgia football star to bring up Georgia’s 33-18 thrashing of Alabama in the January championship.
TREKKIE TRIBUTE. Stacey Abrams, a devoted Star Trek fan who appeared in an episode earlier this year, posted a photo she took with trailblazing actress Nichelle Nichols, who died over the weekend.
“One of my most treasured photos - Godspeed to Nichelle Nichols, champion, warrior and tremendous actor,” Abrams wrote. “Her kindness and bravery lit the path for many. May she forever dwell among the stars.”
Nichols was best known for her portrayal of the character Uhura in the original Star Trek series and its films during a time when roles for Black women were often limited to playing servants and nannies.
The AJC last year published a fascinating article where Nichols recounted how Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged her to stick with the show in the face of treatment she regarded as racist. She wanted to quit, but was inspired by him to stay on.
“You cannot and you must not,” she recalls him saying. “Don’t you realize how important your presence, your character is? ... Don’t you see? This is not a Black role, and this is not a female role. You have the first non stereotypical role on television, male or female. You have broken ground.”
One of my most treasured photos - Godspeed to Nichelle Nichols, champion, warrior and tremendous actor. Her kindness and bravery lit the path for many. May she forever dwell among the stars. #RIPNichelle#Uhurapic.twitter.com/nFXHif8HEC
NEVER MIND. After announcing about a month ago she would step down, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield has decided to stay in President Joe Biden’s inner circle a little longer. She told colleagues she had a “lot of gas left in the tank.”
“I’m not done here and there is so much more good work to do with all of you,” she wrote in an email Friday. “I couldn’t be happier and more excited about this awesome — if admittedly last-minute! — development.”
Bedingfield is a metro Atlanta native and a proud graduate of Sandy Springs Middle School – which she attended with one of your Insiders – and Riverwood High School.