The Jolt: Bad blood boiling inside the state Senate GOP

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
State Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, asked to have his name removed as a co-sponsor of a resolution that would ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. PHOTO / JASON GETZ

State Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, asked to have his name removed as a co-sponsor of a resolution that would ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. PHOTO / JASON GETZ

The special session later this year was already set to be a fraught struggle to redraw political maps. But an internal GOP email over the weekend showed that the friction inside the state Senate GOP caucus might be even sharper than expected.

The message came after state Senate GOP Leader Butch Miller knocked state Sen. Burt Jones, his rival in the lieutenant governor’s race, over an ethics complaint in a disparaging tweet. That complaint, filed by a Dalton attorney, accused Jones of starting to campaign for LG weeks before filing his paperwork to run for the post.

“I’m running for GA,” Miller wrote on Twitter. “Burt’s running for Burt.”

That led state Sen. Matt Brass, a Jones supporter, to fire off an email to fellow Senate Republicans that included these lines:

“In my 5 years as a member of this body and a caucus, the single most divisive issue I’ve seen is when a member of leadership attacks its own members, whether in public or private.” the Newnan Republican wrote. “When that happens, it shows they have self interests that supersedes the interests of the body it represents.”

Along with the Butch Miller tweet, Brass also took issue with Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan’s recent promotion of his “GOP 2.0” book, which has included plenty of Trump bashing and party scolding as a part of his book tour.

“We were divided when the #1 Leader of the Senate’s interest in selling books and CNN fame-seeking took precedence over our caucus priorities. And..we saw the #2 Leader in the Senate’s interest in seeking higher office take precedence over a caucus member which is now causing further division.”

Brass added that he understands campaigns themselves are “bare-knuckle fights fought by grown men and women and if we can’t handle that then we’re in the wrong business.” But he objected to the dual role Miller now occupies as Senate President Pro Tem and LG candidate.

“I am upset that an elected leader of this body would attack his own member publicly and I feel there is now a clear conflict of interest (I didn’t feel that way until now)” that Brass said should be discussed at an upcoming caucus retreat.

Brass declined further comment but Miller’s campaign had plenty to say.

“Not many senators are supporting Burt because they’ve had a front row seat to him doing nothing during his eight years in the Senate while Butch was achieving conservative victories,” said Neil Bitting, Miller’s campaign manager.

“This letter is from a senator saying we need to fight back for conservatives. Butch is the only one in the race who’s ever shown up for that fight.”

Prepare for more GOP infighting, not just when legislators return to the Gold Dome, but as the GOP primary season really gets underway.


Speaking of legislative sessions, expect the issue of the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta breaking away from the city itself to be a hot topic under the Gold Dome well before the 2022 session kicks off in January.

Lawmakers are awaiting the feasibility study looking at whether a potential Buckhead City would be financially viable. That’s expected to be released any day now.

After that, look for a hearing of the House Study Committee on Annexation and Citihood, where lawmakers will press Buckhead boosters for specifics on the many sticky issues that come up in any effort to create a new city in Georgia.

The Buckhead question is especially complicated because it would involve carving a new city out of an existing city-- not simply establishing a new city out of an unincorporated portion of a county.

Although the Buckhead question is not expected to come before lawmakers before the regular session in 2022, the issue itself will be the topic of 2022 campaign fodder starting today.

Republican Senate candidate Gary Black has scheduled a press conference this afternoon in Buckhead, where he plans to support a referendum on the 2022 ballot, when residents of the north Atlanta neighborhood would choose whether to remain as a part of the City of Atlanta or go it alone as their own Buckhead City.


POSTED: One of the biggest questions of the upcoming special redistricting session is the future make-up of the 6th and 7th congressional districts.

The two suburban Atlanta districts have both flipped from Republican to Democrat recently. They’re crucial to either party’s hopes for controlling the U.S. House of Representatives. And one-- or both-- could become more friendly GOP territory after Republican lawmakers get through with them in the special session.

Mark Niesse and fellow Insider Tia Mitchell look at the nuts and bolts of the 6th and 7th-- and what’s at stake, along with their future boundaries.


Not surprisingly, Herschel Walker got a warm welcome on the gridiron Saturday at the University of Georgia’s first home football game in Athens.

The GOP Senate contender was honored on the field along with the rest of the 1980 national championship squad. It was his first public appearance since entering the race a few weeks ago, and a group of students started to chant, “Herschel! Herschel!” as he waved the chants on.

The conservative-leaning Trafalgar Group released a poll that gives Walker a reason to cheer himself: It showed him with about three-quarters of the GOP primary vote.

“Undecided” won 13.2%, while Walker’s closest named competitor, Gary Black, got just 6.3%.

Walker can avoid a runoff for the GOP nomination if he clears 50% of the vote in next summer’s Republican primary.


Gov. Brian Kemp continues to consolidate Republican support ahead of an expected rematch against Stacey Abrams next year.

The first-term governor landed the endorsements of more than 100 city officials around the state, including the mayors of Chamblee, Gainesville, Milton, Newnan and Sandy Springs.

Earlier, he rolled out endorsements of dozens of state lawmakers and local officials ahead of a primary against two longshot Republican rivals.


If you were a governor looking to shore up your right policy flank, you couldn’t do much better than the item in Gov. Brian Kemp’s planner tonight.

He’ll headline a Heritage Action “Protect our Paychecks” event with Georgia U.S. Reps Rick Allen, Andrew Clyde (GA-09), Jody Hice (GA-10), and Barry Loudermilk.

The conservative confab will be at an Atlanta brewery speaking out against what they call national Democrats’ “failed economic agenda.”


The U.S. Senate returns from its August break this week, and there could be yet another vote — and another Republican filibuster — on voting legislation.

House Democrats last month passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bill that would reinstate federal review of changes to election laws in certain states and jurisdictions.

That legislation is now ready for a vote in the Senate. Georgia’s U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock has been working with West Virginia’s Joe Machin and others on compromise language to replace a sweeping election bill that was previously blocked by a filibuster.

But without 10 Republicans willing to lend their support, Democrats still won’t have the votes to overcome a GOP filibuster this time around.

The larger question is whether voting rights could be the issue that moves moderate Democrats to change the filibuster rules themselves.


Oconee Radio Group’s Rahul Bali scoops that former Democratic state Senator and Milledgeville Mayor Floyd Griffin will run for Georgia Secretary of State.

He’ll face State Rep. Bee Nguyen, who is also running for Secretary of State for the Democrats.


Last week was HBCU Week at the White House, and staffers who graduated from predominantly Black institutions of higher education gathered for a photo.

Front and center were Vice President Kamala Harris, a graduate of Howard University, and senior advisor and former U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, an alum of Atlanta’s Morehouse College. Also representing Morehouse was Michael Collins, John Lewis’ former chief of staff. Two Spelman graduates are pictured: Nia Page and Dana Banks.

Earlier in the week, students from Fort Valley State University participated in a roundtable on vaccinations with Dr. Anthony Fauci.


More endorsement news: Richard Grenell, who was the nation’s top intelligence official in the Trump administration, endorsed Republican Jake Evans’ bid for the 6th Congressional District.

He said Evans would help lead a wave of “America First conservatives” to check the Biden administration.

Jake Evans’ father, Randy Evans, was the ambassador to Luxembourg during the Trump administration, while Grenell was the ambassador to Germany.


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