The Jolt: Brian Kemp headed to Texas border with nine GOP governors

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
May 18, 2021 Atlanta - Governor Brian Kemp speaks at his campaign office in Atlanta on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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May 18, 2021 Atlanta - Governor Brian Kemp speaks at his campaign office in Atlanta on Tuesday, May 18, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Gov. Brian Kemp is headed back to the U.S. border with Mexico, this time with nine fellow Republican governors to urge President Joe Biden to take more aggressive action to curb illegal immigration.

It’s Kemp’s third trip to the border since December. He’ll join Texas Gov. Greg Abbott near the banks of the Rio Grande in McAllen, where they are set to blame the recent surge of illegal crossings on President Joe Biden’s policies.

Abbott announced that the group will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. EST this afternoon.

Kemp has previously visited Georgia National Guard troops deployed to the border in a support role for federal agents.

The trip is also a chance to reinforce his conservative credentials headed into a tough re-election campaign.

As Donald Trump repeatedly hammers Kemp for refusing to invalidate his election defeat, the first-term Republican continues to adhere to a Trump-approved immigration agenda.

Among the GOP governors also headed to Texas are conservative favorite Gov. Krisiti Noem of South Dakota and fellow Trump target, Arizona’s Gov. Doug Ducey.

The entire event has Democrats crying foul.

“It’s an election year and he’s just playing politics. He has to get his base behind him,” said state Rep. Pete Marin, D-Lilburn. “We’ve got more pressing issues in the state of Georgia than a photo opp on the border of Mexico.”

More than two dozen GOP governors, including Kemp, signed a recent letter slamming Biden’s approach to the border.

Officials say more than 1.5 million undocumented migrants have entered the U.S. this fiscal year. Much of the attention has been focused on Del Rio, where thousands of Haitian migrants had been waiting in a make-shift tent city after freely crossing into the U.S..

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U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath was among a group of 13 vulnerable House Democrats who met virtually with President Joe Biden as part of the ongoing negotiations on the party’s $3.5 trillion social spending and climate change bill.

The Tuesday morning Zoom meeting allowed “frontline” Democrats — members representing swing districts that are among the party’s top priorities in 2022 — to talk to Biden about what they do and don’t want to see in the legislation being drafted and help iron out a path forward on that measure and the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

McBath, of Marietta, followed her pattern of remaining tight-lipped about her movements in Washington. Her office did not respond to our questions about Tuesday’s meeting.

Georgia’s other front-liner, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, was not in this group. There also weren’t any Georgia Democrats among the progressives who met with the president Monday night.

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The Cobb County School Board has been under intense scrutiny this year for its decision not to require mask wearing, even in elementary schools, as a precaution against COVID-19.

ProPublica’s Nicole Carr (formerly of WSB-TV) produced an in-depth investigation into the results: “Few Masks. Sick Kids. Packed ERs. How One District’s First Four Weeks of School Went Bad,” which includes this exchange between one mom and Board Chair Randy Scamihorn:

SCAMIHORN: Something happens where we get an influx of, you know, undocumented migrants, to be politically correct. They're still illegal aliens as far as this old guy's concerned but —

EAST COBB MOTHER: Randy, I don't understand what you're telling me. What are you speaking about? Why are we speaking about immigration suddenly?

SCAMIHORN: Anything can make the numbers spike that we don't anticipate. If we get illegal immigrants with COVID-positive, which they're coming in over the border, you know, daily by the hundreds ...

EAST COBB MOTHER: Randy, that's incorrect. I'm sorry, I can't, I can't let that go. That's completely incorrect.

SCAMIHORN: You listen to too much NPR now. [Laughter] Come on, now. Hey, I love it. I love hearing you. I really do, so —

EAST COBB MOTHER: Well, that's completely spurious information. And it's actually really appalling.

- Pro-Publica

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Speaking of the Cobb School Board, the Marietta Daily Journal scoops that Cobb Board member Jaha Howard has filed paperwork to run for state school superintendent in 2022.

Asked for comment by the paper, Howard wrote, “Georgia families have seen enough in public education. I believe that, by embracing hard truths and hard work, we can build stronger school communities that truly reflect excellence. Look out for more exciting information in the months ahead.”

Richard Woods, a Republican, currently holds the post.

On a similar note, former Superintendent John Barge filed paperwork this week indicating he was running for the seat in 2022. He told us that it was a “housekeeping” effort to pay a late fee, and that he has no plans for a comeback attempt.

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It’s not exactly the endorsement Buckhead City supporters were looking for late last night when U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene posted a picture of herself with Bill White, the wealthy New York transplant leading the charge for cityhood.

“I’m so proud of my good friend @BWBuckheadCity for all of his hard work to save Buckhead from the violent crime & corruption of the Democrat controlled city of Atlanta.”

The post came a few hours after one of your Insiders reported that White was an attendee of “Stop the Steal” rallies around metro Atlanta, along with the lead sponsor on the Senate bill enabling possible cityhood.

Though Greene’s rhetoric has made her a hero with Trump supporters, she’s vilified by many of Atlanta’s more mainstream Republicans, alarmed by her past belief in the QAnon ideology and her stream of conspiracies about the 2020 election.

One Republican working to keep Atlanta intact called Greene’s post “manna from heaven.” Another supporting the split was despondent.

“Well, there goes cityhood.”

The effort is, in fact, just getting started. Look for Senate hearings on possible Buckhead cityhood next month during the General Assembly’s special legislative session.

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U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock was on set at MSNBC Tuesday morning, making his case for including Medicaid expansion in the reconciliation bill now being hammered out among Democrats.

He pointed to Georgia leaders’ decision not to expand the program under the Affordable Care Act as the reason federal legislation should move now.

“Can you imagine (having) Social Security in 38 states? Can you imagine Medicare in 38 states?” he said, adding, “People shouldn’t be unable to access health care because they live in the wrong state.”

Warnock authored a USA Today op-ed on the same topic Tuesday.

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Both of Georgia’s U.S. senators are at the front of Democrats’ efforts to pass broad voting rights legislation, but a Republican filibuster continues to block Senate consideration.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock was among the lawmakers who delivered floor speeches on Tuesday to mark the introduction of the Senate’s version of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

The legislation is similar to the bill the House passed in August, reinstating federal review of changes to election laws in states and local jurisdictions that have a history of discriminatory practices. But without 10 Senate Republicans willing to allow the measure to advance to a vote in this chamber, it is unlikely to become law.

Sen. Jon Ossoff will preside over the Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the bill this afternoon. Language from a bill that Ossoff proposed to safeguard elections and election workers was included in the new legislation named for Lewis.

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At the General Assembly today, a bipartisan Senate study committee led by state Sen. Harrold Jones, D-Augusta, will address food deserts, or what we call “the Piggly Wiggly problem,” at 9:30 this morning.

Our AJC colleague, Maya Prabhu, writes up the issues the committee will tackle and a timeline for possible solutions.

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Georgia’s U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff will be the featured guest in the latest edition of the Atlanta Press Club’s Newsmaker Leadership Series. Our own Greg Bluestein will moderate the discussion. The luncheon event will take place at the Commerce Club in Atlanta on Oct. 22. Ticket information is at the APC website.

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A huge morning shout out to former Political Insider, and always Chief, Jim Galloway, who will be inducted into the Atlanta Press Club Hall of Fame on Nov. 11. The other honorees are Billye Aaron, Rebecca Burns, Paul Hemphill and Marshall Latimor. We are standing by for details about the fete.

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As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.

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