The Jolt: Brian Kemp’s first ad focus: ‘Stacey Abrams and the liberal mob’

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Even though Stacey Abrams has not announced what her plans are for a 2022 rematch against Gov. Brian Kemp, you get the strong sense that Republicans can’t wait to run against her.

Look no further than Gov. Brian Kemp’s debut reelection campaign ad, which features a shadowy picture of Abrams and blames her specifically for the decision of Major League Baseball to move the All Star game -- previously set to be staged in metro Atlanta next week.

The MLB yanked the game in protest of the state’s restrictive election law, which Republicans pushed through the General Assembly in March.

“This week, we should be celebrating baseball. Instead, Stacey Abrams and the liberal mob forced the All-Star game to move,” Kemp says.

Kemp and other Republicans have tried to pin the blame on MLB’s decision on Abrams, though both she and league officials dispute that account.

We reported at the time that Abrams urged the MLB not to move the game ahead of its decision. Since then, she and Democratic leaders have called for companies critical of the law to stay in Georgia and finance efforts to fight the restrictions rather than boycott the state.

Look for the governor to formally launch his reelection bid at an event in Perry Saturday. He will try to strike a delicate balance between energizing the conservative base while trying to skirt Donald Trump’s ongoing anger.

Kemp’s ad isn’t the only one to pan MLB’s decision. The conservative Consumers’ Research group unveiled what it calls a “name and shame” campaign critical of the league and other corporations that objected to Georgia’s election rewrite.

The group is spending at least $1 million on digital and cable ads that will run up to and during the relocated game in Denver next week. The buy includes a 30-second spot that’s set to run on Atlanta airwaves.

It’s a potent reminder that elections and voting will be a top issue for both Democrats and Republicans in the 2022 elections -- and that Abrams will be a top target for Republicans no matter what.


Georgia’s battle over restrictive voting measures has already moved from the statehouse to the courthouse.

The fight in the Texas Legislature, meanwhile, is only just beginning.

Texas legislators were summoned back to Austin on Thursday for a special legislative session to revive a host of voting restrictions that loosely mirror the Georgia rewrite.

One of your Insiders in Austin happened upon a press conference at the sprawling Capitol complex that featured Democrats blasting the contours of the proposals.

Like the Georgia measure, the Texas proposals embrace new ID requirements for absentee ballots, add new restrictions to mail-in voting and clamp down on 2020 initiatives by liberal-leaning counties that broaden access to voting.

If the measure succeeds -- as is widely expected -- Texas would join a growing number of states that have adopted new voting restrictions under pressure from Donald Trump supporters, who amplify his false claims of rampant election fraud.

Beyond Georgia, new laws have passed in Florida, Iowa and Montana that impose obstacles to voting. And Republican lawmakers in dozens of other states are pushing similar proposals.


First Lady Jill Biden was at Beach High School in Savannah Thursday to urge residents to get the COVID-19 vaccination. Georgia has just a 39% vaccination rate, among the lowest in the country.

After a press event with locals getting their shots, Biden spoke to a group of about two hundred to call on them to get their families and neighbors vaccinated, too.

One of your Insiders was on hand for the Biden event and noticed that it doubled as a confab of the Who’s Who of local Democratic pols.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Savannah native, got a standing ovation after Savannah Mayor Van Johnson introduced him. Warnock later pointed to his mother, sister, and other family in the audience who also live in Savannah.

“Stand up, mama!” he called to her.

Also spotted in the audience were state Sen. Lester Jackson, shaking hands leading up to his statewide run for Labor Commissioner, state Rep. Al Williams, and Savannah Tribune publisher Shirley James.

Before leaving the state, Biden swung by the Green Truck Neighborhood Pub for a slice of pecan pie at Warnock’s suggestion.


Our readers knew last week that Gov. Brian Kemp would report raising nearly $12 million overall for his campaign for re-election, a rapid pace that sets a state record at this stage in a gubernatorial race.

But a range of other financial disclosures filed this week give us a broader picture of just how pricey the 2022 campaign will be, our AJC colleague James Salzer reports.

He also notes that Fair Fight, the voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams, raised another $6 million this year. It has now collected more than $100 million since Abrams launched it following her 2018 defeat for governor.


Consider it counter-programming: Georgia House Republicans scheduled their latest legislative meeting to focus on Atlanta’s rising crime rate for July 19.

That’s the same day the U.S. Senate Rules Committee heads to Atlanta for a field hearing on the state’s new election overhaul.

The state legislative hearings are part of a GOP effort to shine a brighter spotlight on crime -- and sharpen a 2022 attack on Democrats in the process.

In a statement, House Speaker David Ralston said, “Our House is focused on the safety of Georgia’s citizens and ending the crime wave sweeping through our capital city.”

He also took a swipe at Minnesota’s U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who is hosting the Senate hearing, and Georgia’s U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff when he invoked the Biden administration’s decision to reject relief aid to victims of recent Coweta County storms.

“I invite Senators Klobuchar, Ossoff and Warnock to stop by if they would like to work on solving a real problem. Much like the citizens of Coweta County, however, I expect only disappointment from Washington.”


A group of Georgia mayors is leaning on Congress to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill, saying their cities need the federal dollars that would go to building and repairing roads, bridges and transit networks.

Our AJC colleague Leon Stafford reports that five Georgia mayors spoke during a press conference Thursday held by the Georgia Municipal Association, the state’s organization representing hundreds of cities and towns.

The group included Vince Williams of Union City, Hardie Davis of Augusta, Deana Holiday Ingraham of East Point, Cornell Harvey of Brunswick and Skip Henderson of Columbus.


National Republicans are joining the state GOP to counter the U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit against Georgia’s new voting law.

Earlier this week, the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Georgia Republican Party filed a motion to intervene in what it called a “politically motivated” lawsuit, our AJC colleague Mark Niesse reports.

The Republican-backed court filing denies the lawsuit’s allegations that the voting law intentionally discriminates against Black Georgians by reducing access to absentee voting.

The party also denies that Georgia’s history of racial discrimination is relevant to the law, Senate Bill 202.

The DOJ lawsuit challenges Georgia’s new absentee voting rules, including voter ID requirements, shorter deadlines, fewer ballot drop boxes and out-of-precinct provisional ballot rejections.


Is this a new clue for those reading the tea leaves to figure out if Herschel Walker is running for U.S. Senate in Georgia or not?

He has signed on to participate in a speaker series at the University of North Texas that doubles as a fundraiser for the school. Walker’s event is scheduled for Feb. 10.

Senior Georgia Republicans expect Walker to announce a Senate bid later this year. But a speech in Texas in the heat of a GOP primary isn’t exactly what you’d expect a candidate to put on his 2022 schedule.


Another rumored statewide hopeful is state Sen. Burt Jones, the Republican from Jackson who debated a run for governor and lieutenant governor, and has reportedly decided to run for LG.

Jones will be out of his district next week, all the way up in U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s territory in Rome, for an event with Greene and state Sen. Brandon Beach. The three will participate in an event billed as a “Town Hall on Election Integrity.”

Their version of election integrity, so far, has focused heavily on pushing former President Donald Trump’s repeatedly disproven claims that the Georgia election was “rigged” against him.

Greene has repeatedly pushed false conspiracies about massive fraud in the 2020 election. On Christmas Day, she tweeted, “It was a #stolenelection. Trump won. On Jan 6, we OBJECT.”

Beach was one of a handful of Republicans to hold a “Stop the Steal” rally in Atlanta on the day after the Nov. 5th presidential election.

And Jones just wrote an op-ed in the Washington Times calling the Georgia elections into question. “For the first time since 1992, Georgia ‘voted’ Democrat for President,”


The christening of a Navy ship named in honor of the late Congressman John Lewis is scheduled for July 17, the one-year anniversary of his death.

Lewis welded his initials onto the ship at a keel-laying ceremony in 2019. Eventually six John Lewis-class Navy ships will be named for civil rights leaders.

The event will be held at the San Diego shipyard where the 742-foot-long USNS John Lewis was built. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will lead a delegation of House members who are attending the event.

Among the group heading to California next weekend will be U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, a Republican from Pooler whose district includes General Dynamics’ Gulfstream headquarters (General Dynamics built the ship), and U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams of Atlanta, who now holds Lewis’ 5th Congressional District seat.

Other events are also planned to honor the civil rights leader, who died last year after being diagnosed with advanced-stage pancreatic cancer.

In Nashville, Tenn., city leaders will hold a memorial service and dedication of a street that will be named Rep. John Lewis Way on July 17.

If you know of any other events commemorating the deaths of Lewis or C.T. Vivian, another civil rights hero, send the details to your Insiders.


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