The Jolt: City leaders to GOP: don’t champion infrastructure cash you didn’t vote for

Thirteen city officials from across Georgia, including the mayors of Athens, Savannah and Union City, have written a letter to the state’s congressional delegation asking them not to take credit for infrastructure money coming to their districts if they didn’t vote for the bill.

That letter is targeting the state’s eight Republicans. None of them supported the $1.2 trillion package, although it passed both chambers in a bipartisan fashion. Eight Democrats representing Georgia in the House and Senate were all a “yes” on the bill.

“To those who voted for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we thank you, and we look forward to welcoming you in our communities to celebrate exciting new projects,” the letter says. “But to those who voted against the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we ask you to exercise that same restraint when it comes time to cut the ribbons on new construction and open the doors to thousands of new jobs in our communities.”

Most Georgia Republicans have avoided speaking too highly of the infrastructure package or celebrating the billions of dollars headed to the state.

The one exception is U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, who has attended events alongside Democrats, such one celebrating funding for Savannah’s port. The Pooler Republican told us last month that he doesn’t think his vote against the infrastructure bill contradicts his interest in supporting projects in his district. He said he still disagrees with portions of the bill focused on addressing climate change and believes it will increase the deficit.


On the Rivian Sweetener Beat, our James Salzer reports that Gov. Brian Kemp has already asked for big money to prepare for the electric car maker’s new plant east of Atlanta. But that may be the easy lift for the company this legislative session.

The heavy lift officially began this week, when Sen. Ben Watson, R-Savannah filed Senate Bill 398, which would allow manufacturers to sell their cars directly to consumers in Georgia. Currently, new cars have to be sold through auto dealers, a politically influential group of business owners with lots of muscle in the Statehouse.

As with any bill in an election year, the measure could also bring a fight between two political rivals. SB 398 is co-sponsored by Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, who is running for lieutenant governor with former President Donald Trump’s blessing. One of his main rivals is Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, a car dealer who has received huge financial backing from the industry. Jones’ family also owns car dealerships.


A new “City of East Cobb” got one step closer to reality Thursday when the state House voted to put the measure to a referendum for voters. But in a twist, the vote would take place this May rather than on the November ballot.

The date swap was made in committee without public notice. The bill’s sponsors say there’s no hanky-panky, just a simple effort to avoid paying for a special election to seat a city council if the new city is approved, the AJC’s Brian Eason reports.

The House will need to approve the measure again next week because of a motion to reconsider.


East Cobb residents aren’t the only ones who could vote on their own city soon. Cityhood bills for Vinings and Lost Mountain, both also in Cobb County, passed House committee Thursday and will move on for consideration by the full chamber.


Herschel Walker’s interview with the Daily Caller this week covered everything from his son’s TikTok videos mocking Democrats to his own past statements that the 2020 election was fraudulent and Georgia should not certify its own results.

But it was a question about Joe Biden’s highest profile win last year, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, that Walker objected to.

“You got to be an Alabama fan because you asked that question there. Until I see all the facts, you can’t answer the question. It’s totally unfair to ask someone like myself, ‘What are you going vote for?’”

Walker rival Gary Black shot over this response:

“Answering questions about how one will vote on an issue that cost Americans $1.2 trillion and drove the inflation gripping our nation is exactly what a candidate is supposed to do,” he Black. “His strategy of hiding may be best for Herschel’s campaign, but Georgians deserve answers. Better answers than this but answers nonetheless.”


Herschel Walker is also facing criticism in an 11 Alive news report for criticizing businesses for accepting federal COVID relief dollars although companies he is connected to took advantage of the same Paycheck Protection Program dollars.


Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock is marking his first year in office by hosting his first-ever in-person town hall meeting.

That meeting will be held in one week, Feb. 4, at the Maloof Auditorium in downtown Decatur, the same place where the DeKalb County Commission meetings. Seats will be first-come, first-served, and Warnock plans to spend time answering audience questions.

The town hall will also livestream on Warnock’s Senate Twitter page. Although there is no way to guarantee admission, residents interested in receiving event updates can sign up here.


Shortly after the Quinnipiac poll of Georgia voters was released earlier this week, a prominent Republican consultant texted one of your Insiders one word: “Leverage.”

The consultant wasn’t referring to any of the top-tier contenders in the race for governor or U.S. Senate. It was meant to highlight Vernon Jones, who was pegged at 10% support in a poll of GOP primary voters — just enough to potentially force Gov. Brian Kemp and former U.S. Sen. David Perdue into a runoff.

That number seems likely to drop as the May primary nears and Perdue exploits his endorsement from Donald Trump. But the point was still valid: The ex-Democrat has an opportunity to extract concessions to get out of the race.

That’s why his trip this week to see Trump raised eyebrows. While Jones didn’t say what the two talked about — “more to come,” he tweeted — Trump’s allies have tried to get him to run for another office, perhaps with the blessing of the former president.

It’s not clear what step he’ll take or whether he’ll actually have Trump’s backing. Jones publicly ruled out vying for state schools superintendent a few weeks ago. Other possibilities include labor commissioner or insurance commissioner.


Our pal Niles Francis has a column about how U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, one of the non-attorneys on the Senate Judiciary Committee, will play a key role in the confirmation hearings for President Joe Biden’s pick for the Supreme Court.

Check it out here.


Patriotic Millionaires, a group of wealthy individuals that supports progressive policies, has not only endorsed U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath over her rival in the 7th Congressional District Democratic primary, Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux.

The group says it will target Bourdeaux and 14 other Democrats who at times stood in the way of votes on Build Back Better, labeling them collectively as “The Problem” making it more difficult for President Joe Biden to carry out his agenda. Patriotic Millionaires boasts among its members Abigail Disney, an heiress to the entertainment juggernaut fortune, and a former managing director of BlackRock investment firm.

Bourdeaux and Texas Rep. Henry Cueller are the two lawmakers on the list that have primary challengers.

“Both Representatives Cuellar and Bourdeaux have proven themselves to be beholden to the interests of their wealthy, corporate donors and therefore no longer deserve to sit in Congress, let alone ‘represent’ the interests of working people in Texas and Georgia,” Patriotic Millionaires wrote in its news release.

And that wasn’t the only recent good news for McBath, a Democrat who currently lives in Marietta. She also received backing from a new super PAC, Protect our Future, that is spending $10 million this cycle on preferred candidates.


Republican attorney Matt Reeves is taking another shot at the state Legislature, this time running for an open Gwinnett-based House seat that includes parts of Duluth, Suwanee and Sugar Hill.

Reeves ran twice for a state Senate seat in 2018 and 2020, losing both times to Democrats.


The Athens-Clarke Democratic Committee voted Thursday night to approve a measure to censure three county commissioners who voted against a “compromise map” drafted as an attempt to stop a GOP-led overhaul of local district lines.

The measure reprimanded Allison Wright, Ovita Thornton and Mike Hamby for “not prioritizing voting rights and election integrity for the people of Athens-Clarke County” for not supporting the compromise plan.

It allowed Republicans to move forward with their version of a map that would dramatically change the county’s 10 commission districts, which would bar three liberal incumbents from being able to run for re-election this year by placing them in districts that aren’t on the ballot until 2024.


Under the Gold Dome:

  • The General Assembly is in recess until Monday, Jan. 31.


The Democratic Party of Georgia hired Max Flugrath, who will serve as a senior communications advisor focused on the 2022 governor’s race.

Flugrath most recently served as communications strategy director for the Anti-Defamation League’s Southern Division in Atlanta. He is a veteran of Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried’s 2018 campaign. She was the only Democrat to win statewide in Florida that year.


Congrats to our own insider Greg Bluestein for inking a deal to be an MSNBC contributor! But not to worry, Jolt readers, the new T.V. deal is just a side gig. His role bringing the AJC scoops all day does not change.


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