The Jolt: Cobb schools attack of ‘leftist’ critics enrage local Democrats

News and analysis from the AJC politics team

The Cobb County School District sent an email blast to parents slamming “leftist political activists seeking to overhaul the school board’s political boundaries. Local Democrats are vigorously pushing back.

The email was sent a few days ago by the Freeman Mathis & Gary law firm to update parents on the litigation, which is nearing a resolution after the county elections board opted to settle the case rather than wage a court battle.

The school district bristled at the decision, calling the election board’s decision an unprecedented secret deal that paves the way for left-leaning groups to “impose their will” on Cobb parents.

In the space of a few paragraphs, it mentions the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Democratic Party and two-time Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams as benefactors of the settlement — and vows to “continue all legal efforts to redress this wrong.”

The Cobb County School Board is the last GOP-controlled elected governmental body in Cobb and has championed other conservative causes in recent times. (Arvin Temkar/

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

The district’s school board is the last GOP-controlled elected governmental body in Cobb and has championed other conservative causes in recent times. Earlier this year, the board voted to fire a teacher for reading a book that challenges gender norms to fifth-grade students.

Elsewhere in Cobb government, elected bodies began to tilt toward Democrats in 2016. The county is now a pillar of the party’s voting coalition.

Cobb Democratic Committee chair Erick Allen said he’s stunned this “highly political rant” was sent to thousands of Cobb parents. But he isn’t surprised it tries to “falsely affiliate” the redistricting case with Abrams, who isn’t involved.

“This is all intentional, to invoke political reaction,” said Allen.

A sign is displayed as a group of Cobb community members rallies to demand the removal of Superintendent Chris Ragsdale outside Cobb County School District building, Thursday, September 14, 2023, in Marietta. (Hyosub Shin/

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

He called on Superintendent Chris Ragsdale to immediately send a retraction and refrain from sending out “political propaganda” using the public email system in the future.

Ragsdale, for his part, didn’t immediately return a note seeking comment. Cobb Schools spokesman John Floresta said the school system appreciated the attorney’s update and that it is “focused on students and schools while lawyers focus on the courtroom.”

State Rep. Teri Anulewicz, D-Smyrna, has another tongue-in-cheek theory for what led to the email.

“Are they kidding us? Is this for real? They weren’t hacked?” she quipped, questioning why the “bonkers” note was approved in the first place.

“Parents are insulted, extra and unnecessary work is created for rank-and-file district staff who are already overworked as it is,” said Anulewicz, adding that the local GOP now “peacocks to an increasingly disenchanted” electorate.


U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) speaks to reporters after Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) lost an internal Republican vote to continue as the party’s nominee for speaker on Capitol Hill in Washington, Oct. 20, 2023. (Kenny Holston/The New York Times)

Credit: Kenny Holston/The New York Times

Credit: Kenny Holston/The New York Times

BACK AT SQUARE ONE. Republican members of the U.S. House ended last week with an anger-filled private venting session after yet another failed speaker vote on the floor.

At the end of the meeting, members voted to move on from Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan as their speaker nominee. He had tried three times, losing GOP support each round.

Far-right members were not happy with the decision to start from scratch, reopening the speaker’s race to new candidates. Rep. Andrew Clyde, the congressman from northeast Georgia, was seething as he exited the meeting. Later, on social media, he posted that he blamed “the swamp” for taking Jordan out.

“The American People wanted Jim Jordan to be the 56th Speaker of the House,” the Athens Republican wrote. “So the Swamp took him down in an anonymous vote behind closed doors. Complete and utter betrayal.”

In reality, mainstream Republicans did to Jordan what far-right members twice did to former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California: first in his election in January and again with his removal earlier this month.

Republicans will meet tonight for yet another closed-door candidate forum, and a secret-ballot vote on nominees will take place on Tuesday. With a crowded field of nine candidates, it could take multiple ballots to get to a winner.

The question is whether that eventual nominee will be able to translate that support to 217 votes on the floor later in the week. If not, Republicans may start paying more attention to proposals to bestow additional powers on interim Speaker Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.

Georgia Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, is running again, although there are other candidates who have leadership roles in the caucus and are better known. For example, Georgia Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, has already vowed his support to GOP Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota.

Scott and Emmer both signed a pledge to support whoever becomes the party nominee, an effort to forge a unified front and avoid the defections that doomed McCarthy and Jordan. But all the promises in the world won’t change the math: no candidate can afford to lose more than four GOP colleagues if they want to become speaker.

Just in case you missed it, our colleague and longtime Capitol Hill insider Jamie Dupree lent perspective to the speaker predicament in a column last week.


TRUMP JAIL TIME? U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock dodged a question about whether he thinks former President Donald Trump should serve time in jail if a Fulton County jury finds him guilty of conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Speaking to MSNBC’s Jen Psaki on Sunday, Warnock expressed support for prosecuting Trump but stopped short of saying if he had a certain punishment in mind. Instead, the Atlanta Democrat said Trump should get his day in court like any other defendant.

Psaki followed up, saying that she specifically wanted to know if Warnock thought jail time should be on the table given how an imprisoned Trump would likely divide Americans along partisan lines. Warnock still wouldn’t bite.

“He’s innocent until proven guilty, and so I don’t want to get ahead of that process,” Warnock said. “I respect the judicial process.”

During the same interview, Psaki also asked Warnock to share his thoughts on the Palestinians facing harassment after Hamas attacked Israel. He responded by focusing on the children on both sides of the conflict.

“None of us got to decide where we would be born in the world,” he said. “We just showed up. And as a pastor, I’m just always urging us to see each other’s children.”


The Georgia senators who want Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (pictured) punished for prosecuting former President Donald Trump and allies seem destined for disappointment, according to Georgia State University law professor Clark D. Cunningham. (Ben Gray/

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

SUNK SANCTIONS. The Georgia senators who want Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis punished for prosecuting former President Donald Trump and allies seem destined for disappointment, according to Georgia State University law professor Clark D. Cunningham.

The Jolt’s Greg Bluestein reports Cunningham reviewed the proposed rules and code of conduct for the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission and said the complaint against Willis would “probably be dead on arrival.”

The Georgia General Assembly established the commission earlier this year to provide oversight of the state’s district attorneys.



  • President Joe Biden hosts an event at the White House to announce the designation of 31 communities across the country as Regional Innovation and Technology Hubs.
  • U.S. House Republicans meet privately to hear from nine candidates for speaker, including Georgia’s Austin Scott.
  • The U.S. Senate is in recess.


SPOTTED: At Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International airport Sunday, with one bag and no staff: House Speaker candidate and current 8th District U.S. Rep. Austin Scott.

The Tifton Republican got a thumbs up and a “Good luck, congressman!” from passersby as he headed into the airport, presumably going to Washington, D.C. for his second run for House speaker in as many weeks.


MSNBC host Rachel Maddow brought her “Prequel” book tour to the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on Friday night for a conversation with former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

MADDOW AND ABRAMS. MSNBC host Rachel Maddow brought her “Prequel” book tour to the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on Friday night for a conversation with former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

Maddow and Abrams drew laughs when Abrams said she was pleased to be the one asking the questions that night, the AJC’s Maya T. Prabhu tells us.

“Prequel” documents the little-known history of Nazi agents who worked with their American sympathizers to try to lay the groundwork for an alliance with Hitler’s Germany. Greg Bluestein, one of your Insiders, recently spoke to Maddow about the book.

Along with the book, Maddow and Abrams discussed why Maddow stepped back from her daily television program. They also addressed the Fulton County election interference indictments of former President Donald Trump as well as the role that everyday Americans like Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, the two Fulton County election workers targeted by Trump in his efforts to overturn the election, play in American democracy.

“You never know when your country is going to need you,” Maddow said. “It’s not just people who join the Marines, and it’s not just people who join law enforcement, and it’s not just people who run for office. It’s everyday Americans who get called on to be heroes at unexpected times.”


First lady Marty Kemp hosted her annual Pet Adoption Day at the Georgia Governor’s Mansion Saturday. Kemp congratulates Garrison Douglas, a spokesman for Gov. Brian Kemp, who adopted Cobb County rescue puppy Dixie. (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Courtesy photo

Credit: Courtesy photo

PET PARADE. First lady Marty Kemp’s annual Pet Adoption Day at the Governor’s Mansion drew pet lovers, politicos, and plenty of adoptable pets from around the state on Saturday. Rural rescues in particular said they’ve been swamped with abandoned dogs and cats ready for new homes but not enough people in their rural areas to adopt them.

Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper was on hand for the Georgia Grown portion of the event, which featured Georgia-grown produce and products. Harper, a Republican, is a farmer in the South Georgia town of Ocilla.

One lucky dog to get a new home was Cobb County rescue puppy Dixie, who quickly won over Kemp spokesman Garrison Douglas. We hope Douglas and Dixie will have many wonderful years together and that Douglas enjoyed his last night of good sleep for a while.


Jazzy, a one-year-old Pointer mix, strikes a pose at First Lady Marry Kemp’s 2023 Pet Adoption Day at the Georgia Governor’s Mansion. (Patricia Murphy/

Credit: Patricia Murphy/AJC

Credit: Patricia Murphy/AJC

DOG OF THE DAY. We’ll be featuring a few of the still-adoptable dogs from rural rescues in the Jolt this week and first up is Jazzy, a one-year-old pointer mix.

It was obvious on the governor’s mansion lawn that Jazzy has pointer in her genes, since she struck a pointer pose at every opportunity. She was abandoned at the top of a driveway in Jackson County and is now being hosted by the animal lovers at Dirt Road Doggie Rescue. They report she loves people of all ages, other animals, and plenty of exercise. If you think this pocket-sized pointer could join your pack, you can reach out to Dirt Road Doggie Rescue directly.

Send us your dogs of any political persuasion and location, and cats on a cat-by-cat basis, to, or DM us at @MurphyAJC.


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