The Jolt: Congress was set to honor a trail-blazing judge; Clyde derailed it

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, speaks to supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump at a rally at the Banks County Dragway on March 26, 2022, in Commerce, Georgia. (Megan Varner/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, speaks to supporters of former U.S. President Donald Trump at a rally at the Banks County Dragway on March 26, 2022, in Commerce, Georgia. (Megan Varner/Getty Images/TNS)

Georgia U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde is catching heat for spearheading a Republican effort that torpedoed a seemingly innocuous bill to rename a federal courthouse in Tallahassee after the first Black member of the Florida state Supreme Court.

In the end, even the Florida Republicans listed as co-sponsors of the legislation voted “no” on honoring Justice Joseph W. Hatchett, who died in May of 2021. The bill was initially backed by every member of the state’s delegation, including GOP Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. Their chamber passed the measure by unanimous consent back in December.

An obituary for Hatchett described the decades of racial discrimination he faced, including being unable to stay in the hotel where the state bar exam was administered in 1959.

He left the Florida Supreme Court in 1979 when President Jimmy Carter appointed him to become the first Black man to preside over a federal appeals court in the Deep South, and he later became chief judge in another circuit.

Clyde’s apparent objection to putting Hatchett’s name on the courthouse: A single ruling in 1999 out of all those he made during what is generally considered a trailblazing and honorable career.

In that decision, Hatchett ruled that a lower court had improperly authorized prayer at a school graduation ceremony, given a U.S. Supreme Court decision that indicated such an action was a violation of the freedom of religion clause in the U.S. Constitution.

The courthouse renaming bill needed a two-thirds majority to pass under the House’s fast-track procedures. Instead, it failed 238-187 with all Democrats and 19 Republicans in favor. (One Democrat voted “no” but later said it was by mistake.)

Florida media, digging into how a bill honoring a man considered a Sunshine State icon managed to fail, reported that Clyde circulated an article about Hatchett’s 1999 decision, which led to the 11th-hour revolt. The New York Times further detailed Democrats’ incensed reaction:

They said they saw the episode as the latest example of extremism in the House Republican Conference, where members have weaponized cultural issues against Democrats and pushed back against efforts to grapple with the nation’s history of racism, such as the push to strip Confederate names from military bases.

“If the standard that we use is one ruling out of thousands, then what else could we conclude but that they are not willing to name a courthouse after a Black person,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida. “It seems pretty suspect.”

Mr. Clyde insisted that race had nothing to do with his opposition to the measure. “We’re one race — the human race,” he said. “It has everything to do with the decision he made.”

Clyde’s chief of staff, Nicholas Brown, told us Wednesday that the representative is offended by any insinuation he was doing anything other than his usual level of research on a bill coming to the floor. The office didn’t provide us any other examples of Clyde’s staff googling a person whose name was going on a building, finding something objectionable and taking similar action to kill the effort right before the vote.

“The legislative staff conducts the same due diligence on all votes that go to the House floor,” Brown said.


Earlier this morning, we posted the results of a University of Georgia polling experiment that explored the extent of Donald Trump’s influence in the GOP primary. But one broader question caught our eye.

The poll found that about 60% of likely GOP primary voters say the state’s new election law has “greatly or somewhat” increased their confidence in Georgia’s voting system. Two-thirds indicated they were confident the November 2022 election will be conducted fairly.

At the same time, almost three-quarters – 73% – say they believe Joe Biden won the election as a result of fraud. Though the truth is he won the vote fair-and-square, it shows how deeply lies from the former president about election fraud have seeped into the GOP base.


POSTED: U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, gearing up for a tough re-election fight in November, set another fundraising record last quarter by raising $13.6 million. He ended the period with $26.5 million in cash on hand.

More from Bluestein here.


For your radar: CIA Director William Burns will speak at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech this morning.

Burns is a former career foreign service officer, including as U.S. Ambassador to Russia from 2005-2008, so he’s steeped in the issues at play in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including the role of NATO and NATO expansion.

The 11:00 speech will be about the role of intelligence “at a transformational moment.” It’s highly unusual for Burns to make a stop like this, so we’ll be watching for news to be made.


Gov. Brian Kemp’s triumphant announcement that the state had landed EV manufacturer Rivian for a new complex east of Atlanta also kicked up some serious local opposition.

Our colleague Scott Trubey reports this morning that the first of several public hearings of state committees will happen Monday night in Monroe. Monday’s forum is also one of two that will solicit public input.


You may have noticed the price of beef at the grocery store has jumped along with other staples in your cart.

U.S. Rep. David Scott announced Wednesday that he’ll have the CEOs of the four largest meatpackers in the country testify about what’s behind rising prices at a hearing of the Agriculture Committee that Scott chairs.

Along with the corporate honchos, Scott has also invited a panel of ranchers to find out how consolidation of larger companies is squeezing out smaller operators. Look for that later this month when Congress returns from its Easter recess.


“We’re stronger because Brian Kemp put Georgia first.”

That’s how the latest Republican Governors Association ad closes. It’s the latest in a volley of $5 million worth of airtime the Washington-based group has reserved to boost Kemp’s reelection campaign.


The Georgia GOP’s spring gala is tonight at the Georgia Aquarium and it features U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, the head of the Republican Party’s campaign arm for Senate races.

Scott’s “11-Point Plan to Rescue America” has become a favorite target of Democrats thanks to its call to impose income taxes on many Americans who pay none now and to sunset legislative programs after five years - a list that could include Medicare and Social Security.


The political organization founded by Stacey Abrams has added five more candidates to its slate of endorsements, but one in particular caught our eye.

Fair Fight PAC is backing political activist Nabilah Islam over Democratic state Rep. Beth Moore for an open Gwinnett-based state Senate seat.

“While others have been silent on voting rights, one candidate in this race has consistently stood up for access to the ballot box, and that’s why we’re so proud to endorse Nabilah Islam,” said Andre Fields, the group’s political director.

Earlier this month, the group backed Bentley Hudgins in the race for Abrams’ former House seat. It was the first endorsement Fair Fight has made this election cycle.


The latest report that Senate candidate Herschel Walker made false statements about his business background, detailed in the Daily Beast, brought a scathing response from his best-known Republican rival.

“Georgians want a senator who tells them the truth,” said Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. “Not someone who holds them in such low regard as to lie to them, time after time, to their faces, online and in campaign literature.”

Black added: “This is a serious character flaw that the Democrats would exploit, and they would shred Herschel into confetti if he is our candidate.”


In more endorsement news:

  • The Committee for a New Georgia, the independent expenditure organization affiliated with another Stacey Abrams group, New Georgia Project, has endorsed Chandra Farley for Public Service Commission, Seat 3. A reminder that all PSC seats are elected statewide.


Augusta-based Congressman Rick Allen is asking the federal government to investigate conditions at a local apartment complex that houses low-income families.

City officials have raised concerns for months about public health and safety at the Bon Air Apartments, a place that had over 150 calls for police service in one six-month span. Residents also say the apartments, purchased in 2020 by Redwood Housing Partners, are in severe disrepair and have numerous code violations.

Allen, who is a Republican, said in his letter to Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge that it is time for residents’ complaints to be taken seriously.

“Those in need of subsidized housing should not have to put their incomes toward unlivable apartments, just as taxpayers should not be funneling rent subsidies into a building that fails to provide a safe roof over the heads of its tenants,” he wrote. “It’s time for all parties involved in providing safe, affordable housing to address this critical matter.”


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