The Jolt: David Perdue found, back in the U.S. Senate

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal Constitution
U.S. Sen. David Perdue has renewed his call to put off Congress’ annual August recess until it shows some progress on spending bills and in confirming President Donald Trump’s nominees. The Republican senator from Georgia and other senators did the same last year, and they got U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to agree. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

U.S. Sen. David Perdue has renewed his call to put off Congress’ annual August recess until it shows some progress on spending bills and in confirming President Donald Trump’s nominees. The Republican senator from Georgia and other senators did the same last year, and they got U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to agree. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

There were some points during former senator David Perdue’s 2020 reelection campaign when he was so hard to track down that we once led the Jolt with the headline, “David Perdue, where art thou?

But lately, Perdue has popped up everywhere from helping to launch state Sen. Butch Miller’s campaign kickoff event in Gainesville to a high-profile speaking slot at the state GOP convention on Jekyll Island.

On Tuesday, Perdue was spotted in the Capitol Hill office of GOP Leader Mitch McConnell -- and set off a wave of speculation when he wouldn’t answer questions about why he’d ventured back to Washington.

Is he running for Senate? Putting in a good word for someone else? Just chatting with old pals?

Perdue’s visit might have been a friendly check-in with McConnell while he was in town for a National Republican Senatorial Committee fundraiser to help his former colleagues.

After meeting with McConnell, CNN’s Manu Raju spotted Perdue later as he entered GOP senators’ weekly lunch. Raju wrote on Twitter, “McConnell flashed a smile when I asked if he wanted Perdue to run next year. GOP senators could be heard shouting, “David!” And, “Perdue!”

The Republican said in February he wouldn’t mount a comeback attempt against incumbent U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, who defeated former Sen. Kelly Loeffler in January. And we have no indication that he’s changed his mind.

Still, the idea that Perdue’s appearance triggered a round of new chatter was renewed proof of the shakiness of the 2022 Republican field in the race against Warnock, who is happily making the most of the GOP uncertainty.

Former President Donald Trump has tried to recruit Herschel Walker to run, but senior Republicans are still split on whether the former football great will actually pull the trigger -- or whether he’d stand up to the scrutiny of the campaign trail.

Other Republicans have already joined the race. Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, former Navy SEAL Latham Saddler and military veteran Kelvin King are raising cash and stumping around the state.

But a Perdue return to the arena, as unlikely as it seems, would almost certainly clear the GOP field.

He’s got universal name recognition and solid approval ratings among Republicans, thanks in part to spending more than $100 million on his Senate re-election bid. And he’s still got $4.25 million in his campaign account, which would easily make him the GOP fundraising front-runner.

Just as importantly, he could presumably help unite two fractious GOP factions fighting to retake Senate control next year.

We’re told McConnell would much prefer Perdue or former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler over the untested Walker. And, if Walker doesn’t run, it’s hard to imagine Trump spurning Perdue, one of his most loyal allies in the chamber.

But again, there’s no indication he’s planning a comeback just yet.

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What’s it like to be on the receiving end of an out-of-the-blue Donald Trump broadside? We asked state Sen. Butch Miller, a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, that question in Gainesville during the latest leg of the AJC Georgia Politics Road Trip.

Miller was the target of a late-night statement from Trump last week saying he won’t “support or endorse” the veteran state senator’s LG bid, ostensibly because he refused to work to address false claims of voter fraud.

That was a gift to Burt Jones, another GOP state senator who is expected to soon enter the race, perhaps with Trump’s blessing.

In reality, Miller played a central role in pushing the far-reaching election overhaul through the state Senate. When Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan dramatically boycotted a Senate vote on an election bill, it was Miller who stepped in to oversee the vote.

That’s why Miller said he was so stunned by Trump’s smackdown statement. He learned of it while he was with his wife, Teresa, who has had a steadying effect in his civic and political career.

“She said, ‘He doesn’t know you. He doesn’t know what you’ve done or not done. He’s acting on someone else’s information. You’re not going to be discouraged.’”

Miller said he took his better half’s advice to heart.

“I don’t want to – or need to – antagonize anybody. Especially not the former president of the United States. But I’m going to run a race for lieutenant governor on conservative values. I’ve done the hard work in the state Senate the same way I’ve worked on our business … I did what I had to do to get the job done.”

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The Georgia Supreme Court has a new justice, Bibb County Appellate Court Judge Verda Colvin.

Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Colvin to fill the vacancy created by Justice Harold Melton’s resignation. Colvin is an Atlanta native, former prosecutor and former Superior Court judge in Macon.

In March 2020, Kemp appointed her to the Georgia Court of Appeals, making her the first Black woman appointed to the court by a Republican governor. Colvin will become the fourth Black person to serve on the state Supreme Court in history and only the second Black woman.

Georgia Solicitor General Andrew Pinson will fill her seat on the Court of Appeals.

In a separate move, Kemp named Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton to a vacant seat on the Fulton County Superior Court bench. That opened a vacancy for the Public Service Commission. Kemp named Cobb County businessman Fitz Johnson to the PSC position Wednesday morning.

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Georgia’s U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene held a news conference Tuesday afternoon that was ostensibly to complain about her 12-hour Twitter suspension the night prior. But she spent much of that time doubling down on the COVID-19 misinformation that led her social media access to be limited in the first place.

Greene also confirmed that she had asked House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy to appoint her to the Jan. 6 Select Committee tasked with investigating the Capitol riot. She was not among the five lawmakers McCarthy chose to represent the GOP on the panel.

We also learned Tuesday that the House Ethics Committee had rejected Greene’s appeal of the $500 fine she received for breaking rules requiring masks to be worn on the House floor.

That violation was from May, when masking was mandatory for everyone. Greene and other conservative lawmakers made a point of flaunting that they were breaking the rules after receiving warnings.

Presently, masks are only required for those who have not been fully vaccinated. Greene said in February she didn’t plan to get the shots. When asked again by a reporter Tuesday, she accused the reporter of violating her HIPAA rights.

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The AJC reported earlier this week that COVID cases in Atlanta had increased by 30% after falling steadily during the summer.

But Atlanta isn’t the only area seeing a spike. The Brunswick News reports today that Camden County on the Georgia coast had an all-time, single-day case record on Saturday, with 56 positive cases reported.

Only 28% of the county’s residents have been vaccinated against the disease, the News reports.

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Atlanta’s crime spike is not just an issue in the city’s mayoral race. It has also become a key topic for Republicans running for statewide offices. The AJC’s Maya T. Prabhu’s cites recent statements by Gov. Brian Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr and House Speaker David Ralston among others on the ballot in 2022:

Republican candidates fighting to maintain power in an increasingly politically split state see Atlanta crime as a winner with their base.

Kemp is up for reelection after a close victory in 2018, as is Carr. Ralston is working to preserve the GOP's narrowing edge in the state House.

And all are telling voters that Republicans are the law-and-order champions who can help tackle rising crime rates.

Even Insurance Commissioner John King — a former police chief whose job is to regulate insurance companies and investigate reports of insurance fraud and possible arsons — is running as a tough-on-crime candidate. A recent fundraising email asked supporters to donate to King's campaign to ensure the “radical left" doesn't “undermine public safety."

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Sixty-two percent of Georgia voters support the infrastructure plan proposed by President Joe Biden, according to a poll from a left-leaning think tank.

The Data for Progress poll also said that 51% of Georgia respondents approved of Biden’s job performance six months into his tenure, and 45% disapprove. The partisan split was very pronounced: 93% of Georgia Democrats approve of Biden; 83% of the state’s Republicans disapprove.

The poll of 609 likely Georgia voters was conducted June 12 through 20.

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More election 2022 updates:

-NARAL Pro-Choice America, the national abortion rights group, has endorsed Georgia Reps. Lucy McBath, Carolyn Bourdeaux and Nikema Williams in their re-election bids.

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The Stacey Abrams publishing juggernaut continues. While the state waits to find out what exactly Abrams’ plans are for a 2022 rematch against Gov. Brian Kemp, HarperCollins announced Abrams will publish her first children’s book through the publisher’s imprint, Balzer + Bray.

Stacey’s Extraordinary Words is scheduled to publish December 28. In an announcement, HarperCollins wrote, “Based on Abrams’s experience participating in several spelling bees while in elementary school, the story addresses themes of perseverance and bravery.”

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In case you missed it last week, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff traveled to Augusta Friday to visit Fort Gordon, the U.S. Army installation just outside of Augusta. The Augusta Chronicle reports the visit was a follow-up to a trip there this spring.

Ossoff told reporters he’s focused on improving contractor-managed housing on the base. He also gave an update on Department of Defense plans to rename Fort Gordon, Fort Benning, and other installations named for Confederate military leaders.

“I support the provisions passed in last year’s NDAA and I have discussed with the naming commission how they can connect with folks locally on what the new name may be,” Ossoff said.

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David Carter, the former mayor of Macon and a member of the Macon City Council for more than 17 years, passed away at the age of 90, the Macon Telegraph reports.

Although Carter served as mayor only briefly, he was bookeneded in the post by names familiar to Jolt readers, since he filled the unexpired mayoral term of Tommy Olmstead and then lost his election bid to Democrat Jim Marshall.

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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.