The Jolt: Democratic governors make a play for Georgia’s business

First came the extraordinary letter from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy urging seven name-brand companies to uproot from Georgia and head north to protect employees from anti-abortion policies.

Then came North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s plea for Music Midtown to cross state lines after the two-day festival was canceled because of Georgia’s permissive gun laws. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak quickly followed up with his own invitation to move the event out west.

To top it off, California Gov. Gavin Newsom pressured Hollywood film executives upset with Georgia’s abortion limits to “walk the walk” and pull out of the state.

In all, four Democratic governors have taken aggressive steps to siphon business and investment away from Georgia. Each have blamed Gov. Brian Kemp’s policies on guns, abortion and cultural issues in ways that boost Stacey Abrams’ rematch.

The governors represent an ideological cross-section of deep-blue bastions, a swing-state battleground and a GOP-leaning Deep South neighbor. All echo Stacey Abrams’ argument that Music Midtown’s demise could be a taste of what’s to come.

Georgia Republicans, of course, aren’t buying that narrative. Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said the “doomsday rhetoric” falls flat when contrasted with job growth and investment on the governor’s watch.

“Abrams’ schtick about Kemp costing Georgia’s economy has been proven wrong at every turn,” he said.


DEBATE PREP. We brought you the news late Tuesday that Republican Senate hopeful declared he would participate in an Oct. 14 debate – just not one of the three debates that U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock has already accepted.

The maneuvering has left Warnock with a decision. He can continue to insist on participating only in the trio of showdowns he accepted. Or he can swallow his misgivings and accede to Walker’s demand. It depends on how badly he wants to meet his rival face-to-face.

Why is this so important to his campaign? Warnock has linked the Republican’s unwillingness to debate to a broader argument that he’s unfit to serve in public office. And he wants to expose Walker’s knack for falsehoods and bizarre statements in a nationally watched debate.

Herschel Walker agrees to debate Raphael Warnock -- but with stipulations

Credit: AJC

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Credit: AJC

There’s good reason to be skeptical it will happen even if Warnock accepts his opponent’s conditions.

Walker has said for months he would debate Warnock “any day of the week” but only committed to a specific date after he was pummeled by a week’s worth of ads labeling him a coward.

But rather than accept the WTOC debate in Savannah that Warnock approved, Walker said he would participate in a WSAV event because it included a live audience. We’re told Warnock’s campaign approved an earlier request for the WTOC showdown to involve a live audience, too.

The bottom line: There’s a chance the former football star tries to move the goalposts again.


LOEFFLER’S ADVICE. Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler was the last Republican to meet Democrat Raphael Warnock in a debate, back in December 2020 when she called him a “radical liberal” more than a dozen times. We asked her what advice she has for Herschel Walker.

“Well, I don’t think Herschel needs my advice. Herschel knows that Georgians are alarmed at the inflation that’s hurting their families. The policies that are ending our energy independence and now threatening our food security in America,” she said.

In this file photo, Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) speaks during a campaign event at the Walton County Historic Courthouse on October 30, 2020 in Monroe, Georgia. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

The Republican was in the southwest Georgia town of Dawson to boost Tyler Harper, the GOP nominee for agriculture commissioner, and Chris West, the Republican contender for the 2nd Congressional District.

But she hasn’t yet publicly campaigned with Kemp, who appointed her to the office in 2019 and saw her as a de facto running mate in 2022 – before her defeat. Some of Kemp’s allies have grumbled about the tepid support.

Asked if she plans to stump for Kemp and Walker, whom she also hasn’t joined on the campaign trail, Loeffler was unequivocal.

“I talk to their campaigns. I talk to the governor frequently,” she said. “They know I’m out here working. I’m here to help. And I’ll be there whenever they need me.”


KANSAS FALLOUT. The resounding vote to protect abortion rights in Kansas gave Democrats fresh hope that an electoral explosion could upend the midterm races in Georgia and other battleground states.

Stacey Abrams’ campaign released a memo noting that a Democratic surge coupled with crossover votes from tens of thousands of Republicans beat back the attempt to limit abortion.

The memo made clear that she will continue to put abortion rights at the center of her November campaign.

Asked about the possibility of a dramatically expanded electorate, Abrams said she wouldn’t venture a prediction.

“But I will say that the more people understand, the more we see a shift towards making the change necessary to ensure that Brian Kemp is out of office,” she said.

Abrams added: “What we should learn from Kansas is we can act. This is not done. It is cruel. It is the law. But that law can be overturned with the right governor, with the right legislators — and with the people of Georgia standing up saying ‘We want better.’”


BIDEN. Our Insider colleague Jamie Dupree has an interesting look today at how successful President Biden and Democrats have been this summer in Congress - passing three major pieces of bipartisan legislation - and yet there are clearly signs of political concern coming from his party in Congress.

Warnock is a good example of the tightrope that some Democrats feel they need to walk when it comes to Biden, whose job approval ratings have fallen into the 30′s in Georgia.

Asked by the AJC’s Shannon McCaffrey in late July whether he thought Biden was doing a good job, Warnock tap danced.

“I’m focused on the job that I’m doing standing up for the people of Georgia,” Warnock said.

The question was asked again. Warnock gave the same kind of answer.

He isn’t alone.

Democrats should have an easy answer when asked if they support Biden or support him running in 2024. But they don’t. And it’s showing. Read Jamie’s dispatch at this link.


CLIMATE. Democrats in Congress are still trying to put the finishing touches on a health care, tax, and climate change bill - under what’s known as the budget reconciliation process, which can avoid a Senate filibuster.

For most Republicans, the climate change portion of the bill is another chance for them to denounce the ‘Green New Deal’ - no matter what’s in the actual package.

Our Insider Greg Bluestein takes up the story from here:

As Democrats rally around the surprise deal that could salvage President Joe Biden’s domestic agenda, Georgia Republicans have linked the plan to their efforts to turn the November midterm into a referendum on Democratic control of Washington.

Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker trekked to Dalton on Wednesday to declare it would “cripple American manufacturing.” And Gov. Brian Kemp joined other Republican state leaders in opposing the measure.

The Senate may work into the weekend on the plan. It’s still not clear if Democrats can muster the support of all 50 Senators on their side of the aisle.


TEAM TRUMP. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that on the day that Joe Biden was sworn into office - Jan. 20, 2021 - lawyers for Donald Trump were talking about how they should challenge the Georgia runoffs for U.S. Senate, even though they had no evidence of any fraud or election wrongdoing.

From the report:

“A lot of us have now staked our reputations on the claims of election fraud, and this would be a way to gather proof,” Mr. Eastman wrote in the previously undisclosed email, which also went to others, including a top Trump campaign adviser. “If we get proof of fraud on Jan. 5, it will likely also demonstrate the fraud on Nov. 3, thereby vindicating President Trump’s claims and serving as a strong bulwark against Senate impeachment trial.”

In other words, Team Trump had no evidence of election wrongdoing in Georgia about either the November 2020 election or the January 2021 runoffs - but they were still making the claim.


EARLY VOTING. The voting rights group Fair Fight is calling for Georgia counties to adopt “gold standards” for early voting access, with every polling place open 12 hours a day during three weeks before Election Day.

The effort is backed by a six-figure online advertising campaign designed to make voting convenient and help avoid lines, our AJC colleague Mark Niesse reports.

About half of voters – an estimated 2.3 million Georgians – are expected to take advantage of early voting in November, according to Fair Fight.

Counties should offer early voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at all locations, keep locations open every day, offer voting on two Sundays, and increase the number of polling places, according to Fair Fight.

“Democracy only works when we all have the opportunity to participate. Each of these reasonable standards are already in place in counties across Georgia, and if adopted in full will be a step in the right direction to ensure voters will have accessible and equitable voting opportunities,” said Fair Fight spokesman Matt Krackenberger.

Under Georgia law, every county is required to offer early voting for at least 17 days in October, including two Saturdays, but hours and locations vary depending on decisions made by local election boards.

Fair Fight is also organizing volunteers in 50 counties to advocate for voting access at upcoming county election board meetings, where early voting locations and hours will be set.



  • The Senate is in session.
  • U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and a few other colleagues will hold a virtual news conference to discuss the health care components of the reconciliation bill that Senate Democrats hope to soon pass.
  • President Joe Biden will host a roundtable with business and union leaders to promote the federal climate, health and tax package.


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