The Jolt: Democrats drum up support for infrastructure, $3.5 trillion spending plan

Sisters Clarece Jones (right) and Betty Crowder (third from right) visit their brother Johnny Simmons (left) with their mother Lucille Simmons (second from right) at Westbury Medical Care and Rehab in Jackson, Thursday, March 4, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
Sisters Clarece Jones (right) and Betty Crowder (third from right) visit their brother Johnny Simmons (left) with their mother Lucille Simmons (second from right) at Westbury Medical Care and Rehab in Jackson, Thursday, March 4, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

State Democrats aim to boost public opinion on the expansive federal initiatives moving through Congress with a “Democrats Deliver” tour that will kick off next week.

The tour is designed to promote the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion social spending package awaiting key votes on Capitol Hill.

Elected officials, union organizers and community advocates will take part in the weeklong journey, which features stops in Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Macon and Savannah starting on Monday.

Expect them to issue an urgent call for federal lawmakers to move forward with the expansive measures — which comes as U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, a moderate Democrat, continues to face pressure to stick with her caucus on the plans.

Another purpose of the trip is to remind activists and supporters of what might as well be the party’s 2022 slogan: The road to preserving the Democratic majority in Congress runs through Georgia.

“President Biden and Georgia Democrats have made historic progress building back jobs, health care and infrastructure in our state,” said U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, the state party’s chairwoman. “And we are going to make sure that communities all across Georgia know that Democrats deliver.”

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Members of the House Select Committee on Jan. 6 want to know what Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger heard from the White House in the weeks after Joe Biden won the state’s electoral votes.

The National Archives is asked to provide all documents and communication referring to the election or its results and sent to or from Kemp or Raffensperger between Nov. 3, 2020, and Jan. 20, 2021.

The panel’s expansive record request was also sent to seven federal agencies on Wednesday. It indicates that members of the committee are casting a wide net, investigating not only the events leading up to the Capitol riot, but the planning and execution of “Stop the Steal” protests in Washington and former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the outcome of the general election.

“Our Constitution provides for a peaceful transfer of power, and this investigation seeks to evaluate threats to that process, identify lessons learned and recommend laws, policies, procedures, rules, or regulations necessary to protect our republic in the future,” Chairman Bennie Thompson, a lawmaker from Mississippi, said in a news release about the sweeping request.

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Democrats and voting rights groups are making a big deal about this year’s anniversary of the March on Washington, staging rallies in D.C. and cities across the nation. That includes Atlanta.

This isn’t a milestone year for the event; the 60th anniversary of one of the nation’s largest civil rights demonstrations and the place where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his hallmark “I Have A Dream” speech isn’t until 2023.

But this year’s anniversary comes at a time when Democrats and civil rights organizations say the right to vote is under attack in Georgia and other conservative states. Martin Luther King III will lead the “March on for Voting Rights” event in Washington on Saturday outside the White House.

At the same time, the “Make Good Trouble Rally” borrowing late Georgia Congressman John Lewis’s motto will be held at the Lincoln Memorial, the site of the 1963 march.

The Atlanta rally will feature U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, Bernice King, former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, former NAACP President Ben Jealous and a performance by rapper Ludacris. It will be held downtown at Centennial Park but starts with a march beginning at Ebenezer Baptist Church, King Jr.’s former pulpit and one now held by U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

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For proof that the 2022 campaign season is getting into full swing, the Young Democrats of Georgia hosted more than a dozen statewide candidates at a forum in Atlanta Wednesday night for each to make their cases to budding progressives in the state.

The one statewide position not included on the program was also the biggest prize in 2022 — that of governor — since no Democrats have declared yet that they’re running for the post and Stacey Abrams keeps her plans under wraps.

Our AJC colleague Maya T. Prabhu stopped by the event at Monday Night Garage, where the small crowd seemed about evenly split between actual young Democrats — typically considered those who are 35 and younger — and candidates flanked by staff members.

The two-hour forum featured questions from high school and college students and was live- streamed to a handful of viewers. Democratic Party of Georgia Chairwoman Nikema Williams opened the event with a video message.

It wasn’t exactly a packed house. Heavy rain and rising COVID cases may have kept the numbers down. Once going, the candidates got mostly polite claps for what should have been big applause lines from a friendly audience.

The most energized response was reserved for state Rep. Bee Nguyen, an Atlanta Democrat who is running for secretary of state.

“I have gone toe-to-toe with (Secretary of State) Brad Raffensperger (and) took down Trump’s expert witness when they brought Rudy Giuliani to our committee last year. But I’ll tell you, the work is not over,” she said.

And while all but one declared Democratic candidate made time in their campaign schedules to show up (secretary of state hopeful Manswell Peterson was the exception), it was obvious most in the room had their minds made up. One attendee was overheard saying, “honestly, everybody here already knows who they’re voting for.”

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In the weeks before he entered the U.S. Senate race, Republican Herschel Walker stocked his campaign team with a group of veteran advisers. Here’s a snapshot of the top staffers:

  • Scott Paradise is serving as campaign director. He’s a veteran of Doug Collins’ 2020 bid for the U.S. Senate and also worked for Missouri U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley.
  • Alex Williams is the political director. He worked for former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and Attorney General Chris Carr and was most recently an operative in Mississippi.
  • Mallory Blount is Walker’s press secretary and strategic communications director. She worked for the Trump administration before a stint in Gov. Brian Kemp’s office.

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Speaking of Herschel Walker, Gov. Brian Kemp weighed in on his candidacy in several interviews on Wednesday.

Walker endorsed Kemp in 2018 and both share the same mentor — former Bulldog coach Vince Dooley. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be fast allies on the campaign trail.

Walker has aligned himself with former President Donald Trump, who has vowed to oppose Kemp’s bid for a second term. And Walker posted criticism of Kemp’s refusal to illegally overturn the election results after Trump’s defeat in Georgia.

Here’s what Kemp told Claire Simms of Fox 5:

“Herschel has always brought a lot when he’s on the playing field, whether it’s in football and now in politics. But we’ve got a lot of great Republicans for the U.S. Senate that are running including him now. It’s my hope that they’re going to stay focused on things that I am, and that’s posting up against the disastrous policies of the Biden Administration.”

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One Republican who was ready to endorse in the GOP primary for Senate was U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter.

The Republican from Pooler had been looking at the race himself but told us earlier this year that he wouldn’t decide until Trump-friend Walker made up his mind. If the famous former footballer ran for Senate, Carter told us, he would skip the race himself and endorse Walker.

Sure enough, Carter made the announcement Wednesday in a press release that included warnings of the “radical Left, Big Tech, woke corporations and their socialist agenda.”

“Herschel supports the America First agenda and has my complete endorsement, and I’ll do everything I can to ensure he has the opportunity to fight for our Georgia values in the United States Senate,” Carter said.

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POSTED: Atlanta-based Delta Airlines was among several U.S. airlines pressed into service by the Pentagon last week to help evacuate Americans and refugees from Afghanistan.

Our colleague Kelly Yamanouchi spoke with one Delta pilot who volunteered for the flights after his own Air Force experience in Afghanistan after Sept. 11.

He shared his observations from one charter he manned this week:

Delta’s Airbus A330-300 normally seats 219 people in the main cabin, but the manifest showed 267 people. To Badura, it seemed like a mistake.

“When I got to the airplane, I understood why,” he said. “We had probably 70% women and children. A lot of the children were small, so they were just riding on the laps.... It was kind of like being in a nursery.”

Even the adults seemed young, perhaps under 25 years old, he said. “When you reflect upon their ages... a lot of these people, they only knew what life was in Afghanistan pretty much post-Taliban.”

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Care in Action in Georgia is spending six figures on digital ads targeting Democrats nationwide, including Georgia U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock and U.S. Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath.

The ads encourage the lawmakers to continue supporting $400 billion in healthcare funding contained within the $3.5 trillion spending package that is in the drafting phase. Those provisions include paid family leave for workers, lowering the cost of childcare and long-term care coverages for seniors and people with disabilities.

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Our deepest condolences to the friends and family of Bobby Rowan, who died in Athens earlier this month at the age of 85.

Rowan was first elected to the Georgia Senate in 1962 at the age of 27 and waged an unsuccessful campaign for governor a decade later.

When he returned home to Enigma, a hamlet in south Georgia, he helped Jimmy Carter’s bid for the White House. In the 1980s, he served on the Public Service Commission before retiring to work as a consultant and lobbyist.

From his obituary:

Bobby set an intention to live life to the fullest until the day he died. He fulfilled this intention in a huge way, living independently until passing three weeks after leaving his longtime home of Enigma. Bobby leaves a legacy almost as large as his life.

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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.