The Jolt: Does Stacey Abrams have plans for 2022 and 2024?

Stacey Abrams departs a rally for gubernatorial candidate, and former Virginia Governor, Terry McAullife (D-VA) on October 17th, 2021 in Fairfax, Virginia.
Caption
Stacey Abrams departs a rally for gubernatorial candidate, and former Virginia Governor, Terry McAullife (D-VA) on October 17th, 2021 in Fairfax, Virginia.

Credit: Nathan Posner

Credit: Nathan Posner

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It might be one of the opening skirmishes in the 2022 race for governor.

Newsweek published a glowing cover story of Stacey Abrams this week that included an anonymous quote from a self-described “adviser” to the Georgia Democrat that drew plenty of attention from the GOP:

“Stacey has a plan, and it’s only a surprise to people who haven’t paid attention,” says an adviser who asked not to be identified to speak freely about her thinking. “She plans to become the first Black woman governor in the United States next year. And then run for president in 2024 if Biden does not, or in 2028 if he does.”

For the record, Abrams spokesman Seth Bringman batted down such talk.

”This was one person’s speculation only. She has neither made nor announced such plans.”

But it offered Gov. Brian Kemp, who has made clear he intends to run against Abrams whether she’s in the race or not, a chance to fire back.

His campaign manager Bobby Saparow said she wants to turn Georgia into a “stepping-stone” to “fulfill her true ambitions of running for president.”

“Governor Kemp is in the fight to put Georgians first and keep Stacey Abrams’ radical ideas from destroying the future of our state,” Saparow said.

Abrams has never shied away from her ambitions to run for the White House one day. She’s said it’s her responsibility as a woman of color to be transparent about her plans in order to inspire other young women or people of color to aim high.

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The Washington Post’s lead editorial for Veterans Day pays tribute to Max Cleland, the senator from Georgia, who died Tuesday.

The Post writes, “There is a special poignancy that his death came just days before Nov. 11, when the country honors its veterans.”

And it challenges today’s members of Congress to “endeavor to assure that our country, despite its divisions, remains worthy of those who serve.”

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POSTED: GOP state Sen. Clint Dixon’s bills to expand the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners from five members to nine, as well as to make elections for the Gwinnett County Board of Education non-partisan, drew heavy fire from Democrats during a press conference and at a state Senate committee hearing Wednesday, the AJC’s Tyler Wilkins reports.

Democrats in recent years have won the majorities on both boards in the once Republican-dominated Gwinnett.

State Rep. Jasmine Clark, a Gwinnett Democrat, said during the hearing Wednesday that no Democrats in the county’s delegation were told about the bill before Dixon introduced it.

“This was done in secret on purpose and then presented to the shock of everyone in the delegation,” she said. “I find it hard to believe that this is not an attack on people of color in Gwinnett County.”

State Rep. Sam Park, another Gwinnett Democrat, called it “out of order and incredibly concerning.”

Board of Education Chairman Everton Blair, Jr. said Dixon’s move “blindsided” both the Republicans and Democrats on the school board, none of whom Dixon discussed the bill with before he introduced it.

“This is not a new issue,” Dixon said.

State Sen. Michelle Au, also a Democrat from Gwinnett, asked to table a vote on the school board bill to allow for more discussion, but the committee quickly passed it on a party line basis over shouts of “No!” in the audience.

“I’m the chairman and this is the way it’s going to be,” Chairman Lee Anderson said.

If passed by the full General Assembly, members of the board of education up for reelection in 2022 would be elected in a general election in May.

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Speaking of local legislation, the Floyd County Elections Board postponed interviews for a new chief elections clerk Wednesday after state Rep. Katie Dempsey, a Rome Republican, filed legislation to dissolve the board and create a new one, reports the Rome News-Tribune.

Dempsey’s legislation would expand the elections board from three members to five and give the Floyd County Board of Commissioners authority to appoint two Democrats, two Republicans, and a nonpartisan chair. If the bill passes the General Assembly, members of the new board would be in place by Dec. 1.

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Congress is in recess this week, but that hasn’t stopped Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from creating more controversial headlines.

She was criticized for using her Twitter account to praise vaccine skeptic Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, a Black Muslim sect. Greene came across the Nation’s newsletter during a tour of the D.C. jail to check on how Jan. 6 defendants are being treated. She liked what she saw in its pages regarding criticism of vaccine mandates and other coronavirus precautions.

Many people pointed out that Greene was aligning herself with someone known to share anti-Semitic view points after making an effort to distance herself from her own past anti-Semitic statements.

But perhaps the biggest social media controversy for Greene (this week) came after she posted to social media the phone numbers to the offices of the 13 Republicans who voted in favor of the infrastructure bill. Several of them, particularly Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, said they received death threats as a result.

“I have a colleague, as you know, that put out the phone numbers of the 13 of us that voted that way,” Upton told CNN. “I’d be glad to defend that vote. We’ve been working really since last spring on a bipartisan bill.”

Greene wasn’t the only Republican to criticize the group of 13 for helping Democrats pass their bill, but she used some of the strongest language and has a huge platform.

Greene and fellow Georgia U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde also continue to ignore rules requiring masks to be worn on the House floor. They both received notices this week of additional fines. By our count, Greene’s fines now total $58,000. Clyde’s are closer to $40,000.

Republican leaders in the House have remained silent, but at least one of Greene’s 2022 opponents hammered her for the fines.

“Congresswoman Greene has been fined more for her refusal to wear a mask than families in her district live on yearly,” said a spokeswoman for Democrat Holly McCormack’s campaign.

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Speaking of Democrats’ clashes with far-right Republicans, Georgia Rep. Nikema Williams is helping lead an effort to censure Republican Rep. Paul Gosar.

Gosar, of Arizona, posted a doctored anime video that depicted him killing Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. While he faced widespread criticism from the left and moderates and even his own family, again House GOP leaders decided not to weigh in.

Williams and several other Democrats are introducing a censure resolution, essentially a verbal reprimand.

“For that Member to post such a video on his official Instagram account and use his official congressional resources in the House of Representatives to further violence against elected officials goes beyond the pale,” the lawmakers wrote in a statement.

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Jake Evans, one of the leading Republicans vying for the nomination in Georgia’s Congressional District 6, promoted false allegations that there is evidence the 2020 general election had fraud, according to a recording we reviewed.

With a crowded primary, the GOP candidates are in a race to the right. But depending on how the lines of the 6th District are ultimately drawn, echoing former President Donald Trump’s lies could hurt a candidate in the general election.

Evans told the Forsyth GOPers that there was widespread election fraud, particularly when it came to Fulton and DeKalb counties and their treatment of absentee ballots. And he said Democrats were known to cheat in every election.

“The amount of fraud that happened in Georgia last year: I think it was significant,” he said. “11,000 votes decided the presidential election in Georgia; over 5 million votes were cast in the state of Georgia. We will never know whether they were sufficient legal votes to overturn it, but I think there’s a very real possibility and we’ve got to make this a frontline issue.”

We asked Evans’ campaign what evidence he has to support those claims, which have been deemed unfounded after multiple lawsuits and investigations. A statement from Evans didn’t address our questions directly but said he will continue to fight for “election integrity.”

There is no evidence of widespread voting fraud, and bipartisan election officials have upheld the integrity of the vote. Three separate tallies showed Trump was defeated, and a range of lawsuits brought by his allies were laughed out of court.

Evans is also advocating for a rollback of Georgia’s no-excuse absentee balloting laws, saying there should be a limited number of reasons that allow voting by mail.

We pointed out to the campaign that the state General Assembly was led by Republicans when it passed the current law allowing any registered voter to request an absentee ballot, and we asked if he expressed any concern about this policy prior to the 2020 election. Evans’ response didn’t address that question, either.

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The City of Warner Robins is facing $800,000 in fines and a tax lien from the IRS, mayor Randy Toms confirmed in a press conference Wednesday.

WMAZ-TV (Macon) reports Toms said that the mayor’s office does not keep the books for the city, but that he’s starting an investigation into the matter.

“Like you, I was shocked and deeply disappointed to hear these claims, I’m especially ashamed at the misunderstanding of the subject matter of these claims,” Toms said.

The mayor is facing a Nov. 30 runoff for reelection.

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Georgia business groups are pushing back on a trial judge who ruled that equipment purchased by T-Mobile South to build a broadband network wasn’t eligible for a lucrative state tax break.

Law360 reported that the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Broadband Tax Institute and the Metro Atlanta Chamber each urged an appeals court to reverse the Fulton County judge’s order that said the telecom company shouldn’t receive the $11.4 million refund.

We took particular note of the lawyer representing the Metro Atlanta Chamber: Former Georgia Supreme Court Justice Keith Blackwell.

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UNDER THE GOLD DOME, Thursday, Nov. 11

  • The state House is in recess to observe Veterans Day;
  • 10:00 a.m.: Senate hearings begin;
  • 1:00 p.m.: The state Senate gavels in.

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Most elected officials will be putting out patriotic statements today to commemorate Veterans Day, but Rep. Drew Ferguson’s “open letter to America’s heroes” took a more partisan angle.

Ferguson, R-West Point, starts off thanking members of the military and their families for their sacrifice. And he touts his offices’ outreach to veterans.

But Ferguson’s letter also criticizes President Joe Biden’s military policy and the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Veterans were left feeling abandoned by the Biden administration, Ferguson writes, before asking servicemembers struggling with the aftermath of the retreat to reach out to his office.

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On this Veterans Day, your Insiders are grateful to our veterans and men and women in uniform for their ongoing service and sacrifice for the country.

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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.

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