The Jolt: Election law controversy ignites 2022 Georgia governor’s race

April 6, 2021 Cobb County: Workers with DeNYSE load the All Star sign after removing it from near the stadium’s scoreboard on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at Truist Park. A Cobb County-based Civil Rights Organization says moving Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game out of Georgia was the right call, regardless of the economic impact to local businesses. New Order National Human Rights Organization gave their latest update on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 in front of Truist Park in Cobb County regarding Major league baseball relocating the All Star from Atlanta. The organization said they realized that the Governor has responded to cancelation of the all Star game here in Atlanta and as a national human rights organization gave their response to the game being moved out of Atlanta. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)
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April 6, 2021 Cobb County: Workers with DeNYSE load the All Star sign after removing it from near the stadium’s scoreboard on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at Truist Park. A Cobb County-based Civil Rights Organization says moving Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game out of Georgia was the right call, regardless of the economic impact to local businesses. New Order National Human Rights Organization gave their latest update on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 in front of Truist Park in Cobb County regarding Major league baseball relocating the All Star from Atlanta. The organization said they realized that the Governor has responded to cancelation of the all Star game here in Atlanta and as a national human rights organization gave their response to the game being moved out of Atlanta. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

The 2022 race for governor might have started in earnest when Gov. Brian Kemp signed the sweeping election overhaul into law and ignited a new battle over voting rights with his archnemesis Stacey Abrams.

Watch a replay of Stacey Abrams’ AP Newsmakers interview:

Since he signed the measure two weeks ago, the rivals have traded blows over the law and the economic backlash that followed, particularly over who is to blame for the decision to yank the All-Star game from Atlanta.

Late Wednesday, Republicans were aflame over a Fox Business reporter’s tweet that Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred decided to pull the game after talking to Abrams.

Multiple sources with the league and Democratic circles tell us that’s not the case. Abrams never talked to Manfred, though she did speak to a senior baseball official before the announcement was made.

During that conversation, she reiterated her position against economic boycotts, something she also shared publicly in a USA Today editorial and an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

A league official told us that baseball executives spoke to a range of politicians before Manfred moved the game from Atlanta. The official also told us the commissioner’s decision wasn’t influenced by any conversation with any elected politician.

Republicans, meanwhile, are still painting Abrams as the chief culprit. Kemp lamented the Democratic “disinformation campaign.” Attorney General Chris Carr is sending tweets with the hashtag #StaceysBigLie. And the Stop Stacey initiative started by Kemp’s allies latched onto the issue this morning.

“Big corporations like the MLB fell for Stacey’s deceitful narrative, and now small businesses and struggling employees — many of whom are people of color — are on the losing end,” said Jeremy Brand, the initiative’s senior strategist.

We should note that the “disinformation” cited by GOP groups revolves around the now-familiar clash over the sweeping election law rewrite.

Democrats say the changes, which include new curbs on ballot drop boxes and ID requirements for mail-in votes, were stoked by former President Donald Trump’s lies about a “rigged” election and designed to suppress minority voters. Republicans paint them as efforts to secure the integrity of the vote, though they acknowledge there was no proof of any systemic voter fraud.

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The fallout continues over SB 202, the state’s new election law.

The leaders of four of Atlanta’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities spoke out against it Wednesday.

In a joint statement, the presidents of Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College wrote, in part, “The restrictions now in place will curtail voter participation in marginalized populations across Georgia.”

As the Masters Tournament in Augusta gets underway, Augusta National chairman Fred Ridley has also weighed in, but without getting into the specifics of the law.

“I believe and I am confident that every member of this club believes that voting is an essential fundamental right in our society and that, as I stated, that anything that disadvantages anyone to vote is wrong and should be addressed,” he said.

Critics of the measure are planning to protest outside the hallowed golf tournament on Sunday to bring even more attention to the firestorm over the new law.

Also:

  • A fifth lawsuit has been filed, this one challenging provisions in the new law banning organizations from mass mailing absentee ballot applications to voters.
  • Hundreds of lawyers have joined a group pledging to defend anyone charged with violating the law’s restrictions on giving food and water to people waiting in line to vote.

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Charlie Hayslett, our friend at Trouble in God’s Country and a former D.C. correspondent for The Atlanta Journal, is up with a new item for The Washington Post, arguing that MLB’s decision to pull out of the All Star game in Cobb County is hurting a different Georgia than the one intended.

“Metropolitan Atlanta’s legislative districts are mostly deep blue; rural Georgia’s, almost entirely bright red. It plainly escaped the attention of the White House and MLB that the sponsors of SB 202 hail not from Atlanta, but from such far-flung rural areas as Sylvania, Ocilla and Vidalia.

“Instead, in response to the national furor over the Georgia law, the White House took aim at an obvious target — the All-Star Game — and managed to turn some of its most prized new political precincts into collateral damage. A Cobb County tourism executive put the damage at more than $100 million.”

We’ll stop here to point out that tourism bureaus often exaggerate the economic impact of big events. Also, Manfred’s decision was based in part on the possibility that the league’s biggest stars might stay home if the game were played in Atlanta, which would have its own financial ramifications.

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U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath has her first confirmed Republican challenger in 2022.

Harold Earls, a U.S. Army veteran with a vast YouTube and Instagram following, launched his campaign to run for the suburban Atlanta district. His announcement telegraphed his plan to run as an outsider.

“Time after time in Georgia, we keep going back to the same type of candidates, expecting different results,” he said. “That failed approach, it ends now. It’s time for a new generation of conservative leaders to reignite a movement and lead the way for the future of this country.”

Earls is a graduate of West Point and led the first Army team to the summit of Mt. Everest. He and his wife Rachel authored a book, “A Higher Calling,” and their YouTube channel with over 500,000 subscribers is called “Earls Family Vlogs.”

A number of other Republicans could compete for the seat, including state Sen. Brandon Beach, state Ethics chair Jake Evans, former state Rep. Meagan Hanson and elections official Gabriel Sterling.

But they’re all engaging in a bit of a guessing game. That’s because the north Atlanta district, along with the adjacent Gwinnett-based seat held by first-term Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux, could dramatically change when state legislators redraw the boundaries later this year.

If the new map winds up being more favorable to McBath but more challenging for Bourdeaux, expect Earls and some of the other contenders to switch races. In that case, they’d join Dr. Rich McCormick, who narrowly lost to Bourdeaux in 2020.

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POSTED: Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan is unlikely to run for re-election in 2022. A senior aide tells The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he may instead focus on rebuilding the Republican Party for a post-Trump era.

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It appears that all the controversy U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene faced earlier this year paid off, literally. Politico’s Huddle newsletter reported that she raised $3.2 million in the first quarter of 2021. Quoting “a source close to her campaign,” Huddle says the haul came from roughly 100,000 donors. The official Federal Elections Commission report has not yet been filed.

More from Huddle:

That is a staggering sum of money for a House member, especially for a freshman who is more than a year out from her next election. For context, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), then a freshman, raked in $728,000 in the first quarter of 2019.

Greene appears to have actually benefited from all the controversies that have consumed her first few months in office. She directly fundraised off of Democrats’ decision to kick her off her committees for past incendiary rhetoric and warned her supporters that Democrats are trying to expel her from Congress. Greene is also still a fan favorite in Trumpworld: she met with Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago last week and they posed for a video together.

“Over 100,000 individual donations says it all. The People are with Marjorie Taylor Greene and her America First agenda. It’s clear she’s the heir to President Trump,” said the source close to her campaign.

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We told you previously that Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson planned to add his name to the NAACP’s lawsuit against former President Donald Trump accusing him of inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The amended complaint filed Tuesday includes written testimony from Johnson and 10 other lawmakers detailing their experiences on that day.

An excerpt of the Lithonia Democrat’s testimony:

As he continued to hear banging on the House Chamber doors, and increasingly virulent shouting, he feared the situation was serious and might end badly for him and other members nearby.

His fear that he might be unable to evade the growing efforts to enter the House Chamber by loud and boisterous intruders were heightened even further when he heard a gunshot, prompting him to drop to the floor in a crouch as the Capitol Police instructed Rep. Johnson and other members to lie on the floor.

After exiting the Gallery, he was surprised and troubled to see intruders who were secured by law enforcement officers lying face down on the floor, where they were guarded by officers with drawn weapons.