For Georgia delegates, the Democratic National Convention began with a 9:30 a.m. meeting on Zoom. There was much enthusiasm, but no clapping – and one wonders if ambient sound recordings might be in the future, a la the Atlanta Braves.
Traditionally, these breakfast meetings are intended to get delegates up, fed, and pumped with the day’s talking points. They can be rushed affairs, with buses idling and ready to haul them to the convention hall. But no need for that today.
Monday’s premier guest was Erin Wilson, political director for the Joe Biden presidential campaign. She quickly cited the early support that the nominee received from Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Wilson hinted at a major effort in this state, but did not commit.
“We are coming for Georgia. When we look at the map we have a bunch of different ways we can get to 270 [electoral votes], and when I look at the states that are most exciting, Georgia is very high on that list,” Wilson said.
Wilson was the Pennsylvania state director for the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016.
U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, sent signals that health care will be a major topic in coming days, as it was in 2018 when she defeated Republican incumbent Karen Handel. With a pandemic, the issue has been supercharged.
“As a two-time breast cancer survivor myself, I’m reminded every single day of the importance of having affordable and quality health insurance and health care,” McBath said.
The congresswoman cited her support for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a portion of which is in her Sixth District. She also pointed to Georgia’s maternal mortality rate, the second-worst in the nation, which disproportionately affects Black mothers.
Another outside guest, Mayor Levar Stoney of Richmond, Va., showed the limitations of the virtual format. His presentation was muffled, but he did lay out the scenario that Democrats are likely to return to again and again.
“We have a pandemic that has cost roughly 170,000 lives, We’ve had racial strife and social unrest And then we have had an economic downturn that has cost millions and millions of jobs in our country,” he said. “Now more than ever we need leadership.”
The Democratic National Convention, without parties and thus without hangovers, without crowds and thus without endless lines at security checkpoints, comes to your TV, laptop and smart phone today.
The broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS — have scheduled at least one hour of prime-time coverage each night. The three commercial networks will begin their coverage at 10 p.m.
The cable networks — CNN, FOX News and MSNBC — plus the streaming platforms for the Big Three networks will have expanded coverage as well.
C-SPAN will broadcast all official DNC activities across the four days of virtual conventioneering. More details can be had here.
Who’s on tap for Monday evening:
-- U.S. Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, highest-ranking Black member of Congress who was central to a Democratic coalescing around soon-to-be Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the primaries.
-- Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, who became a counterpoint to President Donald Trump when the two were holding daily press conferences on the pandemic.
-- U.S. Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, who won a special election to replace Republican Jeff Sessions in 2017 and is now the most vulnerable Senate Democrat up for re-election.
-- Former Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate in 2016 and opposes President Trump. Look for many references to Zell Miller, who as a Democrat spoke at the 2004 Republican National Convention.
-- U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, a presidential candidate who was under consideration for vice president, but urged Biden to pick a woman of color after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by police.
-- Michelle Obama, the former first lady.
-- And U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who finished second to Biden in the primary and still leads the party's progressive wing.
A pre-emptive Republican rebuttal: At 4 p.m. today, the Trump Victory campaign will host a virtual presser featuring Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and state Republican party chair David Shafer.
Expect exotic speaking venues over the next two weeks, from both Democrats and Republicans.
U.S. Rep. James Clyburn will address delegates tonight from the roof of a building that sits across the street from Emanuel AME Church, where nine congregants were massacred by a white shooter intending to start a race war.
The Post and Courier newspaper points out that this will be the first Democratic convention speech given in Charleston, S.C. since 1860 – which led to the Confederacy and the Civil War.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has yet to tell us where she’ll be when she delivers her convention speech on Thursday. But it’s highly possible her just-ended feud with Gov. Brian Kemp over the city’s mask mandate will be mentioned.
Our evidence: You’ll recall that when Kemp withdrew his suit last week, the governor cited the fact that mediations over the mask ban had hit a brick wall. One sign of Bottoms’ intransigence could be found in the opening lines of a motion city attorneys filed in late July:
Despite the rapidly growing threat to Georgians from COVID-19, Governor Brian Kemp sued Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to prevent her from implementing critical life-saving measures in Atlanta. Nevertheless, she persisted.
We’re reliably told that Robert L. Ashe III, of the Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore law firm, was the author of the above.
An applause-less pair of national political conventions are still likely to attract a sizeable audience. From this morning’s Washington Post/ABC News poll:
Overall, 54 percent of registered voters say they are following the election “very closely," a high water mark for polls at a similar point in campaigns over the past 20 years. The share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independent voters who say they are very closely following the campaign stands at 58 percent, the same was it was in early September 2016. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independent voters, 53 percent say they are very closely following the campaign, which represents a 13-point jump over this time four years ago.
Over the years, Libertarian Party candidates in Georgia have tended to lean rightward, aiming their pitches at discontented Republicans. Chase Oliver, one of several Fifth District candidates in the special election to fill out the term of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, is taking a different tack.
On a recently posted Facebook video, Oliver targets Georgia’s cash-bail system. “Frankly, it’s something that has to end,” Oiver says. “Three out of every five people in U.S. jails are there having not been convicted of a crime. That’s about 500,000 people who can’t pay cash bail.”
On the COVID-19 front:
-- University of North Georgia officials said they were “disappointed” with the reports and videos showing large swaths of maskless students engaged in weekend partying in Dahlonega just before classes start today, according to the Gainesville Times.
-- Almost as soon as Gov. Brian Kemp let it be known he would reverse course and allow local governments to impose mask mandates, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul announced the Atlanta suburb would draft an order to comply with the new guidance.
-- State Sen. Chuck Efstration, R-Dacula, is expounding on pandemic legislation he plans to introduce in January, should he be re-elected. Much of it addresses steps that Gov. Brian Kemp has not yet taken. From the Gwinnett Post:
For virtual learning, Efstration's plan includes help for parents who work but don't feel safe sending their children back to class yet. It would entail the state providing safe socially distanced daytime locations for children to do virtual learning.
As for testing, in addition to making it available to Georgians for free, Efstration's plan includes making results available the same day the test is performed.
And the final point entails creating a state certification program for businesses who comply with recommended COVID-19 guidelines so customers can verify if a business is safe to visit.
-- A condition known as myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart, could threaten one in five athletes who come down with COVID-19, a top Emory sports doctor tells Sarah Rose of Georgia Public Broadcasting.
Over the weekend, U.S. Sen. David Perdue directly addressed how his campaign was forced to delete a digital ad that distorted Democrat Jon Ossoff’s nose, drawing criticism that it was an anti-Semitic swipe at his Jewish rival.
He told Fox News it was an “inadvertent technical mistake” and that the campaign vendor was fired. Then he added “This is not the first time a friend of Israel or a friend of the Jewish people has been victimized here falsely.” To which Ossoff responded:
“For Senator Perdue to claim victimhood here is preposterous and outright disgusting. And a trip to Israel doesn't excuse anti-Semitic campaign tactics. The Senator's campaign ad enlarged Jon's nose, which is the oldest, most obvious, least original anti-Semitic trope in history, and Senator Perdue's refusal to apologize to Georgia's Jewish community or even acknowledge that he caused pain here is shameful and shameless. Georgia deserves better."
It might have been one of the bigger breakfast crowds in recent months for the DeKalb County GOP: About 60 people crowded a Dunwoody Wild Wing to hear from a special guest many of them once reviled.
That would be Democratic state Rep. Vernon Jones, a former DeKalb chief executive who was ostracized by his party even before he endorsed President Donald Trump.
Back when he was DeKalb’s leader in the 2000s, he was vilified by local Republicans for what they saw as mismanagement and corruption. Some dubbed him the godfather of Dunwoody for inspiring the cityhood movement.
He met a very different reception on Saturday -- now that he’s one of Trump’s key Georgia surrogates.
One GOP legislative contender said he was running to follow in Jones’ footsteps. Another joked that she usually wore red but that she donned a blue outfit to honor him.
Jones earned a partial standing ovation when he was announced, and he assailed Democrats for not more forcefully backing law enforcement or cracking down on protests for social justice that turned violent.
“The party I’m in isn’t doing a doggone thing against it,” he said. “And President Trump is about results. He just wants to get the job done. He’s an equal opportunity offender.”
He reminded the audience he’s met with Trump several times in the White House in recent weeks, and offered his analysis of his personality.
“Donald J. Trump is a man’s man. He’s strong. When he tells you he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it,” said Jones. “And he’s a nationalist. He’s going to put his country first.”
Kevin Van Ausdal, the Democratic candidate facing a long-shot race against Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia’s 14th District, said his congressional campaign got a huge boost after her runoff win.
Driven largely by small-dollar donations of $40 on average, Ausdal raised $38,000 in a three-day period.
That is big for him but pales in comparison to what Greene herself has indicated she is willing to spend to win in a district that votes overwhelmingly Republican. She loaned her campaign $900,000 during the primary and runoff.
An attorney for Democrat Mokah Johnson is considering legal action after a recent push poll falsely asserted she “was convicted of a felony, served time in prison and convinced a judge to remove it from her record to cover it all up.”
An aide for Johnson, an Athens activist challenging Republican state Rep. Houston Gaines, said the campaign has received several complaints about the push poll in recent weeks and it wanted to “set the record straight.”
Johnson’s campaign said she was charged with a misdemeanor in 1995 for being present in a car during a $5 marijuana purchase and that she spent no time in a jail cell. She entered a plea bargain as a first-time offender.
“Although she was assured that the misdemeanor charge would be dropped upon completion of her community service, the charge was inaccurately recorded as a felony and remained on her record,” her campaign said. “Johnson successfully had the charge expunged after it interfered with her ability to seek housing.”
Johnson, the co-founder of the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, has hinged her campaign on a push for sweeping changes to the criminal justice system. She’s said her brush with law enforcement helped inspire her campaign against Gaines, who was elected in 2018.
Campaign manager Aditya Krishnaswamy has contacted Stacey Evans, a fellow House candidate and defamation attorney, to pursue a potential legal case.
“It’s unfortunate that our opponent or his allies are resorting to blatant lies about a Black woman candidate - apparently it’s all the rage now in the GOP,” said Krishnaswamy.
In endorsement news: TogetherFund, the political committee created by former presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, has endorsed fellow Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in their respective U.S. Senate races.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Sunday night that she is calling the U.S. House back to Washington for emergency action regarding the U.S. Postal Service. House Democrats are expected to approve a bill that would require the postal service to roll back any changes in level of service or operation to whatever was in place on Jan. 1.
President Donald Trump caused a firestorm when he made comments last week that he opposed boosting funding for the post office because he feared it would be used to boost mail-in voting, which he has falsely described as ripe for fraud. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee and political supporter, is cut services in the name of reining in agency spending, but he also told 46 states that there could be a resulting negative impact on elections.
The AJC’s Mark Niesse has more on how post office delays could cause absentee ballots in Georgia to arrive too late to be counted:
So far, Georgia election officials have rejected 1,575 absentee ballots because they were received after this week's election day, less than 1% of all absentees returned, according to election files updated Thursday. In the June 9 primary, 8,495 absentee ballots were received after the deadline.
Those numbers could grow in November's general election, which is expected to draw 5 million Georgia voters, the most in state history. Roughly 1.5 million of them might use absentee ballots, election officials said.
Mail that previously took two or three days to deliver now often doesn't reach local addresses for five or six days, said Kennith Beasley, the southern regional coordinator for the American Postal Workers Union.
A federal judge has ruled that Republican candidates can continue to be listed first on Georgia ballots, Niesse also reports.
Our deepest condolences to Georgia Equality director Jeff Graham, whose husband Peter Stinner has died of a heart attack.
Credit: Ben Hendren for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com