The Jolt: Former Kemp adviser helping launch Pence run for president

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

Former Vice President Mike Pence’s allies launched a new super PAC to back his expected run for the 2024 presidency. The group’s executive director is a former Brian Kemp strategist who plans to export the governor’s playbook to a national race.

The “Committed to America” PAC can raise unlimited donations and set the stage for Pence’s possible run for president. Soon, it is expected to start building infrastructure in key early primary states, along with a wave of TV ads.

The PAC’s director is Bobby Saparow, who helped engineer Kemp’s commanding victory over former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, the Donald Trump-backed challenger, in last year’s gubernatorial primary. Pence backed Kemp and campaigned with him during that contest.

The vice president’s decision to endorse the Georgia Republican last year marked one of the biggest political rifts in the Trump-Pence dynamic.

If Pence enters the 2024 presidential race, he would be running against declared candidate Trump, his former political boss. Saparow, who was Kemp’s campaign manager, said in a statement that the group is “more than just a paid media effort.”

“We are taking what we did so successfully with Governor Kemp to the national stage, mobilizing an unprecedented voter contact program to win and make Mike Pence the next president of the United States,” he said.

Pence lands in the single-digits in most national polls and must compete for attention against the former president, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other well-known Republicans.

Still, his allies believe his high name recognition, long track record in conservative politics and popularity among evangelical voters will help buoy his chances.

Pence also has kept a busy schedule in early-voting states and battlegrounds, including a recent visit to an Atlanta church.

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Vice President Kamala Harris greets supporters at the Democratic Party of Georgia’s Spring Soiree in Atlanta on Friday, May 12, 2023. (Natrice Miller/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

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Credit: Natrice Miller/AJC

SIGN UP. Save time later today for a live, virtual taping of the Politically Georgia podcast. We’ll talk about that new Pence Super PAC, whether Gov. Brian Kemp is really considering a national run, Vice President Kamala Harris’ latest trip to Georgia, and all of the ways the 2024 presidential elections will affect the Peach State.

AJC subscribers can register now and join us from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. today. The podcast will go live as usual Wednesday morning.

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BILLS AND CONSEQUENCES. A new state law has resulted in the ouster of a Black Democrat from a South Georgia elections board — just as voting rights groups feared.

The Ware County Commission appointed three white Republicans and one Black Democrat to the county’s election board last week after the passage of House Bill 422, which gave the commission power to pick all of the board’s members, the AJC’s Mark Niesse tells us. The board’s fifth member and chairperson will be chosen by the other four.

Previously, the Republican and Democratic parties appointed two board members each. The result was an elections board in Ware that had three Black members.

These panels have the authority to certify election results, decide on voting locations and consider challenges to voters’ eligibility.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed six bills this year to restructure election boards, in Ben Hill, Cherokee, Columbia, Schley, Screven and Ware counties.

“These laws continue a string of coordinated efforts by Republicans nationwide to nullify the will of the people, and to invalidate the effects of record-breaking turnout by Black, brown and youth voters,” the voting rights group Fair Fight Action said in a memo about the change.

The Republican effort to reshape election boards follows a Georgia Supreme Court ruling in 2018 that private organizations, such as political parties, couldn’t appoint public officials to government decision-making bodies.

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SPECIAL ELECTION. Voters in the south Metro Atlanta suburbs head to the polls today to elect a successor to State Rep. Tish Naghise, a first-term Democrat from Fayetteville who died in March.

Precincts in south Fulton County and parts of Fayette County will be open today to select the new representative for state House District 68.

The qualified candidates are all Democrats: Mark Baker, John Culbreth, Taiwo Idowu, Derrick Jackson and Jane Williams. If no one receives a majority of the votes, there will be a runoff on June 13.

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State Rep. Mesha Mainor, D-Atlanta, speaks during morning orders in the House of Representatives at the Capitol in Atlanta on Wednesday, February 15, 2023. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

FIGHTING WORDS. The battle continues between state Rep. Mesha Mainor, D-Atlanta, and her Democratic colleagues working to oust her in a Democratic primary.

Mainor angered fellow Democrats earlier this year when she voted with House Republicans on bills to create school vouchers and a state-level oversight commission for local prosecutors. Among them was state Sen. Josh McLaurin, D-Sandy Springs, who vowed at the time to donate $1,000 to anyone who would challenge Mainor in a primary.

“All I need is a name,” he wrote.

Mainor fired back in an interview this week with WSB Radio’s Shelley Wynter, a conservative host who introduced Mainor as “my sister, my friend.” She said Democrats who opposed the voucher legislation were being hypocritical.

“The people that don't support school choice, lawmakers right now, some of them are lying about their address where they live, so their child can go to a better school. But yet they won't support school choice. Some lawmakers right now don't have children. They don't know what it's like to have a child in a failing school. They don't support school choice. Some lawmakers, their children are in private schools, which is school choice for them ... that's hypocritical."

- Mesha Mainor on WSB

Mainor also used the platform to raise money for her campaign. “That’s how I’m going to have to keep the message going,” she said.

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The U.S. Senate has scheduled a vote on legislation already approved in the House that would reverse new policing standards implemented by the District of Columbia’s city council. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, is the primary sponsor. (Nathan Posner for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

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Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • The U.S. Senate has scheduled a vote on legislation already approved in the House that would reverse new policing standards implemented by the District of Columbia’s city council. Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, is the primary sponsor.
  • The House will take votes on other police-related bills.
  • The Senate Banking Committee will host a hearing featuring former executives of failed regional banks.
  • President Joe Biden will host another debt ceiling meeting at the White House with Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries.
  • The President and first lady will also host a celebration in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month.

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INFRASTRUCTURE WEEK. President Joe Biden’s administration has deemed this week infrastructure week and is highlighting new spending on roads, bridges and the power grid.

Accompanying Monday’s announcement was a factsheet on dollars authorized by 2021′s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law coming to each state. Some Georgia highlights:

  • $3.5 billion in highway funding prioritized for the 2,260 miles of road in poor condition.
  • $90 million to help repair some of the state’s 374 bridges needing repairs.
  • At least $100 million to improve high-speed internet coverage.
  • $360 million for clean water projects.

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POLITICAL VINE. Political analyst Bill Simon has a thought-provoking analysis of the Georgia Republican Assembly’s attempt to change state GOP rules to block “traitors” and others deemed insufficiently conservative from qualifying to run for office. He takes a closer look at the “evil political industry” that the faction maligns.

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Jake Evans, a former Republican U.S. House candidate for the suburban 6th District, has joined the Greenberg Traurig law firm. (Elijah Nouvelage for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Elijah Nouvelage for the AJC

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Credit: Elijah Nouvelage for the AJC

PERSONNEL MOVES. Jake Evans, a former Republican U.S. House candidate for the suburban 6th District, has joined the Greenberg Traurig law firm. The former state ethics chair was previously a partner at the Hall Booth Smith firm.

Evans is also one of the Republican Party’s two appointees to the Fulton County election board. That has become somewhat controversial because a Republican has also been appointed to chair that panel, which would give the party majority control on the elections board in a heavily Democratic county.

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Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill reported to a federal prison in Arkansas on Monday after his conviction in October. (Johnny Edwards/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Johnny Edwards/AJC

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Credit: Johnny Edwards/AJC

TURNING HIMSELF IN. Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill donned a casual button-down shirt and appeared to take a private jet to turn himself in to federal prison Monday.

The AJC’s Leon Stafford writes that Hill posted a video on social media of himself boarding the plane hours before he was scheduled to turn himself in at an Arkansas facility.

A spokesperson for the federal bureau of prisons later confirmed that Hill had reported to the low-security Federal Correctional Institution in Forrest City.

Hill was convicted in October of violating the civil rights of six detainees at the Clayton County jail and sentenced to 18 months in prison.

In the 30-second video he posted on Twitter, Hill is carrying a brief-case sized piece of luggage and chatting on a cell phone. The caption: “Strength and honor.”

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Bailey Kemp, a golden retriever, pictured here with Gov. Brian Kemp's boots, enjoys pond jumping, stick chewing and tennis balls. (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

DOG OF THE DAY. Jolt nation, it’s time to meet some Very Important Pooches — the First Dogs of Georgia, Bailey and Rhett Kemp.

Bailey, the golden retriever, joined the Kemp family in 2014 during the secretary of state years. Rhett, the German shepherd, arrived just before Kemp announced his first run for governor in 2017, making us wonder who walked Rhett in the early days.

Rhett Kemp, a German shepherd, calls Gov. Brian Kemp and Marty Kemp his people. (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

Like many dogs, Bailey and Rhett both go pond jumping, tennis ball fetching and stick chewing on the Kemp family farm outside of Athens. Unlike many dogs, they also occasionally get to do those things, minus the pond jumping, at the Governor’s Mansion.

We’ve long known that First Lady Marty Kemp is an animal lover. She has hosted four pet adoption days on the front lawn of the Governor’s Mansion. Some 120 dogs, 7 cats and 1 hamster found new homes. We’ll keep you posted on the next one.

In the meantime, congrats, Bailey and Rhett. Now you have your own titles, too, as the Jolt Dogs of the Day.

Send us your pups of any political persuasion — and cats on a cat-by-cat basis, to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, or DM us on Twitter @MurphyAJC.

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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.