The Jolt: Geoff Duncan breaks with RNC on Jan. 6 ‘atrocity’

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Following the opening of the 2020 Georgia General Assembly, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan held a press conference to discuss his priorities for the 2020 legislative session and take questions on January 13, 2020 in Atlanta. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Following the opening of the 2020 Georgia General Assembly, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan held a press conference to discuss his priorities for the 2020 legislative session and take questions on January 13, 2020 in Atlanta. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal Constitution/TNS)

Most leading Georgia Republicans were silent on the Republican National Committee’s vote last week to label the events of Jan. 6, 2021, which included the deadly Capitol insurrection, “legitimate political discourse” as part of a censure for the two Republicans participating in the Congressional probe of the attack.

After controversy erupted over the language in the censure, RNC Chairwoman later referred to “legitimate political discourse that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol.” But the wording in the censure remained the same.

In response, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan continued his criticism of fellow Republicans who can’t shake Donald Trump’s revisionist history.

“Endless discussion of the events in the past distracts from the important work in front of us,” Duncan told us. “January 6 was an atrocity. So is the Biden Administration’s performance so far. Conservatives would be wise to focus on the future, not the past.”

He joined House Speaker David Ralston, who earlier this year voiced support for the investigations into the violent attack.

“I’m disappointed by some in my party who can’t accept the fact that that was completely despicable criminal behavior,” Ralston said in January. “What we ought to be doing is letting these investigations run their course.”


That was quick. Republicans promised to make Stacey Abrams pay for a now-deleted tweet that showed her posing for a photograph maskless while surrounded by masked students at a Decatur public elementary school.

Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s campaign was first out of the gate.

The 15-second ad released Monday slowly zooms toward the photo of Abrams as ominous music plays.

“This is the Georgia Stacey wants. This is the reality Brian Kemp has allowed. Unmask our kids.”

Perdue and Kemp both raced to paint Abrams as a hypocrite over the weekend for calling for stronger virus restrictions while appearing with students without a mask. The reality is more nuanced.


UNDER THE GOLD DOME, Monday, Feb. 7:

  • 9:00 a.m.: Committee meetings begin;
  • 10:00 a.m.: The House gavels in;
  • 10:00 a.m.: The Senate convenes.


Look for action in the state Senate today, when the chamber takes up a bill from state Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas, to place a statue of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on the grounds at the state Capitol. Thomas is a Savannah native.

The Senate will also debate a measure to extend Medicaid coverage for new mothers from six months postpartum to a full year of coverage.

With Georgia’s rate of maternal mortality still at crisis levels, Gov. Brian Kemp called for the Legislature to lengthen postpartum coverage in his State of the State address in January.

Democrats will certainly use the debate Monday as another chance to call for full Medicaid expansion for all Georgians, which Kemp and Republicans have long refused.


One hearing Monday we’ll be watching: The Senate Education and Youth Committee will take up bills from opposite ends of the spectrum on what to teach in Georgia schools.

SB 377, from GOP state Sen. Bo Hatchett, would prevent teaching “certain concepts” at all levels of Georgia schools. Hatchett is a floor leader for Gov. Brian Kemp, who pledged in January to ban “divisive ideology” including Critical Race Theory.

The other bill, SB 15, comes from state Sen. Tonya Anderson, a Democrat and chair of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus. SB 15 would “create a new category of coursework dealing with the history of Black Americans and their contributions to society.”

The agenda, flagged by our AJC colleague Maya T. Prabhu, sets up the potential for a fiery discussion.

Committee Chairman Chuck Payne, a Dalton Republican, has listed both bills as “hearing only,” meaning a vote is not expected today.

However, as with everything else under the Gold Dome, anything can happen. Despite the polarizing nature of CRT, the 3 p.m. meeting will likely only last an hour. The Senate Ethics Committee is scheduled to meet in the same room at 4 p.m..


ICYMI: The AJC ran an op-ed from Gov. Brian Kemp over the weekend detailing is thinking on education and schools this legislative session.


Mea culpa! Last week, Bluestein tweeted that state Rep. Ed Setzler “hijacked” a Democratic press conference about Cobb County redistricting.

It’s more complicated than that, and we offered Setzler our apology a few days ago.

Our pal Claire Simms from Fox 5 Atlanta posted the entire video of the event, complete with a different reporter asking Setzler to go to the microphone during the event to offer his thoughts on the issue at hand.


Senate Leader Chuck Schumer of New York has asked some of his Democratic colleagues to begin discussing which proposals to limit stock trading by members of Congress can garner the most support, Business Insider reported.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff’s bill is among the ideas percolating around the Capitol. His measure would ban members of Congress and their spouses from buying and selling shares of individual companies, with the penalty for violating the new law being an entire year’s salary.


POSTED: Our recap of U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s town hall Friday night in DeKalb, where he spoke about his first year in office and later opened it up to questions from the audience.

Warnock answered about a dozen questions, which ranged from access to mental health care to abortion to what Warnock sees ahead for the Build Back Better social spending and climate change bill.

But he sidestepped when asked if he supports the Buckhead cityhood campaign, saying it’s a local issue and he’s staying out of the debate.

“My job is to be here to support the mayor, whoever the mayor is,” he said. “So, it won’t change my job description, because I represent the state of Georgia.”


The U.S. House on Friday passed a bill that would spend about $250 billion to boost American research and innovation. Democrats said the bill would make American businesses more competitive internationally, including against China.

All six Georgia Democrats voted in favor, while all eight Republicans opposed.

The package includes amendments from U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams to improve access to child care and funnel science grants to HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter managed to add language curbing sales of endangered species captured in other nations.

Sen. Jon Ossoff and Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux and Hank Johnson also saw proposals they backed included in the bill. The House and Senate must now work on a final compromise.


State Rep. Zulma Lopez announced Friday that she won’t seek reelection to her House seat after just a single term in office.

The DeKalb Democrat didn’t specify a reason for her decision, but said she’d come to her conclusion “after thoughtful consideration.”

Lopez won her seat in 2020 after ousting longtime Democratic incumbent Michele Henson.


GOP State Rep. Matt Dollar’s resignation from the House has opened up both the House seat in HD 45 and a special election to fill the East Cobb-based seat.

Democrat Dustin McCormick announced he’s planning to run in the special election. The East Cobb business executive said he’ll also run to represent the newly redrawn district in November.


With the battle over Buckhead brewing, the Northside Neighbor features a column from Thornton Kennedy with the colorful, often dicey, history of the location where the Buckhead City Committee has hung its shingle.

As Kennedy writes and any longtime Atlantan can attest, the high-profile lot on the corner of Pharr and Peachtree Roads has been the site of “many things, few successful.”

“The building is a place of dreams, gimmicks, big-name performers and publicity stunts, world records and expensive cars.”

Even a scam, or two, has called the spot home base.


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