The Jolt: Geoff Duncan, former lieutenant governor, lands spot at CNN

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Former Georgia Lt. Gov, Geoff Duncan is joining CNN as an on-air political commentator. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal Constitution/TNS)

Credit: Bob Andres/AJC

Credit: Bob Andres/AJC

Former Georgia Lt. Gov, Geoff Duncan is joining CNN as an on-air political commentator. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal Constitution/TNS)

Call it Geoff Duncan 2.0. The former lieutenant governor announced late Tuesday he is joining CNN as an on-air political commentator focused on national politics.

To Georgia political observers, this comes as little surprise. He was a mainstay in the network’s coverage of the midterms and, amid some of his colleagues’ constant griping, a go-to Republican voice of those in the non-Donald Trump lane. The Georgia political world was abuzz last night with texts saying, “Told you so.”

A former minor league professional baseball player, Duncan served three terms in the Georgia House before scoring an upset victory over then-state Sen. David Shafer to win the state’s No. 2 job.

Although he allied himself with Gov. Brian Kemp and other state Republican leaders on many issues, he also showed a prolonged maverick streak that shaped his “GOP 2.0″ book — his vision for a post-Trump future of the party.

He famously boycotted a debate over election restrictions, refused to endorse his GOP successor Burt Jones and wouldn’t cast a ballot for Herschel Walker in last year’s Senate runoff, even after waiting in line for an hour to vote.

If you tune in to CNN for the upcoming 2024 election cycle, you can hear all about it.

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Gov. Brian Kemp will deliver his State of the State address today. (Jason Getz/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

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Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

LISTEN UP. The mid-week edition of the Politically Georgia podcast is ready now, with the latest from Tuesday’s hearing on the special grand jury report in the Donald Trump probe; the newest AJC poll results on Georgians’ opinions on everything from abortion to sports betting, and a preview of Gov. Brian Kemp’s State of the State address.

And we’ll be opening the listener mail bag on Friday, so call us with your #gapol questions at (770) 810-5297 and we’ll answer them then.

Listen at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.

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PRIMARY PICKS. Georgia Democrats are about to get more time to try to carry out President Joe Biden’s plan to move the state earlier in the 2024 presidential primary calendar.

Georgia Democrats are about to get more time to try to carry out President Joe Biden’s plan to move the state earlier in the 2024 presidential primary calendar.  (AJC)

Credit: AJC

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Credit: AJC

As we noted yesterday, state Democrats have an uphill climb ahead to convince Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to move Georgia’s presidential primary to join the ranks of the earliest-voting states.

We’ve confirmed The Washington Post report that a key committee of the DNC plans a Wednesday vote to delay setting the final schedule until June, giving Georgia more time to try to meet Biden’s goal.

That doesn’t make the terrain easier for state Democrats, but it does give them some breathing room to persuade Republicans to get on board.

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RNC DRAMA. We might as well consider the race between Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel and her challenger Harmeet Dhillon the first election battle of the 2024 cycle. And Georgians are fast picking sides.

Ahead of this week’s convention at a luxury hotel in southern California, Georgia RNC committee member Jason Thompson endorsed Dhillon’s insurgent bid.

“Harmeet has the experience and knowledge to run the NC in a professional and diplomatic manner,” he wrote. “She will respect all members, practice fiscal responsibility, reform the staff/consultant revolving door, and is committed to the principles of the Republican platform.”

Thompson said he came to his decision after receiving thousands of messages — and we don’t think it’s hyperbole. We’ve been copied on dozens of emails, resolutions and texts about Dhillon flying around among Republicans in Georgia.

Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney, received widespread criticism after she spread conspiracies about the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband. The Hill reports she “represented former President Trump during his dealings with the House select committee probing the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, has pitched herself as a chairwoman who could shake up the party’s trajectory after a disappointing midterm election cycle.”

It’s not yet known how two other Georgians with a vote in the matter will decide. GOP chair David Shafer has only said he’s “paying close attention.”

And RNC member Ginger Howard said she is undecided between Dhillon, McDaniel and MyPillow chief executive Mike Lindell, whose bid is not taken seriously by many party officials.

“I’m still considering all three candidates and will hear them out this week and make my decision when I feel confident in whom the best option is for Georgia and our country,” she said.

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The Georgia State Capitol. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Casey Sykes for the AJC

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Credit: Casey Sykes for the AJC

UNDER THE GOLD DOME (Legislative Day 7):

  • 8 a.m.: Committee meetings begin.
  • 10 a.m.: The state House and Senate convene.
  • 11 a.m.: Gov. Brian Kemp delivers his State of the State address from the state House of Representatives.

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Legislators along with reproductive rights group Amplify Atlanta announced new abortion-rights legislation at the Capitol on Tuesday, January 24, 2023.  (Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

EARLY HOPPER ACTION. Legislative proposals are starting to roll in for action in the state House and Senate.

  • On Tuesday, state Rep. Shea Roberts and state Sen. Sally Harrell, both Atlanta Democrats, introduced identical bills to allow abortion at any point in a woman’s pregnancy. Our colleague Maya T. Prabhu reports the bills would repeal the state’s current 6-week abortion ban, codify a woman’s right to the procedure in state law, and allow unemancipated minors to obtain an abortion without parental consent if notifying a parent would cause harm to the minor.
  • On the public safety front, House Bill 48 from state Rep. Jesse Petrea, R-Savannah, would make elections for district attorney, solicitor-general and judicial positions non-partisan. It would also move those elections from November to May.
  • H.B. 54 from state Rep. John Carson, R-Marietta, would increase the cap on state tax credits for student scholarship organizations from $120 million in 2023 to $200 million for 2024.

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Democratic state Rep. Mike Glanton of Jonesboro has resigned from the Georgia House after 14 years in office, (Alyssa Pointer/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/AJC

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer/AJC

OPEN SEAT. Democratic state Rep. Mike Glanton of Jonesboro has resigned from the Georgia House after 14 years in office, creating a vacancy that will be filled by a special election this spring.

The AJC’s Mark Niesse reports that Glanton’s resignation leaves five open seats in the Georgia General Assembly as its annual legislative session is already underway.

Glanton, a retired U.S. Army combat veteran, was reelected in November with 89% of the vote. He did not respond to questions about his resignation, and no cause was cited when Gov. Brian Kemp called for a March 21 special election to fill Glanton’s seat. Four other vacant seats will be filled by special election on Jan. 31.

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TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • The U.S. House and Senate are in session today;
  • Vice President Kamala Harris travels to Monterey Park, California, to meet with mass shooting victims.

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Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., has been nominated to a new oversight committee that will study the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Nathan Posner for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

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Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

COVID-19 COMMITTEE. Georgia U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Rich McCormick were both nominated to a new oversight committee that will study the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both Republican lawmakers have been criticized for their responses to the pandemic and accused of spreading misinformation about vaccines and other treatments.

Greene has repeatedly spread conspiracies about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines, as recently as this week.

In McCormick’s case, a group of 150 medical professionals called on the Georgia Medical Association to rescind its endorsement of the emergency room doctor for “spreading dangerous falsehoods about the disease that could put people’s health seriously at risk.”

We caught up with McCormick on Tuesday, who said he stands behind everything he said, from questioning mask and quarantine mandates to encouraging the use of ivermectin, a medicine usually used for horses, to treat human cases of the coronavirus.

He said he hopes the new committee focuses on identifying lessons learned to better prepare the United States for future public health crises.

“I think there’s some admitted mistakes that we can learn from, both from federal agencies, from hospital systems, from doctors,” he said. “A lot of the recommendations we made at the beginning were not what we came up with in the end, because we learned.”

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BLUE DOG SPLIT. The coalition of centrist Democrats in Congress known as the “Blue Dog Democrats” has split into two factions, one of which advocated for a rebrand of the shrinking group.

U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta., supported changing the name of the coalition of centrist Democrats from "Blue Dog Democrats" to the "Common Sense Coalition." He resigned when the change was rejected.

Credit: Kent D. Johnson/AJC

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Credit: Kent D. Johnson/AJC

Politico reports that some members encouraged a rebrand by changing the name of the caucus to Common Sense Coalition in hopes of leaving behind any stigma associated with the name Blue Dogs, which some believe connotes white Democrats from the segregated South.

According to Politico, about half of the Blue Dogs resigned from the coalition when the name change was rejected, including U.S. Rep. David Scott, an Atlanta Democrat. Meanwhile, seven members remain, including Congressman Sanford Bishop, who lives in Albany.

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U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, has been appointed to the House Financial Services Committee. (Jason Getz/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

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Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

MORE JOBS. U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, D-Atlanta, has been appointed to the House Financial Services Committee.

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Staffers coming off of the U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s winning Senate campaign are landing some plum assignments after the Georgian’s high-profile win in December. (Nathan Posner for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

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Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

IN DEMAND. Staffers coming off of U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s winning Senate campaign are landing some plum assignments after the Georgian’s high-profile win over Republican Herschel Walker.

Quentin Fulks, Warnock’s campaign manager, landed a prized spot as a resident fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics for the Spring. Rachel Petri, Warnock’s deputy campaign manager, has been tapped to manage U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s upcoming reelection race in Ohio.

And Sarafina Chitika, the press secretary and constant presence among the press corps during Warnock’s bid, has moved to Capitol Hill, where she is U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s deputy communications director.

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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.