The Jolt: Geoff Duncan warns he won’t let Senate floor be a “campaign stop”

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


The special redistricting session of the Georgia General Assembly kicks off at 10 a.m. Wednesday when House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Go. Geoff Duncan gavel in members for the first time since April.

Duncan, who is not seeking reelection, will preside over the state Senate session, as usual, and could play an especially fascinating role in the process this month as one of the few members in the Capitol who doesn’t have a dog in that fight.

Duncan told GPB’s Bill Nigut Friday that he recently told his fellow Republicans what to expect this session and next.

“What they’re going to get out of me is a continued steady hand putting policy over politics,” he said. “I’ve guided our team to be 100% focused on following the letter of the law and being a proctor of the process on reapportionment.”

When Nigut asked about the Trump-aligned Republican senators running for statewide office in 2022, Duncan said they shouldn’t expect the Senate floor to become a “campaign stop every day.”

Several senate senators of both parties are seeking higher office next year, including state Sen. Burt Jones and Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, who are running for Duncan’s job.

“I call balls and strikes, even on my own team,” the LG said. He added later, “I could care less about their campaigns when I show up and gavel in at 10 o’clock. I care about the policies that move us forward.”

Freed from the surly bonds of reelection, Duncan had a little campaign advice of his own for Republicans in 2022.

“As far as any sort of attachment to the Trump approach, I only have to point them back to two individuals that unfortunately made the same mistake, and that was David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler,” Duncan said. “They hired by default Donald Trump as their campaign manager in the runoff. And unfortunately, if you’re a Republican, you know what I know, and that’s that it didn’t work.”


Unfortunately, the Atlanta Braves have no regard for the political calendar.

If the team had put away the Houston Astros on Sunday at Truist Park, there would be no need for a Game Six that converges with election night. Or the possibility of a Game Seven the same day a special legislative session starts.

But the team’s 9-5 defeat to Houston on Sunday assures that the World Series continues at least one more day.

That means election-watching parties for the Atlanta mayoral race – and a pile of other municipal and local elections – will compete for attention with the Braves championship run.

Not that politics hasn’t already collided with the sport. On Saturday, former President Donald Trump trekked to Truist Park to take in the game with a few allies. Trump, of course, had earlier called for a boycott of the sport after Major League Baseball’s All-Star game drama.

Among those in Trump’s luxury suite were Senate candidate Herschel Walker and Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff.

We’re told Trump stayed until about the seventh inning. Other observations from folks near his luxury suite: Trump’s lock screen is a picture of him wearing a MAGA hat.


With Election Day bearing down, last-minute mailers are flying fast and furious, including attacks on candidates for Atlanta mayor looking to move on to an expected runoff.

One attack, in particular, caught our eye because of the source: the Committee for a New Georgia, the state political action committee for the New Georgia Project Action Fund.

Although the group has not endorsed a candidate in the mayor’s race, they have sent out a scathing attack on former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed.

The mailer, sent in this case to Southeast Atlanta, features a picture of Reed surrounded by outlines of former staffers who have been indicted or found guilty of various crimes. That’s all under a headline calling Reed’s former staff a “crime family.”

Reed has made fighting Atlanta’s violent crime the focus of his campaign and has vigorously defended himself in interviews and press conferences.

Lawyers for the former mayor told the AJC in October that despite former staff members’ status, Reed himself is not under federal investigation.


Our colleagues Mark Niesse and Maya Prabhu have a terrific look ahead at the complicated, often contentious, redistricting process under the Gold Dome:

But it's likely that neither Republicans nor Democrats will be happy with the final maps — with some of the more conservative members of the GOP wanting their party members to go further to pick up additional seats versus trying to solidify their hold on the ones they already have.

Also, despite the rules approved by the chambers, some lawmakers on both sides will be drawn out of their current districts, raising the likelihood they'll have to run against a colleague in 2022 if they want to stay in the General Assembly.

Once maps are introduced, Republicans and Democrats will rush to pass them before Thanksgiving.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


One additional item already on the docket for the session will be a hearing to consider cityhood for the Buckhead neighborhood in northwest Atlanta.

The hearing itself will review the feasibility study commissioned from Valdosta State University to examine the financial viability of a single year of operations for a potential “Buckhead City.”

But expect a broader and very heated public debate over who is pushing the idea in the Capitol (Republicans who do not represent the Buckhead neighborhood) and the effect that removing the wealthiest portion of any city could have on communities around the state.


Speaking of Buckhead City, the Buckhead City Committee pushing for the neighborhood to split from Atlanta opened its brick-and-mortar campaign office at the corner of Peachtree and Pharr Roads Sunday.

The site features a massive photo of the late Maynard Jackson with his wife, Valerie, riding a Ferris wheel that once prominently occupied the Buckhead space.

Jackson, of course, was Atlanta’s first black mayor who unseated incumbent Sam Massell in his bid for City Hall in 1973. Massell went on to advocate for the Buckhead neighborhood for decades and wrote recently in the AJC that he opposes Buckhead cityhood.


Keep an eye on the U.S. Supreme Court today, where justices will hear arguments over Texas’s six-week abortion ban.

The Washington Post has the details:

Monday's hastily scheduled hearing opens the most dramatic month for reproductive rights at the Supreme Court in three decades. That was when a surprising majority of Republican-nominated justices did the unexpected and affirmed rather than renounced the right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

Such an outcome this time around — as the court considers the Texas law and, on Dec. 1, a Mississippi ban on abortion after 15 weeks, far earlier than current Supreme Court precedent allows — would be a bitter disappointment for antiabortion activists who feel this is their chance...

Abortion-rights supporters, meanwhile, say the court's action will have immense consequences, beginning with the Texas law, known as S.B. 8.

- The Washington Post


The pro-immigration lobbying group launched a new ad in Georgia Monday as a part of a seven-figure campaign in Washington and other key states to encourage an overhaul of immigration laws in Congress.

The ad features Jaime Rangel, a recipient of the Obama-era DACA initiative for immigrants who came to America as children. He came to the U.S. when he was six months old, grew up in Dalton and is now the father of a U.S. citizen.

“Congress has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to enact reform via reconciliation and I thank and encourage our Georgia congressional leaders to continue fighting to protect Dreamers like me,” he said in the ad.


Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s campaign has asked the Federal Communications Commission for a ruling that would pave the way for campaigns to leave voters voicemails on their phones using ringless technology.

In its petition, the Perdue camp said that ringless voicemail robocalls are non-intrusive and therefore should not constitute a “call” under federal laws restricting robocalls, which require voters to opt-in. It also notes that it used the technology in the 2021 Senate runoff campaign.

The FCC recently solicited public comment on the Perdue campaign’s proposal, and there is no timeline for when the commission will make a ruling.

We’ll stop here to note that although the Perdue for Senate campaign is the official sponsor of this proposal, Perdue is not currently campaigning for anything. However, he is rumored to be considering a primary challenge to Gov. Brian Kemp. If the FCC rules in his favor, the ringless robocalls option would be available to any candidate anywhere.


David Belle Isle, who has launched a primary challenge against incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, said he will go on tour as counter-programming while Raffensperger promotes a book on the 2020 election.

Belle Isle, the former mayor of Alpharetta, does not have former President Donald Trump’s endorsement in the race; U.S. Rep. Jody Hice does. But Belle Isle in a news release about his “media blitz” hits all of the pro-Trump notes, including describing the 2020 election as “a mess” and stating there is continued uncertainty over the results.

Raffensperger’s book is likely to point the finger toward Trump as the source of that uncertainty due to his and his allies’ continued misinformation and false claims about his loss in the 2020 presidential race, including in Georgia.

Raffensperger’s book, “Integrity Counts,” will hit bookstores on Tuesday. Publisher Simon & Schuster describes it as “Raffensperger’s inspiring story of commitment to the integrity of American democracy.”


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