The Jolt: Geoff Duncan’s got a war chest with no war

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)
Caption
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

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

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan may not be running for re-election, but he still has a political war-chest big enough to make some noise in the 2022 elections if he wants to.

Our colleague James Salzer found that Duncan’s June 30 campaign finance report shows he still had $827,500 in his account halfway through 2021.

Duncan, a Republican, has made a name for himself nationally by repeatedly rejecting former President Donald Trump’s lies about widespread fraud in the 2020 elections, which Trump lost. That has made Duncan persona non grata among party regulars and would have made it extremely difficult for him to win the GOP primary next year.

He announced in mid-May he wouldn’t run for re-election and his chief of staff, John Porter, said Duncan has not been actively fundraising since he made that announcement. While there are no specific plans for what he’ll do with his remaining funds, Duncan has several options, including giving it to other candidates’ state campaigns, within legal limits, of course.

According to his latest disclosure, his campaign’s single biggest expense in the first half of 2021 was the $17,000 it spent in April on polling.

Duncan also has a separate fundraising committee called Advance Georgia. The group hadn’t filed its June 30 report as of late Tuesday, but it had more than $100,000 banked as of the end of 2020 and was collecting checks from Capitol special interests in the first half of this year.

The lieutenant governor said he will focus on building his “GOP 2.0” movement that urges Republicans to move away from reliance on Trump.

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We now have more details about First Lady Jill Biden’s trip to Georgia this week.

She will be in Savannah on Thursday to tour a COVID-19 vaccination site at a Savannah-area high school and then deliver a speech encouraging folks to get their shots. Biden will be joined by Savannah Mayor Van Johnson and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Savannah native.

Biden’s advisers are keeping a close eye on weather reports for the region. Hurricane Elsa is expected to pass through that area late Wednesday or early Thursday.

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State Sen. Burt Jones has not yet announced his expected candidacy to replace Geoff Duncan as lieutenant governor, but the Republican from Jackson is making it clear that he’ll be in the pro-pro Trump lane if he does get into the race.

In an op-ed in the Washington Times Wednesday about Georgia’s new election law, Jones slams the former president’s favorite punching bag, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, as " utterly incompetent.”

He also repeats Trump’s claims about fraud in Georgia’s 2020 elections, which have been repeatedly disproven by two recounts, an audit, and multiple dismissed court challenges to the election.

The result, Jones writes: “For the first time since 1992, Georgia ‘voted’ Democrat for President.”

By focusing so squarely on the former president’s false version of the 2020 results, Jones could put the Republicans already in the race under pressure to either stand up for Georgia’s elections or stand up for Trump.

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When Republican Senate hopeful Latham Saddler announced his $1.4 million fundraising haul yesterday, his campaign touted it as “more money than any first-time candidate in the first quarter of their candidacy in Georgia history.”

It didn’t take long for Democrats to point out that the highly specific citation was inaccurate. It was actually Sen. Raphael Warnock, the man Saddler is looking to replace, who raised the most of any first-quarter, first-time candidate in Georgia history.

Warnock raised $1.5 million in his first quarter of 2020- and raised the bar that others have yet to meet.

Saddler’s camp corrects that his was the highest for any first-time Republican candidate.

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Two influential Democratic legislators are pushing to abolish the Fulton County Development Authority in the wake of Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporting that found even more questionable payments to board members.

State Reps. David Dreyer and Josh McLaurin both issued the call to eliminate the authority in response to the latest report by the AJC’s J. Scott Trubey and Ben Brasch that found board members routinely collected multiple per diem payments the same day for each board action.

The results led McLaurin, a Sandy Springs attorney, to endorse the end of the authority, adding that he hopes to win enough GOP votes to push the measure across the finish line next year.

“If the Republican majority is serious when it talks about oversight of Fulton County, then maybe we can get some help with this,” said McLaurin on Twitter.

That was quickly seconded by Dreyer, an Atlanta attorney who said he’s lost confidence because the authority’s practices have gone “too far off track.”

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Here comes the money.

By the week’s end, most Georgia candidates for state office will have filed financial disclosures outlining how much they’ve raised and who donated.

(Well, most of them. As we reported last week, one longshot contender claimed he raised big money from thousands of small-dollar donors he didn’t disclose.)

So far, scant details have emerged. Gov. Brian Kemp raised a record haul for a gubernatorial candidate at this stage in the game, and Republican Latham Saddler put up big numbers in the Senate campaign.

We have a few more figures to add to the list this morning.

Republican Attorney General Chris Carr will report raising about $570,000 in the last three months, for a grand total of $1.3 million this cycle. He’ll have about $1 million in cash on hand for his re-election bid.

Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who is running for secretary of state, will report raising about $386,000 since entering the race in early May. Nearly that entire sum is still in her campaign coffers.

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Gov. Brian Kemp issued a state of emergency for 92 counties in middle, south, and southeast Georgia in preparation for the impacts of Hurricane Elsa.

Officials are keeping a particular eye on Georgia’s farming communities there. Although most are land-locked, hurricanes from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean have had devastating impacts on agriculture-heavy regions across Georgia in the past.

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced that City Hall will reopen fully on Aug. 9. This will allow members of the public to attend meetings in person and visit the offices of city departments for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic caused shutdowns in spring 2020.

Masks will be required.

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Weeks after Georgia’s U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene held a press conference to apologize for comparing efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 to the Holocaust, she’s at it again.

On Tuesday, Greene posted a message to Twitter responding to President Joe Biden’s call for Americans to be vaccinated against the deadly virus.

Greene wrote that people “don’t need your medical brown shirts showing up at their door ordering vaccinations.”

The “brown shirts” were the Nazi party militia that helped Adolph Hitler rise to power in Germany.

It’s yet another instance of the congresswoman continuing to invoke Nazi Germany and the Holocaust, despite her statement last month, “I should own it. I made a mistake.”

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A group of advocates for Atlanta’s homeless population set up a protest on the City Hall lawn, leading to six arrests on Monday and larger demonstrations on Tuesday, the AJC’s J.D. Capelouto reports.

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Environmental groups are running ads in Georgia and other states with competitive congressional races urging lawmakers to pass climate change legislation.

Climate Power and the League of Conservation Voters are spending $10 million on ads that will also run in Arizona, Nevada and New Hampshire.

Politico reports that the Georgia ad mentions both U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, with the narrator thanking them for their work and calling on them ‘to keep up the fight and get this done.’”

As members of Congress negotiate an infrastructure bill, Democrats are facing pressure from progressive groups to include spending for clean energy jobs and address global warming.

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From the #Gapol personnel changes file:

  • The Democratic Party of Georgia has hired Rhyan Lake to serve as its rapid response director, specifically focused on promoting the Biden Administration’s agenda.
  • Former Biden staffer Jaclyn Rothenberg, who was a key official in the president’s Georgia campaign operation, will be joining the Federal Emergency Management Administration as the director of public affairs.

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Tuesday’s edition of the morning Jolt passed along a story from the AJC’s Ernie Suggs about Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, who are celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary today.

In introducing a quote from Mrs. Carter, your Jolt author wrote that when our AJC reporter asked if it was love at first site for her, Mrs. Carter said no, because she fell in love with a photograph of Jimmy Carter before the two met.

A knowledgeable Jolt reader corrects us that the Carters had, of course, known each other as children in Plains, but that Mrs. Carter later fell in love with the photograph of President Carter after he had gone away to the U.S. Naval Academy.

The rest is, literally, history.

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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.