The Jolt: Georgia Democrat says she’s being ostracized by Abrams’ allies

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Former state Rep. Alisha Thomas Searcy took to Facebook this week and said she is frustrated that powerful groups aligned with Stacey Abrams have yet to endorse her campaign against incumbent Republican Richard Woods. (Steve Schaefer / AJC)

Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC

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Former state Rep. Alisha Thomas Searcy took to Facebook this week and said she is frustrated that powerful groups aligned with Stacey Abrams have yet to endorse her campaign against incumbent Republican Richard Woods. (Steve Schaefer / AJC)

Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC

A Democratic rift over the party’s nominee for state schools superintendent has blown wide open in the closing weeks of the midterm election.

Former state Rep. Alisha Thomas Searcy took to Facebook this week to vent that she’s been “ostracized and excluded” by her fellow Democrats, including by powerful groups aligned with Stacey Abrams that have yet to endorse her campaign against incumbent Republican Richard Woods.

“To my Democratic friends in leadership (because rank and file Dems don’t operate this way), we are supposed to be the party of the big tent, the party to embrace diversity, and the party that stands up for those who are left out,” she wrote.

“As we seek to lead at the highest offices of our government, we must operate from those values starting in our own backyard. I ask you to stand with me. Speak up. Stop the silence.”

Credit: Stephen B. Morton / AJC

Credit: Stephen B. Morton / AJC

The internal rift with Searcy goes back to her time in the state Legislature about a decade ago, when she became an outlier in her party for embracing Republican-backed proposals to expand charter schools and allow tax-funded private school scholarships.

After running and losing the 2014 Democratic primary for the state’s top education job, she took a job with a Gwinnett County-based charter school operation. But she returned to politics this year, coasting to the Democratic nomination in May.

In September, Athens-Clarke County commissioner Russell Edwards put to words why many liberals oppose Searcy, noting her support for a 2014 constitutional amendment that would have given the state more power to take over struggling schools. The measure was rejected by voters.

“Democrats support public education; Searcy has undermined it,” Edwards wrote in Flagpole earlier this month. “What can she possibly run on?”

The party’s arms-length approach to Searcy was on display at the Democratic convention last month in Columbus, where Abrams and other statewide candidates took a series of campaign photos — without the nominee for superintendent. (Other pictures include Searcy.)

Some Republicans have sought to stoke the divide. Vernon Jones, a former state House Democrat who ran a failed GOP bid for Congress, has blamed “white liberal bigots” for Searcy’s treatment.

Searcy has emphasized other parts of her record, including her opposition to GOP-sponsored voter ID legislation in 2005.

“I have a track record of working across the aisle on education issues,” she told the AJC. “This is about putting children, families, teachers, administrators and paraprofessionals first -- not politics. Not everyone likes that at the party leadership level.”

Abrams’ campaign spokesman Alex Floyd insists there’s no plot to alienate Searcy, although she was not one of the three Democrats that Abrams endorsed ahead of the May primary.

“Stacey Abrams supports the Democratic ticket and is dedicated to fundraising for candidates up and down the ballot,” he said.

A senior Democratic official, however, offered five words to explain why many party figures steer clear of Searcy.

“She’s a Republican. Full stop.”


LISTEN UP. With six weeks left before Election Day, the midweek edition of the pod looks at Gov. Brian Kemp’s suburban strategy, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s latest campaign swing, and much more.

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



- Gov. Brian Kemp brought Virginia’s GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin to Alpharetta on Tuesday, in hopes of repeating Youngkin’s 2021 success in the suburbs.

- GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker campaigned in Canton and Calhoun promising to “keep men out of women’s sports.” From the stage, Walker said this of transgender children: “Jesus may not recognize you. Because he made you a boy. He made you a girl.”

- U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock headed to a Korean senior center in Norcross, where he spoke out against Asian hate crimes, including those in Georgia. “We have to stand together. We are tied, Dr. King said, in a single garment of destiny.”


ELECTRIC JOLT. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock indicated he’s exploring new ways to help Hyundai Motor Group benefit from a federal climate package that was intended to boost American-made electric vehicles.

The Korean manufacturer, which plans a $5.5 billion EV factory near Savannah, builds brands that qualified for previous tax credits of as much as $7,500. (Cars from its West Point Kia plant did not qualify, because they are gas-powered.)

But under the new law, only EVs manufactured or assembled on U.S. soil qualify for the taxpayer-funded price reduction — not vehicles made overseas. Hyundai says that change could hamper its short-term plans to expand in the U.S.

Credit: Curtis Compton / AJC

Credit: Curtis Compton / AJC

Warnock said Tuesday at a campaign stop that he’s encouraging the U.S. Treasury Department to “be flexible” with the new incentives.

“I’m also exploring some other legislative options. At the end of the day, we want to incentivize green energy and a green energy future. And we want to support American manufacturing,” he said.

“But we have to implement the law in such a way that we don’t end up undermining what we set out to do in the first place.”

Republicans, who unanimously opposed the climate change law in Congress, have rushed to blame Warnock for the potential financial fallout. U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, a Republican whose district includes the sprawling Kia Motors plant, said the Democrat “did not stand up for Georgia.”

“He put our manufacturers here in Georgia behind the eight ball because the tax credits would not apply to folks like Kia and Hyundai,” he said. “They apply to big union U.S. companies, not the ones that make direct foreign investment here. He is putting Georgians last.”


WALKER AND FRIENDS. Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser sat down with GOP Senate hopeful Herschel Walker this week. He asked Walker, a longtime friend of Donald Trump, would campaign alongside the former president if he visits Georgia.

“If he comes to do something for me, I’m fine with that,” Walker said, before adding that it won’t be Trump’s name on the ballot.

“I think people want to try to use Donald Trump and this and that. Herschel Walker is running for the Senate here in Georgia, not Donald Trump,” Walker said, adding later, “Herschel Walker is here in Georgia and I’m running for the Senate and I’m going to win the Senate.”

Walker also said he’d support Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky for Senate leader. “Yes, right now I would, he’s the leader,” Walker said. “But right now I’m not in the Senate.”


AVOIDING SHUTDOWN. Legislation that would keep the government funded through mid-December sailed through a procedural vote on the Senate floor Tuesday. And that bodes well for smooth passage in both chambers ahead of Friday’s deadline to avoid a shutdown.

Credit: Shuran Huang / The New York Times

Credit: Shuran Huang / The New York Times

The stopgap spending bill would keep agency funding at current levels, but add $20 million to help Jackson, Mississippi, address its water system issues; $12.4 billion in aid to Ukraine; and $4.5 billion to help various communities recovering from natural disasters.

The Senate moved forward on the legislation after Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., agreed to strip out language related to environmental permitting reforms that Republicans and some Democrats opposed.


Credit: Shuran Huang / The New York Times)

Credit: Shuran Huang / The New York Times)


  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hear testimony from State Department officials on Russian sanctions;
  • The U.S. House will work through non-controversial bills while the Senate completes work on the stopgap spending measure;
  • President Joe Biden hosts the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health;
  • The Jan. 6 Committee hearing, originally scheduled for today, has been postponed to allow Gulf State members to respond to Hurricane Ian.


ELECTORAL COUNT ACT. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., announced Tuesday that he is backing a bill meant to prevent a replay of January 6.

The overhaul of the Electoral Count Act would increase the requirements for objections to a state’s electoral votes and clarify that the vice president’s role in these proceedings is entirely ceremonial. It also outlines the steps states must follow while selecting electors.

“Clearly, when a 150-year-old law has successfully brought us certainty, finality, and one orderly presidential inauguration after another, we need to be delicate and careful with any changes,” McConnell said. “But the chaos that came to a head on January 6th of last year strongly suggests that we find careful ways to clarify and streamline the process.”

A bipartisan majority of senators now support the overhaul and the House approved its own rewrite last week, with the support of nine Republicans. Lawmakers aren’t expected to approve a final version of the bill until a likely lame-duck session of Congress following the midterm elections.



Senate candidate Herschel Walker’s “Unite Georgia” bus tour continues with stops in Forsyth and McDonough.


Credit: Stephen B. Morton / AJC

Credit: Stephen B. Morton / AJC

DEBATE DATES. The Atlanta Press Club has released more details about its three-day series of general election debates as part of its Loudermilk- Young Debate Series.

Candidates for Congressional Districts 2, 6, 7, 13 and 14 will face off in daytime debates on Oct. 16, with the U.S. Senate debate scheduled for 7 p.m. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Libertarian candidate Chase Oliver have both committed to participate, although Herschel Walker has not.

More debates will follow on Oct. 17, including for the 10th Congressional District and statewide contests for state schools superintendent, insurance commissioner and agriculture commissioner. Gov. Brian Kemp and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams will debate at 7 p.m.

Finally, candidates in races for secretary of state, lieutenant governor, attorney general, labor commissioner and the 1st Congressional District will debate on Oct. 18.


DEAR MARK. Are you confused about where to vote? How to vote? Where the heck your absentee ballot application is? Worry not, Jolt readers, help has arrived in the form of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s resident voting expert, Mark Niesse.

Mark will be answering voter questions through the election and posting his answers periodically to the AJC.

You can send your queries in now for Mark through a form embedded in the first installment of “Ask Mark,” or simply read the “Ask Mark,” series, since challenges in voting tend to repeat themselves.

The only question Mark can’t help with is who to vote for, which is entirely up to you. Good luck out there!


AS ALWAYS, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to, and