The Jolt: Georgia doesn’t need more viral bailout cash, says Brian Kemp

August 19, 2020 Atlanta - Governor Brian Kemp speaks during a press conference to provide update on efforts to combat human trafficking in Georgia at the Georgia State Capitol building on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Gov. Brian Kemp has been at war with the press lately over the publishing of details from leaked reports on the state’s coronavirus progress from the White House pandemic task force.

The latest shows Georgia had the second-highest rate of new coronavirus infections in the nation over the past week.

But on Tuesday, the governor received an attaboy from the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which echoed Kemp’s emphasis on recent improvements and “a relatively low jobless rate of 7.6% in July.” Then there was this:

Mr. Kemp says he’d like Congress to allow him more flexibility to spend the money left from the first state rescue. But he doesn’t need another federal bailout. Contrast that with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s demand that President Trump agree to $1 trillion for states and localities.

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That is a reversal from his stance in March, when Kemp and the GOP governors of almost two-dozen other states sent Congressional leaders a letter asking for federal block grants to help mitigate the economic damage from the pandemic.

And only a few weeks ago, House Speaker David Ralston petitioned Congress to provide a $500 billion relief package to states -- as governments across the country shed workers and cut programs because of the coronavirus recession.

But it is no longer surprising to see that these two state Capitol leaders aren’t working from the same script.

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Day 3 of the Republican National Convention will be anchored by Vice President Mike Pence’s acceptance speech, delivered from Fort McHenry in Baltimore. Tonight’s theme will be “Land of Heroes.” The line-up features several military veterans, including New York Rep Lee Zeldin, Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw and Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst.

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On a school tour in Forsyth County, U.S. Secretary Betsy DeVoss on Tuesday modified her demand that schools open for in-person classes or risk losing federal funding. From our AJC colleague Ty Tagami:

“I think perhaps there’s been a little bit of a misunderstanding that going back to school meant 100% of the students had to be present 100% of the time,” she said at Forsyth Central High School Tuesday afternoon. “No, the expectation is that there’s 100% learning in the way that’s going to work for each family.”

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Last night, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, the top GOP rival to Republican Kelly Loeffler, interviewed on PBS NewsHour by Judy Woodruff -- herself a former Georgian. The interview took an awkward turn:

Woodruff: ‘”Well, let me ask you about President Trump. [Loeffler] has been endorsed by, as you know, President Trump. You are very loyal — you been very loyal.”

Collins: “When? Whoa. Whoa. Since when? She’s not been endorsed by President Trump at all. That’s a mistake. That needs to be corrected right now.”

Woodruff: “Well….”

Collins: “President Trump told the governor of Georgia on three — at least three different occasions that he wanted me in this seat. She’s not been endorsed by any — by the president at all. And that is just not true and should not be said.”

Woodruff: “Well, the party — all right, well, let me put it this way. The party structure has been behind her, as the incumbent.”

Collins: “Yes.”

Woodruff: “But you have been someone who has been loyal to President Trump in the House of Representatives.

“So, I mean, what kind of conversations are you having right now with President Trump about this?”

Collins: “Well, President Trump, as I said before, he told the president — the governor of the state of Georgia to pick me. And we have had conversations about the race. He’s proud of me. We continue these conversations.”

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Collins was also pressed on his support for QAnon believer Marjorie Taylor Greene, who won a GOP congressional runoff in Georgia and is likely headed to Congress.

Collins quickly endorsed Greene after her victory and echoed his remarks on Tuesday, saying his priority is to ensure a Republican represents the deeply-conservative district in Washington.

“She has to answer for those comments,” he said, adding: “We support our Republicans in that district.”

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Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has also been endorsed by Donald Trump, on Tuesday let it be known that the president had invited her to the White House for his convention-closing speech on Thursday night.

The GOP nominee posted a picture of the blue invitation with gold lettering from Trump.

“I’m honored and thrilled to be invited to attend President Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday evening at the White House,” Greene wrote on Twitter. “I’m also equally excited to vote for him again November 3rd, and I’m working hard all over Georgia to help him win.”

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffer will also attend the event, along with U.S. Reps. Rick Allen of Evans, Buddy Carter of Pooler and Jody Hice of Monroe.

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Partially in response to the growing profile of QAnon-affiliated candidates like Greene, two members of theU.S. House — one Democrat and one Republican — said they have filed legislation to formally renounce the false conspiracy theory.

“Today, I’m introducing a bipartisan resolution with @RepRiggleman condemning QAnon,” U.S. Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., wrote on Twitter. “Our aim is a fully bipartisan congressional repudiation of this dangerous, anti-semitic, conspiracy-mongering cult that the FBI says is radicalizing Americans to violence.”

His partner is Denver Riggleman, R-Va.

Greene is among at least two Republican nominees who have spread baseless QAnon theories, and the deeply conservative bendt of her district makes it all but certain she is headed to Washington.

“QAnon and the conspiracy theories it promotes are a danger and a threat that has no place in our country’s politics,” Riggleman wrote in a reply to Malinowski. “I condemn this movement and urge all Americans to join me in taking this step to exclude them and other extreme conspiracy theories from the national discourse.”

Greene responded with a rebuke that included a photo of a church sign melted by a fire during a recent protest in Kenosha. She wrote: “Why aren’t @Malinowski and @RepRiggleman introducing a resolution condemning the #BLM / #ANTIFA terrorists who are burning churches, looting businesses and destroying everything in their path on a nightly basis?”

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If you want to predict Georgia’s political future, it pays to keep an eye on the lobbyists who haunt the state Capitol. In the early 2000s, as the GOP wave approached, you saw Democratic-oriented firms specializing in governmental affairs begin to take on Republicans with lobbying experience.

This week, Connect Public Relations headed up by GOP strategist Steve Butler, announced that it had taken on Fatimot Ladipo, a Democrat whose most recent gig was lead lobbyist for the city of Atlanta – as its director of intergovernmental affairs in the office of Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

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On Tuesday, two of U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s key supporters were tapped by Gov. Brian Kemp to powerful state boards.

The governor, who appointed Loeffler to the seat, named Republican uber-strategist Nick Ayers to the Department of Natural Resources board and Janelle King, a “Georgia Gang” panelist and former Georgia GOP executive, to the Department of Corrections board.

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David Shafer, chairman of the Georgia GOP, is facing criticism for neglecting to name U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in his roll-call vote for President Donald Trump on Monday.

Shafer gave a shout-out to Gov. Brian Kemp and U.S. Sen. David Perdue, but omitted the newly-appointed Loeffler.

“I am totally in dismay on why in the world you would not mention our sitting U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler in your nomination,” Republican activist Jeanne Seaver wrote him in an email, copying in most of the Georgia GOP establishment. “I would say this is totally bias, discriminatory and very embarrassing for the State of GA.”

Shafer responded that it was no intentional slight:

“Yes, in announcing our 76 votes for President Trump at the National Convention, I made proud mention of Georgia’s senior state elected official, Governor Brian Kemp, and our senior federal elected official, Senator David Perdue. I also made mention of the Golden Isles and Lookout Mountain. My apologies to the 10.69 million Georgians and countless places and landmarks I did not mention. They only gave me 30 seconds.”

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U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s campaign released a video that tries to make Democrat Jon Ossoff’s praise of vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris come back to haunt him.

It includes clips from the California U.S. senator expressing support for the Green New Deal and Medicare for All legislation that would abolish private insurance during her short-lived bid for president.

It closes: “Help stop their radical agenda. Vote.” Watch it here.

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We’ve followed C.J. Pearson’s career since he was a gawky 13-year-old. Even back then, he was a budding force on the Georgia GOP scene. Since then, he’s become a nationally-known conservative Black voice.

Now, a newly-arrived freshman student at the University of Alabama, Pearson is set to enter a new phase: He’s exploring whether to challenge the mayor of Tuscaloosa next year.

He claims Mayor Walt Maddox is “devastating local businesses and needlessly stripping away personal liberties” by ordering the closure of bars and requiring masks to stem the coronavirus pandemic.

(FYI: As in Georgia, the legal drinking age in Alabama is 21.)

Maddox, first elected in 2005, is aiming for a fifth term in office. He told AL.com: “My hometown continues to face a healthcare and economic crisis due to COVID-19 and my focus is on saving lives and livelihoods.”

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