The Jolt: Georgia lands college football title game after Music Midtown pulls out

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
052422 Atlanta: Governor Brian Kemp reacts to cheering supporters as he take the stage to deliver his election night party speech at the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Atlanta.    “Curtis Compton /”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

052422 Atlanta: Governor Brian Kemp reacts to cheering supporters as he take the stage to deliver his election night party speech at the College Football Hall of Fame on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Atlanta. “Curtis Compton /”

While Stacey Abrams hopes Music Midtown’s cancellation strikes a chord with Georgia voters, Gov. Brian Kemp is betting that another iconic event that he’ll celebrate later today will score points in November instead.

Don’t be surprised to hear Kemp use today’s announcement that the College Football Playoff title game is returning to Atlanta in 2025 as a chance to tout his economic policies.

It comes at an opportune time for the Republican, who faces attacks from Abrams and her allies who argue that the state’s anti-abortion limits and pro-gun measures are costing the state big-time events and investment.

Abrams warned of more economic fallout and slammed Kemp and the state’s lax gun restrictions after Music Midtown organizers said they scrapped the event over litigation surrounding a 2014 law that allowed gunowners to carry their weapons on public land.

Democrats have a response at the ready should Republicans make the championship game a campaign issue.

“Guess where this title game will be played? Hint: Not public property,” said Jen Jordan, the Democratic nominee for attorney general. “So, guns and weapons can be prohibited from being brought into stadium to protect public. Not like Music Midtown.”


SALES PITCH. U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff is on the road pitching the federal climate, healthcare and tax bill, telling Macon residents Monday, “We stood up to the pharmaceutical industry to get this done.”

“I want to emphasize this is not just an idea, this is not just a bill that’s been introduced,” Ossoff told a group of seniors in Macon, according to WMGT. “This is legislation that’s passed both houses of Congress that the president will sign into law in just a few days.”

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock will kickoff a bus tour across Georgia later this week, too, when he’ll tout the measure in hopes it gives his reelection campaign a boost.

Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) prepares for a Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 26, 2022. The committee heard testimony from whistle blowers, including top officials at the prison, on conditions at the U.S. Penitentiary Atlanta. (Pete Marovich/The New York Times)

Credit: Pete Marovich/The New York Times

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Credit: Pete Marovich/The New York Times

But Republicans hope to turn the tables on the Democrats. Senate hopeful Herschel Walker went on the Glenn Beck show Friday to vent about new staff funding for the IRS, designed to tackle the infamous “waste, fraud and abuse” in the tax system, which could also increase the audit rate of those making more than $400,000.

“They’re going to tax people. They’re talking about taxing the wealthy. Like, do they not know things trickle down?” Walker said. “They don’t understand budgets. They don’t understand finance.”


MEDICAID MOMENTUM? Our Cox colleagues over at Axios raise an interesting question: Are Republicans moving toward an expansion of Medicaid regardless of who is elected governor?

Although there have been conversations among Republican lawmakers for much of the last decade about an expansion, the idea remains a non-starter to many GOP officials.

Gov. Brian Kemp has railed against expansion – a cornerstone of Stacey Abrams’ campaign – for most of his political career. Key legislative leaders say they remain opposed to a full-fledged push to expand.

But could there be a more limited expansion, building on Kemp’s plans for specialized waivers that are now tied up in costly litigation? Officials say that’s a more likely possibility.

Let’s take a step back. Ever since then-Gov. Nathan Deal opposed expanding Medicaid a decade ago, influential Republicans have privately and publicly pushed the GOP to embrace expansion. At varying times, they’ve seemed to gain traction before ultimately failing.

Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday signed into law the biggest roadblock yet to expanding Medicaid in Georgia under the Affordable Care Act — leaving hundreds of thousands of poor Georgians uninsured and with limited access to medical care indefinitely. FULL ARTICLE HERE | COMPLETE COVERAGE: Obamacare in Georgia

Credit: AJC

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Credit: AJC

Once, expansion required only sign-off from the governor. But in 2014, Republicans passed a law requiring the Legislature to approve an expansion as a hedge against a potential Democratic victory that midterm.

That’s still the law of the land. Which means if Abrams wins, she’d have to finagle the measure through a likely Republican-led Legislature through old-fashioned horse trading. It’s hard to predict what that could bring.

“She could literally veto every single piece of legislation and Republicans can’t do a thing about it,” said state Rep. Shea Roberts, D-Atlanta. “What does that mean? It means Republicans have to come to the table and negotiate to be effective.”

Kemp has backed limited expansions of Medicaid through waivers, and has indicated he’s open to more in a second term so long as lawmakers approve.

About 200 people attended the Moral Monday rally at the state Capitol, calling on Gov. Nathan Deal to expand Georgia’s Medicaid program, on Jan. 13. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM


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But he’s stopped well short of endorsing a full-on expansion, which he’s long said is too costly and too inflexible. His allies say his stance hasn’t changed.

Is there more buzz than usual about an expansion among lawmakers this election season?

“I have not had any discussions about it this year so far,” said state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, the Senate Finance Committee chair and an outspoken supporter of expansion who would be in the know if there was.

“It’s the same level of chatter there always is,” says one GOP supporter of the idea. Another senior Republican said, “no one has flipped the switch” to indicate a sudden change of heart.

Any push is likely to face more resistance in the Georgia Senate, whose Republican rank-and-file members are considered more resistant to the idea than their counterparts in the House to a change.

One senior Senate Republican described three factions: One supportive of expansion, one against and a growing third bloc that wants to pursue a “Georgia-based” solution.

The November elections could install another hurdle to expansion if state Sen. Burt Jones is elected lieutenant governor.

As LG, Jones would largely determine what reaches a vote in the state Senate and, like Kemp, Jones has little appetite to expand the program. Instead Jones said he would focus on “free-market solutions” rather than more government-backed initiatives to increase healthcare access.

“The governor put forward a plan to expand healthcare access and protect Georgia taxpayers — a plan that I supported,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, the Biden administration decided to play politics and rejected that plan.”

Georgia lieutenant gubernatorial candidate and Republican state Sen. Burt Jones speaks at a rally as former U.S. President Donald Trump watches on Sept. 25, 2021 in Perry, Georgia. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS


RUDY EN ROUTE. Rudy Giuliani is expected in Atlanta on Wednesday to testify in court after his lawyers failed to delay his subpoena, the AJC’s Tamar Hallerman reports.

That news came just as lawyers for Giuliani said they have also been informed their client is a target of the Fulton County special grand jury’s investigation of efforts to overturn the 2020 election and could be indicted.

Also expected to make a trip South next week-- South Carolina’s U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, whose own attempts to block a subpoena failed Monday.


DENIERS FOR OFFICE. Most Georgia voters are well-versed by now about how Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Gov. Brian Kemp and other state leaders refused Donald Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the 2020 election.

But a Washington Post analysis found those were the outliers among state and national Republicans.

Across the battleground states that decided the 2020 vote, candidates who denied the legitimacy of the election have claimed nearly two-thirds of Republican nominations for key state and federal offices in 2022.

In Georgia, that’s 13 of 19 Republican nominees, including GOP Senate hopeful Herschel Walker and Burt Jones, the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor, along with 11 of 14 GOP congressional contenders.

Along with Kemp and Raffensperger, Attorney General Chris Carr and three candidates for Congress-- Chris West in the 2nd District, Jonathan Chavez in the 4th and Christian Zimm in the 5th-- also stood by the final results.


OVER THE LINE. We see a lot of overwrought language every campaign season, but the far-right “Georgia Republican Assembly” and its latest dispatch set a new low.

The fringe GOP group used a black-and-white image of a World War II-era firing squad executing a lone unarmed man in accusing GOP House Speaker David Ralston and his allies of sabotaging GRA-backed candidates.


TEMPERATURE CHECK. Former President Donald Trump said Monday that the “temperature has to be brought down” after threats on the FBI and other federal officials in the wake of the search of his Florida home.

But Trump needs to make the case to his closest supporters as they continue to threaten and lash out at the law enforcement officers who carried out the search.

For example, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has called for the FBI agents involved to be jailed and continued to push to “defund the FBI” on her social media accounts, even after Trump’s overture to dial it down.

The Rome Republican, who frequently accuses Democrats of pushing to “defund the police” is also selling “Defund the FBI” t-shirts and “Enemy of the State” hats on her campaign website. And in the wake of the search of the former president’s compound.

Other Georgia lawmakers released statements that included unfounded claims related to the search, too.

Republican U.S. Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton is one of five U.S. lawmakers from Georgia who have signed a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis opposing what they said were rumors that the Air Force “wishes to explore alternative intelligence and surveillance platforms” for replacing the current fleet of E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or JSTARS, that are housed at Robins AFB in Middle Georgia. Vino Wong

Credit: Vino Wong /AJC

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Credit: Vino Wong /AJC

U.S. Rep. Austin Scott released a statement saying he believed the directive to search the estate came from President Joe Biden, even though Biden said he had no knowledge of the events.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter accused Garland of having “a years-long vendetta” against Trump, saying that is the reason why he signed off on seeking a search warrant. “But nothing to see here folks, right?” Carter’s statement said. “This is just your average, run-of-the-mill abuse of authority.”

And Herschel Walker, Trump’s pick for U.S. Senate, compared the Mar-a-Lago search to something that would only happen “in a banana republic.”



  • President Joe Biden will sign into law the bill formerly known as the Inflation Reduction Act, the package passed by Congress last week to lower prescription drug costs for seniors, add federal incentives to address climate change, and create a minimum tax on corporations.


STILL STANDING. A Fulton County Superior Court judge ruled Monday that Georgia’s new restrictive anti-abortion law will be in effect while a legal challenge to it makes its way through the courts.

The AJC’s Maya T. Prabhu reported that Judge Robert McBurney dismissed the request for a temporary restraining order, saying state law only allows him to block a law from being enforced if he has already ruled that the statute is unconstitutional. He has not yet ruled on that issue.


ROAD RANGE. After we wrote yesterday that U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff would hold events Monday in Atlanta, Columbus, Macon, and Augusta, we heard from a number of readers asking if Ossoff was flying between the far-flung stops, and if so, who paid for his plane.

The answer is that Ossoff and his staff drove between events during their 13-hour day. They hit six Georgia media markets and even made time for lunch at Rose’s Caribbean in Columbus.


YOU’RE INVITED. A special invitation to Jolt subscribers: Join the three of us -- Patricia Murphy, Tia Mitchell and Greg Bluestein -- this Thursday at Noon (ET) for a special online briefing about the latest in Georgia politics.

We’ll discuss what we’re seeing on the campaign trail and take your questions on all things #gapol.

RSVP here.


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