The Jolt: Georgia Republicans, attacked by Donald Trump, open to endorsing him anyway

News and information from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, right, greets President Donald Trump as he visits Georgia to talk about an infrastructure overhaul at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on July 15, 2020. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, right, greets President Donald Trump as he visits Georgia to talk about an infrastructure overhaul at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on July 15, 2020. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

Credit: TNS

When Donald Trump put Gov. Brian Kemp at the top of his revenge list in a failed bid to oust the governor in Georgia’s May primary, the first-term Republican resisted the urge to hit back.

As November nears and a possible Trump comeback looms, Kemp and other GOP incumbents opposed by the former president are sticking to that familiar strategy.

They aren’t antagonizing him. They aren’t criticizing his rhetoric. And they aren’t closing the door on earning his endorsement – or on supporting him if he runs for another term in 2024.

Earlier today, we posted a longer story about how Kemp and other statewide incumbents who demolished Trump-backed challengers are still trying to steer clear of his wrath.

Here’s what each had to say about whether they’d endorse Trump if he seeks his old job.

Kemp: “Of course, the governor will support the Republican nominee in 2024 but is solely focused on making sure Stacey Abrams is never our governor — or the next president,” the governor said through a spokesman.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger: “I have built a broad-based support and I believe the best endorsement is an endorsement of the people of Georgia, and that is what I’m focused on this November,” he said.

Attorney General Chris Carr: “The 2024 election is 10 political lifetimes from now. We will play the 2024 fantasy political football game as soon as we finish the drill in 2022.”

Insurance Commissioner John King: “I would hope every Republican leader would endorse our Republican nominees,” said the commissioner, adding: “I will make a decision when I know who is running.”

We surveyed top Georgia Democrats on Joe Biden’s 2024 plans earlier this month. Some wanted him to fight for a second term, while others were more reserved.


LISTEN UP: If it’s Wednesday, it’s time for the mid-week edition of the Politically Georgia podcast.

This week we look at Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock’s latest statewide swings; Stacey Abrams’ new sustainability proposal; and how Mitch McConnell is feeling about Georgia lately.

Listen and subscribe to our podcast for free at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.


RISING TEMPS. Speaking of climate legislation, Stacey Abrams swung through coastal Georgia on Tuesday to promote her newly released climate change plan, which includes promises to create more than 25,000 “advanced energy” jobs and launch a Green Development Bank to leverage federal resources.

That brought criticism from Gov. Brian Kemp’s campaign, which pointed to a pair of recently announced electric vehicle plants that are the two largest economic development projects in modern Georgia history. From Kemp spokesman Tate Mitchell:

“Is part of Abrams’ ‘climate plan’ to continue attacking 15,000 electric vehicle manufacturing jobs coming to rural Georgia after voting for the tax incentives used to attract those projects to our state?”


AIR WARS. Earlier this morning, TV stations began playing Gov. Brian Kemp’s newest campaign ad which focused on – you guessed it – inflation and the economy.

The ad slams Stacey Abrams’ plans to dip into the surplus for what she calls “generational” investments in programs, while highlighting Kemp’s proposal to tap the funding for rebates.


MITCH’S PITCH. The most powerful Senate Republican is lending his support to Gov. Brian Kemp. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell is a “special guest” for a Sept. 8 fundraiser for the governor at an event featuring 16 other members of the chamber.

McConnell is also hosting a fundraiser for Senate hopeful Herschel Walker after raising concerns about “candidate quality” hampering the Republican push to retake the Senate.


DEBT FORGIVENESS. NBC News is reporting that President Joe Biden is expected to announce Wednesday at the White House that he will cancel $10,000 in federal student loan debt for Americans making less than $125,000.

An announcement can’t come soon enough for U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, who has made student debt forgiveness a top priority as the November elections approach.

Warnock was at the White House in May lobbying Biden on the issue, particular for the poorest borrowers. And he spoke with senior White House officials again on Friday to push for a decision.

Time is of the essence. A COVID-prompted pause on student loan repayments is scheduled to expire at the end of the month without action from Biden.


FAKE MONEY. Herschel Walker is planning a Sept. 28 fundraiser in Milledgeville that lists Vikki Consiglio, a fake GOP elector, as one of the co-hosts.

Consiglio, an assistant treasurer for the Georgia GOP, has been informed she is a target of the Fulton County special grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump, meaning she could face criminal prosecution by Fulton County prosecutors for her role in his effort to overturn the election. Consiglio has declined to comment.


IMMIGRATION LAME DUCK? U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux lost her May primary to her Democratic colleague. U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, but Bourdeaux is still looking for legislative wins until her last day in office.

Tops on the list is comprehensive immigration reform, which Bourdeaux said in an interview Tuesday is the subject of behind-the-scenes negotiations for a possible lame-duck session after the November elections.

“I don’t know that we can make it through but there’s definitely a lot of discussion behind the scenes about a bipartisan solution,” she said.

Bourdeaux describe the framework under discussion as Democrats agreeing to put “significant resources” behind border security, which is Republicans’ top demand.

“In return, we need to pretty significantly increase the immigration coming into this country legally,” she said. Democrats are looking for an increase in the number of immigrants admitted to the country with legal status, a long-term solution for DREAMER’s and many of their parents, and a fix to the wildly cumbersome immigration process.


MANCHIN MOTION. One other insight Bourdeaux offered was the thinking on Capitol Hill about U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, the conservative West Virginia Democrat who has been the skunk at the garden party during intra party negotiations on big legislative packages.

As Manchin refused each version of the Democrats’ signature health, climate and tax bill languished through 2022, Bordeaux said a piece of advice stayed with her. “Someone said, ‘Don’t worry, Manchin will not let Biden fail. So I held that little tidbit of advice in my heart for a long time.”

Biden signed the measure into law last week.

One more bit from the interview: Bourdeaux and McBath have not spoken since before the primary.


HUG IT OUT. A pair of state-Senate-colleagues-turned-bitter-rivals appear to have put their differences behind them.

State Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller hosted a campaign event for GOP lieutenant governor nominee Burt Jones in Miller’s Gainesville stomping grounds Monday, our AJC colleague Maya T. Prabhu tells us.

Miller lost the May primary to Jones in a hotly contested race that both split the Senate caucus and saw the Trump-endorsed Jones drop $2 million of his own money to win outright.

But in a post to Twitter, complete with a photo of the former rivals arm-in-arm, Jones thanked Miller and Shelly Echols for hosting the campaign stop. Echols is a Hall County commissioner who is running to replace Miller in the Senate.


DA V. KEMP. The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office has responded to Gov. Brian Kemp’s attempt to avoid testifying to the special grand jury with a filing that slams the governor’s legal arguments.

The AJC’s Tamar Hallerman reports that Nathan Wade, a special prosecutor advising the grand jury, called many of Kemp’s reasons for quashing the subpoena “wholly without merit.”

In a 53-page filing, Wade also accused Kemp’s attorney, Brian F. McEvoy, of manipulating emails that McEvoy referenced in last week’s court filing regarding the subpoena.

“The manipulation of counsel’s correspondence thread is both unprofessional and disappointing, in addition to undermining the entire premise of the motion,” Wade wrote.

Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney has scheduled a hearing on Thursday to consider Kemp’s request.


BACK THE BLUE? Bill White, the leader of the failed Buckhead City movement who once promised to “treat our police officers with love, respect, and eternal gratitude!”, inexplicably copied your Insiders on a series of emails berating a local Atlanta Police Department official for canceling a lunch with him.

White, who alienated lawmakers by promoting conspiracy theories about the former head of MARTA and amplifying a white supremacist, demanded in the email that the police official “go catch these thugs and stay off my email” after the officer responded to his query.

He also threatened the officer:

“If you want to be APD police chief or mayor which I’ve heard you want more than anything you had better reschedule your lunch with me or it’s over with us.”

He closed with a profanity that we won’t mention – this is a family newsletter, after all – followed with a semi-apology after the email was posted to Twitter, insisting that the derogatory term for female anatomy is a common phrase on Long Island, where he grew up.


CONDOLENCES. Our deepest condolences to former Gov. Nathan Deal and others who loved Sandra Deal, the teacher and literary enthusiast who made bolstering childhood education her life’s mission.

Mrs. Deal died this week at the age of 80 after a battle with breast cancer. She made friends everywhere, but she seemed most happy when we saw her reading to children in cramped classrooms and libraries around the state.

She was also unfailingly kind to members of the media, even when the coverage of her husband may not have been easy to read.

Her relationship with the governor was legendary. This video offers a glimpse of their remarkable love story.

We asked Brian Robinson, a longtime aide to the governor, to share a story about his last visit with Sandra. Here’s what he wrote:

“When I went to lecture Gov. Deal’s class this spring, he shocked me with the news that the prognosis wasn’t good for Mrs. Deal.

The doctor said with cases like this we’re talking months – not years. I took my family to his house to visit them soon thereafter.

Mrs. Deal was moving slow but mobile. We went out to eat at a restaurant called Hangry’s Grill and she cheerily talked about picking out her gravesite. She loved the location.

She said with her signature smile: ‘I’ve lived a great life. I’ve gotten to do things I never would have imagined.’

Faced with terminal illness, her focus was on her blessings and good fortune.

My wife, daughter and I hugged her as she got back in the car. I knew it was the last time I’d see her.”


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