The Jolt: Georgia’s unquiet secretary of state

<p>
              FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2019 file photo, Gov. Brian Kemp addresses the 2019 Season Joint Budget hearings in Atlanta. In letters dated Wednesday, March 6, 2019, a U.S. House committee is seeking a trove of information from Georgia’s governor and secretary of state as it investigates reports of voter registration problems and other issues reported during the state’s 2018 elections. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
            </p> <p>
              FILE - In this pool image from video, Stacey Abrams delivers the Democratic party's response to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 from Atlanta. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp served as the state’s chief election officer while he ran for governor in 2018. Abrams has alleged he mismanaged the election which she narrowly lost, an allegation which Kemp denies.  (Pool video image via AP)
            </p> <p>
              FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2019 file photo, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger answers questions after the Georgia House passed a bill to buy a new election system that includes a paper ballot. But opponents to the bill, including many Democrats, say it would still leave Georgia's elections vulnerable to hacking and tampering. In letters dated Wednesday, March 6, 2019, a U.S. House committee is seeking a trove of information from Georgia’s governor and secretary of state as it investigates reports of voter registration problems and other issues reported during the state’s 2018 elections. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
            </p> <p>
              FILE - In this Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019 file photo, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D- Md., the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, presides over the last hour of testimony by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. In letters dated Wednesday, March 6, 2019 and signed by Reps. Cummings and Jamie Raskin, both from Maryland, a U.S. House committee is seeking a trove of information from Georgia’s governor and secretary of state as it investigates reports of voter registration problems and other issues reported during the state’s 2018 elections (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
            </p>
<p> FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2019 file photo, Gov. Brian Kemp addresses the 2019 Season Joint Budget hearings in Atlanta. In letters dated Wednesday, March 6, 2019, a U.S. House committee is seeking a trove of information from Georgia’s governor and secretary of state as it investigates reports of voter registration problems and other issues reported during the state’s 2018 elections. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) </p> <p> FILE - In this pool image from video, Stacey Abrams delivers the Democratic party's response to President Donald Trump's State of the Union address, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 from Atlanta. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp served as the state’s chief election officer while he ran for governor in 2018. Abrams has alleged he mismanaged the election which she narrowly lost, an allegation which Kemp denies. (Pool video image via AP) </p> <p> FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2019 file photo, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger answers questions after the Georgia House passed a bill to buy a new election system that includes a paper ballot. But opponents to the bill, including many Democrats, say it would still leave Georgia's elections vulnerable to hacking and tampering. In letters dated Wednesday, March 6, 2019, a U.S. House committee is seeking a trove of information from Georgia’s governor and secretary of state as it investigates reports of voter registration problems and other issues reported during the state’s 2018 elections. (Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) </p> <p> FILE - In this Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019 file photo, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D- Md., the chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, presides over the last hour of testimony by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019. In letters dated Wednesday, March 6, 2019 and signed by Reps. Cummings and Jamie Raskin, both from Maryland, a U.S. House committee is seeking a trove of information from Georgia’s governor and secretary of state as it investigates reports of voter registration problems and other issues reported during the state’s 2018 elections (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) </p>

Credit: Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Credit: Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

In decades past, Georgia’s secretary of state’s office was a place where sharp controversy went to die. Overt partisanship was considered bad form.

But with elections and voting grabbing a primary place in the 2020 presidential contest, that has changed. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who drew criticism from both right and left following the “meltdown” that was the June 9 primary, is taking no guff. At least, not from Democrats or the media.

Earlier this month, Raffensperger went after one foe by name on his website:

Stacey Abrams and her political fund-raising group Fair Fight Action are deliberately spreading misinformation to Georgia voters.

After a credible report that Fulton County unlawfully decided to stop accepting absentee requests sent by email, Abrams’ Fair Fight Action called on the Secretary of State’s office to “compel all 159 counties to accept email applications for absentee ballots.”

The problem with Fair Fight’s release is that there is zero evidence that any county other Fulton was not properly accepting absentee ballot applications submitted via email, as is required by Georgia law.

-

Over the weekend, Raffensperger pushed back on a claim by the Georgia Democratic Party that state law had pushed its leadership to quickly name party chair Nikema Williams to replace the late John Lewis on the November ballot for the Fifth District congressional race. From Raffensperger:

“For the first time in U.S. history, a committee of establishment partisans decided an entire congressional election with a mere 44 political insiders.

“The voters of the Fifth Congressional District were not given a fair fight, nor was there an open Democratic process to decide the replacement of Congressman John Lewis.”

-

Take that “first time in U.S. history” claim with a pinch of salt. Nonetheless, Thursday saw another push-back -- this one aimed at the New York Times for an anatomical look at election system breakdowns in the June primary. This, too, was posted on the secretary of state’s website:

In an effort to further the false liberal narratives about Georgia’s elections record, a recent New York Times article (“Anatomy of An Election ‘Meltdown’ in Georgia,” July 25) contained numerous errors.

“We can’t comment on whether the multitude of falsehoods in the story resulted from intent or incompetence, but we will correct the record,” said Walter Jones, Voter Education manager and former journalist.

“This story is yet more in a long string of national media stories that swallow liberal lines of attack about Georgia’s voting procedures that have no basis in reality. Georgia, like many other states, faced a great challenge in carrying out a high-turnout election amidst a pandemic.”

-

There was much more. But you get the gist.

***

The death of Herman Cain, a 2012 presidential candidate and for several years a provocative voice on WSB radio, was announced Thursday -- just as the funeral service for U.S. Rep. John Lewis began.

They were two men of color on opposite sides of the nation's political spectrum. The AJC obituary begin thusly:

Herman Cain, with his rich baritone voice and natural showman’s instinct, reinvented himself multiple times over his lifetime: computer analyst, millionaire business executive, political lobbyist, broadcaster, motivational speaker, author and presidential candidate, among others.

-

Many outlets noted that Cain had attended a June 20 rally for President Donald Trump in Tulsa, Okla., and was diagnosed with the coronavirus nine days later. The Wall Street Journal had this line:

Mr. Cain is one of the most prominent Americans to have died of complications related to Covid-19, which has now killed more than 150,000 in the U.S.

-

The New York Times noted that Cain “became an emblem of Trump-supporting, mask-defiant science skeptics, openly if not aggressively disdainful of public health officials who warned Americans to avoid large crowds, cover their faces and do as much as possible to limit contact with others.” But the piece also included this:

Grover Norquist, a conservative activist who lobbies for lower taxes and regulations and has served on the board of the National Rifle Association, said that using Mr. Cain’s death to attack Republicans “is going two steps too far.” But he added, “There’s a difference between not being excited about being told what to do” and refusing to do it altogether. “But on something like this, when you’re out in public, you should wear a mask because it’s not about you.”

-

Then there was this hometown assessment from Killer Mike, via Twitter:

God bless the dead and may God help the living. RIP @THEHermanCain. U were a good man in my community and agree or disagree with your politics I appreciate your work in and on Atlanta’s WestSide.

-

***

For the second day in a row, not a single candidate qualified to run for the expiring term of U.S. Rep. John Lewis. That’s certainly about to change.

Barrington Martin, who challenged Lewis in the June primary, is raising cash on social media to sign up to run. And we’re hearing rumblings that former Atlanta school superintendent Meria Carstarphen might join the field.

Another question involves Nikema Williams, the state senator and party chairwoman who will replace Lewis on the November ballot for a full two-year term. She hasn’t said yet whether she’ll also run in the Sept. 29 race.

They have until this afternoon to decide: Qualifying ends at 1 p.m.

***

Already posted: If you want to know how the pandemic has changed electioneering in Georgia, look no further than Jon Ossoff’s living room. The Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate has cut his newest 30-second from his home while in self-isolation. His physician wife was recently diagnosed with COVID-19.

***

Three former American presidents traveled to Atlanta for U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ funeral, and another, Jimmy Carter, sent a message that was read during the service.

The tone of the speeches was consistent with what we know about Lewis: that he was a humble, loving and hyper-focused on his message of justice and liberty for all. Many of those on the program, which ranged from fellow civil rights activists to a long-time member of his staff, spoke about how they planned to keep Lewis’ legacy alive.

President Barack Obama, however, made news by linking Lewis’ voting rights advocacy to a long-standing Senate practice. He endorsed ending the filibuster, which allows senators to hold up legislation indefinitely on controversial topics, if it stands in the way of new measures to expand voting rights.

“If all this takes eliminating the filibuster — another Jim Crow relic — in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that’s what we should do,” Obama told the crowd at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Filibusters date back to the initial years of Congress, but became a tool used by Southern senators to delay votes during the civil rights movement, the Senate’s official website says.

***

The niece of Martin Luther King Jr. told Fox News that the Thursday service for John Lewis was too overtly political. U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler agreed via Twitter:

@AlvedaCKing is right to call out the politicization of yesterday’s funeral services for Civil Rights icon, John Lewis.

If a Republican brought politics into a funeral the way @BarackObama & @ReverendWarnock did, they would be attacked relentlessly by the media and the Left.

-

***

Because it’s Friday, and you could use the distraction: Over at LikeTheDew.com, David Parker, a professor of history at Kennesaw State University, has published a piece on the 1895 campaign in Atlanta against female cyclists.

The protagonist was the Rev. James Boardman Hawthorne, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Atlanta, But it appears that he was egged on by The Atlanta Constitution. Parker drew on one of Hawthorne’s sermons:

His title was “Satanic Spiders Who Weave Webs for Human Flies.”

… If there is any object on earth which makes jubilee in the realm of unclean spirits it is a ‘society woman’ in masculine habiliments straddling a bicycle, and preparing to make an exhibition of her immodesty on the thoroughfares of a great city.”

Hawthorne said he was “making this fight” in order to save women who had fallen into that web and to protect “husbands … who are tired of putting their children to bed and of waiting until the noon of the night [midnight] for their bicycle riding wives to come home.”

-

About the Authors

ajc.com

ajc.com

ajc.com

In Other News