The Jolt: GOP bigwigs ditch State Party gala for pond house cookout

News and information from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
10/01/2018 -- Jasper, Georgia -- Georgia Republican Gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp exits his campaign bus during a campaign stop at Appalachian Gun, Pawn &Range in Jasper, Monday, October 1, 2018. Monday was the first day of Brian Kemp's weeklong bus tour where he and his campaign will visit 27 counties in 5 days. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Combined ShapeCaption
10/01/2018 -- Jasper, Georgia -- Georgia Republican Gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp exits his campaign bus during a campaign stop at Appalachian Gun, Pawn &Range in Jasper, Monday, October 1, 2018. Monday was the first day of Brian Kemp's weeklong bus tour where he and his campaign will visit 27 counties in 5 days. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

The Georgia GOP held its annual spring gala on Thursday at the Georgia Aquarium featuring a headline speech by Florida U.S. Sen. Rick Scott. But the bigger Republican draw might have been 215 miles to the southeast.

Gov. Brian Kemp, Senate frontrunner Herschel Walker, state Senate GOP leader Butch Miller and state Sen. Burt Jones were among the marquee candidates who instead attended Wayne Dasher’s annual law enforcement appreciation cookout at his pond house in Glennville.

We spoke with a number of other statewide contenders and legislative candidates who skipped the GOP gala, citing scheduling conflicts or, privately, a rift with the state party.

Several brought up party chair David Shafer’s appearance at Donald Trump’s September rally in Georgia, which the former president used to sharpen his attacks on state GOP leaders.

He famously said he’d rather Stacey Abrams won the race for governor than incumbent Brian Kemp, who he wrongly blames for his election defeat.

Brandon Moye, the Georgia GOP’s executive director, brushed off the no-shows and thanked the statewide campaigns for sending “both representatives and donations” for an event he said was sold out.

“We have 10 times as much money on hand today than we did at this point in the gubernatorial cycle four years ago,” he said.


Speaking of money, we look at the humongous fundraising hauls from U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker so far in the U.S. Senate race in our Friday edition of the Politically Georgia podcast.

We also tackle the strategy behind new ads from Stacey Abrams and why Gov. Brian Kemp still can’t shake off false claims about the 2020 election among some Georgia Republicans.

Listen below, and make sure you don’t miss a single Wednesday or Friday episode by subscribing for free at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.


“The cavalry is coming.”

That’s how one senior operative described the cash infusion from the Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with Mitch McConnell.

The GOP group reserved at least $8.5 million in Georgia ad time for the final two months before the November election to help the party’s Senate nominee. That total is expected to rise significantly as more buys are registered.

In a sense, though, the group is playing catch up. The political organization tied to Senate Democrats has snapped up a whopping $24 million worth of ads for the final stretch of the campaign.

It’s already clear that like 2020 and 2021, finding enough money for ads will not be a problem for Georgia’s marquee candidates on either side of the aisle.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock reported another record-breaking fundraising haul yesterday, with more than $13 million raised in the first quarter of this year. And Herschel Walker reported this morning that he raised more than $5 million last quarter for his challenge to Warnock ahead of his May 24 GOP primary.


Gary Black has a new accessory in his latest digital ad: A pair of binoculars.

The Senate candidate uses them throughout the 15-second spot in search of front-runner Herschel Walker. It’s a hit on Walker’s strategy skipping debates, forums and other events with his rivals.

“I’ve been looking all over for Herschel. I still can’t find him,” said Black, Walker’s best-known GOP opponent in the May 24 primary. “What is Herschel hiding?”


On the same note, Herschel Walker told Xtra 106.3 radio he had no regrets about skipping the 9th District GOP debate in Gainesville this weekend to receive the Horatio Alger award in-person at a ceremony instead.

We’ll remind you here that the last portion of the multi-day event was Saturday morning; the debate wasn’t until later that evening.

In any event, here’s what Walker told the conservative station of his rivals, when asked about the wisdom of skipping all of the GOP debates before the May 24 primary:

“I am doing what I am supposed to be doing and they don’t seem to get out of the double digit. All I see them doing is complaining about Herschel Walker but yet I am doing the work.

“So my thing is, do the work. The 9th district wanted to do a debate. I said, guys, I have something prior that was a year in advance. And I don’t know if anyone knows about the Horatio Alger, I wish they would read about it, I don’t know how anyone can turn anything down from that.”


Gov. Brian Kemp’s campaign is out with a new attack ad against former Sen. David Perdue. This one combines familiar attacks that Perdue outsourced jobs to China, as well as new criticism that Perdue opposes a new gas tax suspension and income tax cuts.

“He’s for himself, not Georgia,” the ad says.

A Politifact fact-check in 2014 confirmed the outsourcing charge and details more than 500 job losses at plants in Cartersville, Milledgeville, Wrightsville and Midway when Perdue was senior vice president at Sarah Lee.

As for opposing the income tax cut, Perdue has said he wants to eliminate the income tax in Georgia altogether, although he told us that would mean increasing other sales taxes and eliminating exemptions to make up the difference.


As much as we focus on the governor’s and Senate races, statewide contests lower down the ticket are just as riveting in Georgia these days. Maybe even more so.

Look no further than a new Landmark Communications poll that shows Brian Kemp way up at 52%, David Perdue at 28%, and Kandiss Taylor with a healthy 10%.

The Kemp number is the highest we’ve seen, so should be taken with a reminder that polls are best for directions and trends, not outright predictions.

But Kemp’s high favorables in this poll make other races all the more notable, especially that of Attorney General Chris Carr, who was appointed to the job by Gov. Nathan Deal in 2016 and narrowly won election in 2018.

The Landmark poll shows Carr at just 31% heading into his May primary. Carr is being challenged by Trump-endorsed John Gordon, a Stop-the-Stealer whom Donald Trump has endorsed, who is at about 16% in the poll.

Carr may feel better knowing that he’s looking a lot better than Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who sits at just 18% with GOP primary voters in the poll, while U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, another Trump endorsed, Stop-the-Steal candidate, is up at 32% with Republicans heading into the May primary.


New fundraising reports for Georgia congressional candidates have started to trickle in.

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop announced that he raised more than $440,000 in the first three months of 2022. He ended the quarter with $700,000 in cash on hand.

The Albany Democrat is gearing up for a general election battle against whoever wins the Republican primary in what is now considered Georgia’s only competitive congressional district. Those GOP competitors have yet to report fundraising figures.

In the 6th Congressional District, Dr. Rich McCormick says he raised more than $600,000 during the quarter. He started April with $1.1 million in the bank.

McCormick is in a crowded GOP primary that will likely decide who represents the suburban Atlanta district.


U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock announced on Twitter Thursday night that he had tested negative for COVID-19 and was free to travel back to Georgia.

That means Warnock will be available to preach in person for Easter services at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.

While most members of Congress left Washington last week, Warnock remained in the capital in isolation after receiving a positive coronavirus test as part of routine Senate protocols.


We told you last week about a court motion filed by U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s ex-wife in an effort to change the custody agreement related to the couple’s two young children.

The Washington Examiner reported Thursday that Warnock and his former wife, Oulèye Ndoye, have now applied to have their custody documents put under seal and away from public view.

Documents for the new request were obtained and published by the conservative Washington Free Beacon, although neither Warnock’s nor Ndoye’s names are on the document.

In it, both argue that Warnock’s political opponents have used previous court filings against him and cite possible dangers to their children if future documents are not kept private. “The minor children could possibly be harmed by (Warnock’s) opposition or any unstable person that sympathizes with them,” the document says.

It’s not unusual for public figures to win such a request from a court, especially if young children are involved. The couple’s original divorce documents are also under seal.


The Republican National Committee is taking an innovative step as Tax Day approaches.

The GOP group will co-host a tax training program in Korean on Monday at a local tax office preparation office.


It’s Friday, so you know that means we’ll be sending you into the holiday weekend with a little light reading, including:


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

Sign Up to receive the Morning Jolt & AJC Politics newsletters in your inbox.