The Jolt: GOP would give Fani Willis a jury of their peers

Fani Willis, who prosecuted the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal case and later became South Fulton’s chief municipal court judge, is running against her former boss, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, to become Fulton’s next DA. (Kent Johnson/ AJC 2015 file photo)

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Fani Willis, who prosecuted the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal case and later became South Fulton’s chief municipal court judge, is running against her former boss, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard, to become Fulton’s next DA. (Kent Johnson/ AJC 2015 file photo)

A week ago, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis revealed she opened a criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the election.

A day later, a group of Georgia Senate Republicans sought to make future investigations of election fraud a statewide affair.

Senate Resolution 100 calls for a constitutional amendment that would require a statewide grand jury for “any crime involving voting, elections, or a violation of the election laws of this state and all related crimes.”

That would mean that Willis or other local prosecutors would have to empanel a grand jury from beyond their territories, drawing in more residents from rural, conservative corners of the state.

The legislation, which boasts 25 GOP co-sponsors, is unlikely to pass. It would require a two-thirds vote in the General Assembly and a majority vote on next year’s ballot.

Even if it did pass, the measure wouldn’t influence Willis’ current investigation. In her letter to state officials, Willis said the next Fulton County grand jury is set to convene in March and that her office “will begin requesting grand jury subpoenas” at that time.

Still, state Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), who introduced the measure, said it deserves a deeper look.

“Creating a statewide grand jury focuses on election and voting crimes,” said Gooch, R-Dahlonega. “It makes investigation and prosecution more efficient. And it’s an important step to restoring confidence that every legal vote should count -- and only legal votes.”


Well, former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins didn’t outright dismiss former U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s talk of a comeback bid. But he came awfully close.

In an appearance on the John Fredericks Show, the conservative talk jock repeatedly dumped on Perdue as a has-been who ran a flawed campaign. Collins didn’t exactly dispute that point, but instead mocked Sen. Jon Ossoff.

“We’ll see. Sometimes you’ve got to put a marker out there,” he said of Perdue’s plans to explore a challenge against Sen. Raphael Warnock.

At another point, Collins said Perdue sent “some mixed signals even after” his filing late Monday. When Fredericks echoed many in Georgia GOP circles casting doubt on whether Perdue would actually run, Collins said he’s in no rush.

“I’ve been underestimated for many years. We’re sitting back and watching this develop. David must have felt the need to put out a statement … People know I’m still looking at it.”

In another notable exchange, Fredericks asked whether Collins believes Gov. Brian Kemp would sign into law new restrictions on absentee voting.

“If he wants to be governor again in four more years, he will.”


POSTED: Gov. Brian Kemp has an op-ed in today’s AJC about the need to repeal Georgia’s 158-year-old citizen’s arrest law. At a press conference in the Capitol Tuesday, Kemp announced an effort to bring major overhauls to the statute.

More from Kemp:

“Election year or not, there is no shortage of political preferences to be debated under the Gold Dome. However, in a national political climate where it often seems like no one can agree on anything, I am proud to say this bill has broad, bipartisan support in the General Assembly, in our law enforcement community, and with civil rights advocacy groups.

“Like the anti-hate crimes legislation, reforming Georgia's citizen's arrest statute is first and foremost about who we are as a state.

“In Georgia, we value the life of our neighbor – regardless of their race, creed, or culture. We support the local businesses that are the backbone of our communities. We back the brave men and women in law enforcement. We stand up and speak out for what is right."

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Under the Gold Dome (Legislative Day 18):

  • 7:00 am: House and Senate committees meet throughout the day;
  • 10:00 am: The House convenes;
  • 10:00 am: The Senate gavels in.


Don’t bet on casino gambling heading to Jekyll Island. That’s the message from the Jekyll Island Authority, the governing board of the Golden Isles gem.

According to the Brunswick News, the board approved a resolution Tuesday opposing any effort to bring casino gambling to the island.

It’s a response to HR 30, Rep. Ron Stephens’ bill, which would require buy-in from local communities to be considered as a site for a future casino.

The resolution says that “Jekyll Island’s interest continues to be in quiet, open spaces, limited traffic, limited congestion, where people will experience healthy recreation.”


Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan has been talking plenty about “GOP 2.0” lately. Earlier this month, his allies set up an independent group with that moniker.

We’re not exactly sure what its mission will be yet, though we know that Duncan has been considering a potential U.S. Senate bid. He didn’t reveal his plans.

“I’m excited about the potential for this group, and I look forward to being supportive,” he said.


Fair Fight Action, the voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams, has moved on to its next campaign, but it isn’t for any candidate.

In a mailer so glossy you’d expect it weeks before Election Day, the group warns about GOP election measures heading through the Georgia legislature.

“Atlanta politicians want to strip you of your voice by taking away your right to vote by mail,” it says. “TAKE ACTION and STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS.”

Our tipster may or may not already know about the bills in question in the mailer. It was sent to a Republican lawmaker.


In a lengthy statement, former President Donald Trump blamed everyone but himself for the Democratic sweep of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats.

He slammed Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for not buying into his false claims of widespread voter fraud. And he said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell misplayed the coronavirus relief debate.

“Then came the Georgia disaster, where we should have won both U.S. Senate seats, but McConnell matched the Democrat offer of $2,000 stimulus checks with $600. How does that work? It became the Democrats’ principal advertisement.”

No mention by the former president of his own allies telling GOP voters not to turn out to the polls on Election Day.


The mayor of Valdosta is under scrutiny for comments he made on the local radio station, which he owns.

According to the Valdosta Daily Times, four groups have filed an ethics complaint against Mayor Scott James Matheson, who is accused of “being incapable...of representing all citizens of Valdosta equally.”

More from the Times:

“The complaint claims the mayor's show “regularly disseminates inaccurate, divisive, and inflammatory claims that often demonize local citizens and political viewpoints that differ from his own."

“A prime example, the complaint states, is a Jan. 12 show, when Matheson said, ‘One day, it's illegal to pay somebody to vote, but on the next day, being election day, it's legal to pay someone to canvass even though they don't canvass – even though they don't go to a house. They hop on a bus, they go down, they vote, they come back and they cash a $75 check.'"

- The Valdosta Daily Times

Mayor Matheson told the Times he’ll have a response when the complaint is properly filed.


The prospect of statehood for the District of Columbia has new energy now that Democrats are in control of the White House and both congressional chambers, although it’s still a longshot.

The Washington City Paper recently published a list of 51 reasons that D.C. should become the 51st state. Former Georgia GOP lawmakers showed up twice:

… 19. Congress would not let D.C. know the results of a 1998 ballot initiative that sought to legalize medical marijuana for over a year. Thanks to an amendment from Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), the D.C. Board of Elections could not count votes. A court decision released the results—the initiative was overwhelmingly favored by voters.

… 30. Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) attempted to bar the D.C. government from deducting union dues from employee paychecks.


Georgia is taking steps to improve internet access in rural areas, but more needs to be done, U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson wrote in an op-ed published in the Newnan Times-Herald.

Ferguson, R-West Point, cited as a sign of progress a recent announcement at the state Capitol that Central Georgia EMC, Conexon and Southern Rivers Energy plan to build high-speed internet lines that will reach 80,000 homes and businesses in Middle Georgia.

But he also wrote that the COVID-19 pandemic makes access to the internet more crucial.

“The realities of this new normal have left millions of rural Americans isolated because of inadequate or nonexistent connectivity to high-speed broadband,” he said. “These folks are in dire need of an expanded — and enhanced — broadband network to compete in our 21st century economy, and it’s vital that we put in place the infrastructure to ensure American citizens have ample opportunities to succeed, regardless of where they live.”


A federal judge scaled back the lawsuit filed by allies of Stacey Abrams after her loss in the 2018 election, the AJC’s Mark Niesse writes. The case can proceed to trial, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones decided, but he said he will only consider its allegations regarding voter registration cancellations, inaccurate voter lists and election worker training.

The judge threw out the lawsuit’s claims about voting machines, voter list security, potential hacking vulnerabilities, polling place closures and inadequate resources, saying either state law had made those parts of the complaint moot or that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue.


POSTED: Saying he was inspired both by vandalism during racial justice marches last summer and the deadly Jan. 6 riot inside the U.S. Capitol, state Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) has introduced a bill that would increase penalties for people accused of certain crimes during protests.

State Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Sandy Springs) said the bill raises “significant state and federal constitutional issues.”