The Jolt: Gun compromise becomes campaign fodder for Georgia GOP

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

As Democratic and Republican senators in Washington negotiate a possible breakthrough compromise gun measure, political realities in battleground states like Georgia show there’s a rocky path ahead on the ground.

While U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock quickly endorsed the idea, Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams deemed the proposal “insufficient” to bring meaningful new limits on deadly weapons.

In deep-red Georgia, Republican congressional candidate Mike Collins made a bee-line to a gun store in Bogart Monday to stake out his criticism of the measure.

“The Second Amendment is absolute. And here we are, standing in a gun shop, and we’ve got the U.S. Senate debating how much of those rights they’re going to take.”

His opponent in next week’s 10th District runoff, former Democrat Vernon Jones, took a similar position, saying he “will never compromise on the Second Amendment – period.”

The same dynamic played out in the 6th District, currently swing territory held by gun control advocate Lucy McBath. Redrawn as a Republican stronghold, both GOP contenders Jake Evans and Dr. Rich McCormick jockeyed over which candidate is the biggest gun rights champion.

Evans told your Insiders he will “oppose any effort to roll back gun rights for law-abiding citizens.” McCormick, too, said he will “unequivocally and unapologetically oppose any legislation that makes it harder for law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms.”

How about the Republicans in the marquee statewide races? Gov. Brian Kemp’s office declined comment until the final language is released.

Herschel Walker, the GOP Senate nominee, welcomed the bipartisanship and said he was encouraged the framework includes strengthening mental health programs and school safety.

“But at this point, it’s just that — a framework. With these DC politicians you always have to check the fine print,” he said. “So I’ll be looking closely at the specifics of the entire legislation once it’s made public.”


HEARING NO. 2. Former Atlanta-based U.S. Attorney Byung “BJay” Pak was one of four in-person witnesses Monday at the second public hearing of the U.S. House committee investigating January 6.

He told the committee that he investigated allegations of fraud after Georgia’s 2020 general election but found them all to be without merit, including Rudy Giuliani’s false claims that Fulton County workers counted a ‘suitcase of illegal ballots.’

“We found the ‘suitcase full of ballots’ was actually a lockbox where ballots were kept safe,” Pak testified. “The allegations made by Mr. Giuliani were false.”

The panel also shared testimony from Trump’s former Attorney General Bill Barr and others saying other Georgia-related conspiracies were also not true, including allegations that Dominion voting machines were rigged and someone in Georgia “harvested” ballots.

They also testified that the former president was told on multiple occasions he had lost Georgia and the fraud conspiracies he was repeating were wrong.

Former acting deputy attorney general Richard Donoghue said in taped testimony to the committee. “(We) essentially told him, ‘We looked into that and it’s just not true.’”


REPORT CARD. Donald Trump’s false claims of fraud in Georgia were the driving force behind the state’s 2021 election overhaul.

The law, SB 202, had a major impact on absentee voting, the AJC’s Mark Niesse found, but did not result in lower turnout.

The law prohibited mass mailings of absentee ballot applications, eliminated paperless online ballot requests, set an earlier ballot request deadline and curtailed drop box availability.

This year, just 4% of voters cast absentee ballots compared with 26% in the 2020 general election and 49% in that year's primary, when Raffensperger sent absentee ballot applications to all active voters.

This year's absentee voting rates reflect a return to historical trends, when about 5% of voters typically voted absentee, the majority of them over 65 years old.

Most absentee voters from 2020 still participated this year — but in polling places instead of remotely.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In all, Niesse reports, about 2 million people voted in the May primary, a record high for a midterm primary, according to Georgia election data.


FLYER FALLOUT. FLYER FALLOUT. We told you last week about mailers sent to 10th Congressional District voters by Mike Collins’ campaign with a picture of his runoff rival, Vernon Jones, and the banner: “RADICALLY ANTI-WHITE RACIST.”

Shelley Wynter, the Black conservative radio host and a Jones supporter, posted a second flyer to social media, paid for by a pro-Collins Super PAC, featuring a photo of a badly bruised and crying woman, who is white, alongside a photo of Jones giving a thumbs up. Jones is Black.

Wynter ripped the Collins campaign for the flyers on his show last Friday.

“I thought to myself when I saw this…'Why didn’t you just say, ‘Don’t vote for the N-word? Just be blatant about it.’”

Wynter said flyers like Collins’ make it harder to bring minority voters to the GOP.

“If you live in the 10th Congressional District and you vote for this guy behind these flyers, you’re the problem, not him.”

He also hammered former GOP Rep. Paul Broun for endorsing Collins after he failed to advance to the runoff himself. “I crucify you Paul Broun, you’re nothing,” Wynter said.

The Collins campaign has stood by the first flyer and said Jones’ own past legal troubles back it up.


KEMP CLASH. In the 10th District runoff, Gov. Brian Kemp’s blowout victory over David Perdue hasn’t changed the tune of one of his biggest GOP critics.

Former Democrat Vernon Jones, who dropped out of the race for governor to run instead for the 10th District, was asked whether he’d support the governor at a Walton County GOP event this week.

“I was not behind Gov. Kemp 100% in the primary. Why? Because he didn’t stand for election integrity,” Jones said, invoking lies about widespread election fraud. He added: “I’m not going to blindly support a RINO. I’m not going to do that.”

Mike Collins, the frontrunner in the June 21 runoff, was unequivocal: “I’m a Republican and I support Republican candidates and I’m behind Gov. Kemp 100 percent.”


DOMAIN GAME. It appears a fan of Gov. Brian Kemp bought the domain to swipe at Stacey Abrams’ misstep.

That’s a reference to the Democratic hopeful’s not-ideal line ahead of the May primary, “I am tired of hearing about how we’re the best state in the country to do business when we are the worst state in the country to live.”

Click on that link and you’ll be redirected to Abrams’ own site, although an eagle-eyed reader let us know the first thing you’ll see is a chance to donate to the Abrams campaign.


MCBATH PICK. Gun violence is the focus of a new ad from U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath endorsing Charlie Bailey, one of the two Democrats in the June 21 runoff.

“As a prosecutor, Charlie Bailey fought gun violence. You know how important that issue is to me,” she says. “That’s why Stacey Abrams and I are proud to endorse Charlie Bailey.”


PATRIOT SUPPORT. Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker isn’t shying away from his role at a veterans program accused of defrauding the government. Patriot Support is a for-profit health program marketed to veterans by Universal Health Services.

Walker worked as a spokesman for the group, encouraging members of the military to seek mental health care if they need it. He was paid $331,000 in his last year there, but has never been accused of any wrongdoing himself.

He told Ben Carson this week that he’s honored to have 15 years of experience with the group. The rest of the conversation focused on Walker’s athletic pursuits, his early days in business, his faith and advice for young people.


Today in Washington:

  • The House will vote on a Senate-passed bill to create more security protections for U.S. Supreme Court justices;
  • President Joe Biden will travel to Philadelphia for a speech at the AFL-CIO convention on the economy.


AMERICAN RESCUE HEARING. The House Budget Committee will hold a hearing today on the impact of the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that Democrats passed last year over Republican objections.

Vince Williams, mayor of Union City and president of the National League of Cities, is among the witnesses scheduled to testify. The committee has also released a report saying the American Rescue Plan had a positive effect on the economy and for U.S. families.


ASIAN HISTORY MUSEUM. President Joe Biden signed a bill Monday to study the feasibility of a new National Museum of Asian American and Pacific Islander History and Culture.

In his remarks, Biden cited the Atlanta spa shootings as a reason why a museum dedicated to Asian Pacific American history and culture is necessary.

“It comes at a critical time,” he said. “This year marks one year since the murder of six Asian American women in Atlanta -- a symbol of the anti-Asian hate in America today.”


In endorsement news:

  • Wayne Johnson, a Republican who ran in the 2nd Congressional District primary, has endorsed Chris West in the runoff there, calling the former Air Force officer, “A man of honor and integrity.”
  • The Georgia Association of Educators Fund for Public Education Committee has endorsed Charlie Bailey in the Democratic runoff for lieutenant governor.
  • Tennessee’s U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn is supporting Jeremy Hunt in the GOP runoff in Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District.


LATE LAST NIGHT. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock’s memoir, A Way Out of No Way, publishes today.

As a part of the publicity for the launch, your Insiders got advanced copies, which you can read about at the, and Warnock appeared on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where he was asked to pick his favorite verse of scripture.

After joking that it was an unfair question for a pastor, Warnock chose John 1: 4-5, which says, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness overcometh it not.”

“I think all of us ought to try to be part of that light,” he said.

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