The Jolt: Herschel Walker MIA from state GOP convention

09/25/2020 - Atlanta, Georgia - Former professional football player Herschel Walker reacts to President Donald Trump as he speaks during a Blacks for Trump campaign rally at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, Friday, September 25, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
09/25/2020 - Atlanta, Georgia - Former professional football player Herschel Walker reacts to President Donald Trump as he speaks during a Blacks for Trump campaign rally at the Cobb Galleria Centre in Atlanta, Friday, September 25, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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

If Herschel Walker wanted to fire up Republicans about a potential U.S. Senate run, the GOP convention this weekend in Jekyll Island would have been the perfect setting.

Instead, the UGA football great skipped the gathering -- and a chance to energize thousands of delegates who form the backbone of the state party.

Suffice to say, the state GOP leaders and activists we spoke with are eager to get the Senate race underway and running out of patience waiting for Walker to make a move.

And the only reason they’re waiting in the first place is because Donald Trump encouraged Walker to run.

On Friday, state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black became the first big-name candidate to short-circuit the Walker waiting game. In announcing his Senate campaign, he told one of your Insiders he’s in the contest regardless.

“Would I love to have Trump’s support? Absolutely. You’re going to find me saluting all the good things he’s done the past four years. Those accomplishments are Republican accomplishments,” Black told us.

“But I’m running no matter what. Absolutely. I’m in this race to win the primary and the general election.”

Another possible candidate is U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, who is also eager to announce a challenge to Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock. But Carter has boxed himself in a bit, saying he’d only run if Walker punts.

And as we’ve reminded you before, two other heavy hitters are still rumbling about a run with or without Walker in the race: Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and House Speaker David Ralston. And they won’t hinge their decision on Walker’s timeline.

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No one at the Jekyll Island Convention Center was surprised to hear Gov. Brian Kemp peppered with boo’s during his remarks to the convention.

As our AJC colleague Maya Prabhu detailed from her perch in the back of the room, the jeers were so loud it was sometimes hard to hear Kemp’s remarks.

We talked to activists closer to the front who reported hearing a kinder reception for the governor. A few estimated a 70-30 split, with roughly a third of the room booing Kemp.

But the point remains: The first lifelong Republican governor since Reconstruction continues to face harsh pushback from his own party for refusing Trump’s demands to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results.

As several neutral Republicans reminded, Kemp avoided much harsher backlash that would have spawned more damaging headlines. For one, there was no formal rebuke or “censure” of the governor, like we saw in some county and district GOP gatherings.

The pushback is not necessarily a fatal condition. Former Sen. Senator Saxby Chambliss was booed for his immigration stance at the 2007 state GOP convention, and former Gov. Nathan Deal skipped the convention altogether after his “religious liberty” veto peeved the base.

Kemp has, so far, avoided a premier GOP opponent. His closest challenger is Vernon Jones, a Democrat-turned-Republican who voted against the state’s most recent anti-abortion bill and is now trying to recast himself as a far-right Trumper.

But this weekend showed how much work lies ahead for Kemp to shore up a base that once adored him. Consider this from Friday’s AJC:

Brandon Phillips, chair of the 2nd GOP District, said he's heard gripes from activists at the 18 GOP meetings he's attended in the past two months that Kemp is “taking the Republican base for granted." He added that he hasn't seen Kemp staffers at any of those meetings.

“To the base, especially the influx of new activists, that's concerning because these folks want to make sure we're doing everything we can to not have a Democrat win next November," Phillips said.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Andrew and Anne Worrell (family photo)
Andrew and Anne Worrell (family photo)

Credit: Family photo

Credit: Family photo

The crime wave in Atlanta took center stage in the city’s race for mayor over the weekend after a jogger was injured in a drive-by shooting while out for a run in Buckhead Saturday morning.

Atlanta police said two more joggers in the area reported having shots fired at them, before the suspect rammed his car into another victim nearby.

Almost immediately, city council president Felicia Moore, who is running for mayor, released a statement calling on Atlanta police chief to attend Monday’s city council meeting to report “exactly what is being done to immediately reverse this trend.”

On Sunday, mayoral candidate Sharon Gay announced she’ll hold a press conference Monday to add Dr. Cedric Alexander, the former chief of police in Dekalb County, as a public safety advisor to her campaign.

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Kasim Reed may not be a declared candidate for any office, but the former Atlanta mayor is planning to raise a boatload of money in the near future.

According to an invitation obtained by your Insiders, Reed is holding a birthday celebration Thursday night, complete with donor levels from $25,000 for hosts and $1,000 for guests.

The invitation is paid for by Kasim Reed for Atlanta, Inc., Reed’s existing campaign committee. And although it does not specify what the money will go toward, it includes a note about a $4,300 maximum contribution, the limit for city campaign contributions under state law.

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Then-Sens. David Perdue (R-Georgia) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Georgia) listen to then-Vice President Mike Pence deliver remarks at a "Defend the Majority Rally" in Canton, Georgia, in support of their campaigns on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, in Canton, Georgia. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Then-Sens. David Perdue (R-Georgia) and Kelly Loeffler (R-Georgia) listen to then-Vice President Mike Pence deliver remarks at a "Defend the Majority Rally" in Canton, Georgia, in support of their campaigns on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, in Canton, Georgia. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler is also not a declared candidate, but you wouldn’t know it from her schedule recently.

Over the weekend, she attended the Georgia GOP convention in Jekyll Island, knocked on doors in Cobb County for a special election “Day of Action,” and posted a photo of herself with former President Donald Trump. “It was great to see president Trump last week,” she wrote alongside a photo of herself with Trump.

Today, Loeffler’s Greater Georgia voting group will launch a digital ad campaign to boost GOP turnout ahead of the special election in House District 34, former state Rep. Bert Reeves’ suburban Cobb County district.

The ad focuses on GOP support for an election rewrite -- and blames Democrats for Major League Baseball’s decision to yank the All-Star game from Truist Park.

Election Day for the race is June 15.

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David Belle Isle on Friday rolled out a digital ad attacking Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whom he is challenging in the Republican primary next year. Screenshot.
David Belle Isle on Friday rolled out a digital ad attacking Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whom he is challenging in the Republican primary next year. Screenshot.

On a different note: The next time you see David Belle Isle, one of several GOP candidates for secretary of state, ask him how he got to this weekend’s convention.

We’re told Belle Isle, a former Alpharetta mayor, was driving on Thursday with an operative in rural Georgia when they hit a deer and damaged their vehicle.

They couldn’t hitch a ride with the tow truck because of coronavirus restrictions, so they dialed up their friend, former Gov. Sonny Perdue, who was nearby. He picked them up to give them a ride — and then let them borrow his car for the trip to Jekyll.

That wasn’t the only splash he made at the convention. He also released a song, tuned to the Charlie Daniels Band hit, only he replaced the phrase the “Devil” with “Brad” -- as in incumbent Brad Raffensperger.

See the video, and cue the outrage.

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Speaking of Sonny, we have the details of the deepening split on the Board of Regents over whether to tap the former governor to lead the higher education system.

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West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin dealt a blow to the hopes of fellow Democrats Sunday, including Georgia’s U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, when he declared he won’t vote for the “For the People Act,” the multi-faceted federal election bill that would create uniform standards for federal elections.

Democrats, including Warnock, have argued that eliminating the Senate’s filibuster rule would make passing the “For the People Act” possible, even over Republican objections. Manchin’s announcement means that even eliminating the filibuster would not be enough to get the job done without Republican help.

Writing in his state’s Charleston Gazette, Manchin called the debate over voting rights “overtly politicized” and said he would not support legislation that wins only party-line support.

But Manchin added that he would support the more targeted John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, a bill that would reinstate federal preclearance for state voting laws.

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One of the biggest Democratic names in northwest Georgia is mounting a challenge against U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Wendy Davis, a Rome city councilwoman and member of the Democratic National Committee, launched her campaign on Sunday. Expect a bigger rollout later this week.

“We need a true Northwest Georgia voice for our communities in Washington,” Davis said in a release. “I’ll focus on getting results for our families, not chasing national attention with embarrassing, erratic conspiracy theories.”

With redistricting looming later this year, no one is quite sure what the boundaries of the district will look like yet. But suffice to say Davis and the other Democrats already in the hunt have an uphill battle no matter what.

The district is so solidly Republican that Greene won her 2020 race with 75% of the vote. Democrats last year could only recruit a little-known IT executive who withdrew from the race weeks before the election.

Three other Democrats have already filed paperwork to run against Greene.

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U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene last week sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting an investigation of Dr. Anthony Fauci over statements he has made about the origins of the virus that causes COVID-19, which she called, “a manufactured plague.”

Along with repeating multiple rumors and conspiracies about the origins of the virus, a Politico reporter noted that Greene also asked for a response from the administration no later than June 31, overlooking the fact this month has only 30 days.

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State Sen. Bruce Thompson officially launched his campaign for Labor Commissioner on Friday. Thompson is challenging incumbent GOP commissioner Mark Butler for his job. Two Democratic state legislators have also announced for the race.

In Thompson’s launch video, the small businessman contends that over the past year, hundreds of thousands of Georgians have not gotten the unemployment benefits they earned, while thousands of fraudulent claims for benefits have gone unchallenged.

“The agency is broken and I’m the guy to fix it.”

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Dr. John Eaves, the former chairman of the Fulton County Commission, has announced his run for Secretary of State.

If elected, the Democrat would be the first elected Black secretary of state in Georgia’s history. He would also be the first Jewish Georgian to hold the post.

In 2020, Eaves ran in a crowded field of Democrats in the 7th Congressional District race, which U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux eventually won. He also finished in the bottom ranks in the race for Atlanta mayor in 2017.

He joins state Rep. Bee Nguyen in the Democratic field competing to unseat Republican incumbent Brad Raffensperger.

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

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