The Jolt: Herschel Walker wants to talk policy now

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

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and his allies plan to use Republican Herschel Walker’s past controversial and puzzling statements against him every chance they get.

But the former football star’s campaign has a response at the ready each time they do: Footage of Warnock from 2020 questioning why Kelly Loeffler, the Republican incumbent at the time, was focused on negative attacks and not talking about campaign issues.

A new 30-second digital ad from the Walker campaign uses that footage and ends with a flash of bold letters on the screen: “If this campaign is about the issues, Warnock will lose.”

Walker spokeswoman Mallory Blount followed up thusly:

“Five words you didn’t hear in Warnock’s negative attack ad - inflation, gas prices, baby formula. He’s already slinging mud two weeks into the election because Warnock knows if the race is about issues - he will lose.”

We haven’t heard Walker address ways to improve the baby formula shortage or suggest exactly how to bring down inflation either, but he has consistently pushed to expand domestic oil production as a way to reduce gas prices.

Warnock has called for Congress to suspend the federal gas tax and detailed specific measures to bring down the cost of insulin and health care, and to improve supply chain problems to make goods more affordable.

A spokeswoman for Walker said he also supports suspending the federal gas tax.

With the two battling over the crucial Senate seat, look for more contrasts, policy-based and otherwise, coming to a screen and mailbox near you.


ABRAMS ON ABORTION. Stacey Abrams gave a wide ranging interview to the Washington Post about her conversion from opposing abortion as a college student to now supporting full abortion access for women.

Abortion rights could be a decisive issue in the 2022 election, with the U.S. Supreme Court considering overturning Roe v. Wade. In 2019, Gov. Brian Kemp signed Georgia’s six-week abortion ban into law. More:

“For me, the conversion was slow, but it was true and it remained. Because fundamentally, the answer is that this is a medical decision and it is a personal decision. And in neither of those two instances should there be any intervention by a politician."

- The Washington Post


LISTEN UP. The June 21 runoffs in Georgia are less than two weeks away. Catch up on the statewide and congressional races we’re watching in our midweek edition of the Politically Georgia podcast.

Listen and subscribe to our podcast for free at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.


JAN. 6 HEARINGS. The U.S. Capitol police officer who will testify at Thursday night’s inaugural hearing of the Jan. 6 Committee is from Georgia.

Officer Caroline Edwards is an Atlanta native and graduate of the University of Georgia. The Committee says that she was the first law enforcement officer injured by rioters who stormed the Capitol and suffered a traumatic brain injury.

The hearing will begin at 8 p.m. Thursday and will be carried live on most networks and major cable channels except for Fox News.

The committee has said its second hearing will be on Monday morning.


PAK TALKS. Former Atlanta-based U.S. attorney Byung “BJay” Pak is also open to testifying publicly at one of the hearings hosted by the U.S. House committee investigating Jan. 6, we’ve learned.

He told one of your Insiders Tuesday that the committee has reached out to his attorney and the discussions are ongoing, confirming a report by the New York Times.

We know that Pak has already spoken privately with the House and Senate committees investigating the root causes of the Capitol attack.

Pak resigned abruptly, days before the insurrection, after refusing to support then-President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 general election results in Georgia.


GUN DEAL. We caught up with Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock after they attended Senate Democrats’ weekly lunch to ask about progress of Senate negotiations on gun control legislation.

Neither would say what they want in the legislation and instead said they want to see what Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican, can produce in an agreement.

But Ossoff and Warnock both said something must be done in light of recent mass shootings, particularly the Uvalde, Texas, massacre at an elementary school.

Warnock said it would be a “moment of moral failure” if Congress fails to act.

“What we get passed is not going to be everything we want,” Warnock said. “But we need to break this logjam.”


COASTAL CLASH. Tensions are flaring between Wade Herring and Joyce Marie Griggs in the 1st Congressional District races to challenge U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter in November.

The Savannah Morning News reports Herring, a Savannah lawyer who has raised more than $600,000 for the race, is calling Griggs “a demonstrated loser,” since she ran against Carter and lost in 2020.

Griggs, a retired Army officer who finished ahead of Herring last month, said she’s putting more “boots on the ground” to tell voters her story.

“I feel that they believe that I’m the one that should be in there.”


Today in Washington:

  • The U.S. House will begin debate on a slate of gun control measures and could start taking votes.
  • Rep. Lucy McBath is joining House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and gun safety activists for an 11 a.m. rally.
  • President Joe Biden is traveling to Los Angeles where he will host the Ninth Summit of the Americas. Also catch him tonight on Jimmy Kimmel Live.


GERRYMANDERED! Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes when politicians redraw boundaries to help their own reelections? Our AJC colleague Drew Kann has the goods.

Kann reviewed text messages between Public Service Commission members Tim Echols and Tricia Pridemore that revealed an effort to draw Democrat Patty Durand out of Echols’ district.

“Don’t forget to get her home address and send to me please,” Pridemore wrote in reference to Durand in a Jan. 26 text message obtained by Durand amid litigation and reviewed by the AJC.

These types of secretive conversations happened routinely under the Gold Dome in the runup to redistricting. But we rarely have concrete evidence of how elected officials seek to influence the process.

Echols and Pridemore have both declined comment, citing the ongoing litigation. And election law experts say the dispatches likely didn’t violate state laws.

But as Yurij Rudensky of the Brennan Center for Justice said: “The text messages are shocking in how brazenly narrow personal interests are driving decisions that should be made with a much more public-interest minded approach.”


AD WATCH. Congressional candidates Jeremy Hunt and Vernon Jones have each released their first campaign ads of the runoff season.

Hunt, who is competing in the Republican runoff in Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District, titled his ad “Farmer” and uses the spot to argue that policies under President Joe Biden and incumbent Rep. Sanford Bishop are making it harder to buy gas, fertilizer and tractor parts.

“What are Joe Biden and Sanford Bishop doing about it?” Hunt asks a local farmer.

“Not a damn thing,” the farmer says.

Jones, the Donald Trump-endorsed candidate in the 10th Congressional District, has a spot titled “Trust” that features people talking about his platform and ends with Trump himself reiterating his support for the Democrat-turned-Republican.

And 34N22, the Super PAC supporting Herschel Walker for Senate, released another ad this week, this time hitting Sen. Raphael Warnock with assertions about President Joe Biden’s immigration policies. We have yet to see any similar Super PAC spending on behalf of Warnock.


SPEAKER JONES? As long as we’re watching Vernon Jones videos, we’ll share one from 2019, when Jones was a vocal state House Democrat warning Republicans that if they passed the state’s 6-week abortion ban, the backlash would usher in a wave of Democratic power, including possibly him as the next Democratic Speaker of the House.

“There’s going to be a new Speaker of the House here, maybe Vernon Jones, don’t underestimate,” Jones told his colleagues.


In endorsement news:

  • State Sen. Tonya Anderson is backing state Rep. Bee Nguyen’s bid for secretary of state in the June 21 runoff.
  • State Rep. Will Wade, whose district includes Dawson County, has endorsed Rich McCormick in the runoff in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, which will also include Dawson County, too.
  • The Collective PAC is backing Kwanza Hall for lieutenant governor, William Boddie for labor commissioner and Imani Barnes in State House District 86. The PAC says its mission is “to build Black political power.”


KEYNOTE. Senate candidate Herschel Walker and U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk will both be featured speakers at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Policy Conference later this month.

The conference, which will be held in Nashville, is a major gathering of conservative activists billed as “the nation’s premiere pro-faith, pro-family event.”


POSTED: Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens is the new chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ new Public-Private Partnership Task Force.

At a conference in Reno, Nev., over the weekend, Dickens presented the Atlanta BeltLine and the At-Promise Centers as ways the partnerships can produce long-term wins on infrastructure for communities.


GREEN CLOUDS. The renewable energy industry is seeding a manufacturing renaissance in Georgia decades after textile and other industries moved operations overseas.

But the AJC’s Drew Kann writes that QCells, the solar panel maker expanding operations in Dalton, is warning that a Biden administration move to lift tariffs on Chinese panels could endanger its American-based business. QCells has asked Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to intervene on its behalf.

In the meantime, the Wall Street Journal has a huge piece on Rivian, the EV maker wooed to Georgia by Gov. Brian Kemp, and its significant struggles to stand up its first manufacturing operation in Illinois. Despite the stall in getting cars off the line, the Journal reports this morning that Rivian’s CEO was awarded a $400 million compensation package last year.


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