The Jolt: How badly do Sonny Perdue’s allies want him overseeing Georgia’s universities?

CLAXTON, GA - JANUARY 7, 2021: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue speaks at an event at the Spring Hollow Farm in Claxton, Ga. about bringing high speed internet to two rural Georgia counties. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
CLAXTON, GA - JANUARY 7, 2021: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue speaks at an event at the Spring Hollow Farm in Claxton, Ga. about bringing high speed internet to two rural Georgia counties. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

How badly do the powers-that-be want Sonny Perdue to be the next chancellor of Georgia’s higher education system? We could soon find out.

The former governor is still being seriously considered for the high-profile position overseeing Georgia’s public colleges and universities. But we’re picking up on mounting grumbling from Board of Regents members against the idea.

UPDATES: After the story ran, the Board of Regents announced it was pausing its search for a new leader.

“We value the input received from faculty, staff, students, and community leaders throughout this process and want to ensure we meet the expectations of this challenging, yet critically important time in higher education,” the Regents said in a statement.

Back to original story:

We talked to multiple members of the 19-person board, which will get the final say on the hire, who described the opposition to Perdue with words like “stifling” and “staunch.”

One regent expected a pressure campaign to ratchet up in the next few weeks, while another cited internal conversations that suggested deep concerns about tapping the Republican to the vaunted position. Faculty and students at various campuses have pointed out that the veteran politician has no leadership experience at a college or university.

Neither Perdue nor the higher education system have publicly acknowledged that he’s interested in replacing retiring chancellor Steve Wrigley, but senior state officials have confirmed he’s a strong contender for the job.

Perdue recently finished a stint as former President Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary, and was one of the few Cabinet secretaries and top aides who remained in their jobs throughout Trump’s term in the White House.

It sets up a test of the limits of Perdue’s political network, among the most powerful in the state, as well as Gov. Brian Kemp, who has broad influence over the chancellor position and deep ties to the former governor.

We need not remind you that Perdue picked Kemp in 2010 to fill the open post of secretary of state, giving him a leg up over Republican rivals months before the election.

And Trump credited Perdue with helping to talk him into endorsing Kemp during a bitter 2018 GOP runoff for governor, powering his runaway victory over Casey Cagle.

Some of Perdue’s supporters dismissed talk of the criticism and said there’s time to win over skeptics. Wrigley is retiring July 1 and education officials want to have his successor in place by next month.

How much political capital is Kemp willing to put on the line to help out his ally? Does Perdue’s network still have the juice to land him the coveted and well-paid appointment?

And will there be a counter-campaign from Regents and others worried that fast-tracking Perdue will threaten the system’s independence?

Stay tuned.

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Georgia’s colleges and universities are returning to the traditions of spring again, including graduation ceremonies that many missed or postponed last year.

The names of the graduation speakers will be familiar to Jolt readers.

Georgia’s U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, who graduated from Morehouse College, will be the commencement speaker for Clayton State University and Morehouse School of Medicine, where he’ll also be awarded an honorary doctorate degree. The senator will also give remarks to Emory University’s Oxford College commencement.

Gov. Brian Kemp and Delta CEO Ed Bastian head to a press conference after touring the Covid-19 vaccination site set up at the Delta Flight Museum in Hapeville on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 24, 2021.Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Gov. Brian Kemp and Delta CEO Ed Bastian head to a press conference after touring the Covid-19 vaccination site set up at the Delta Flight Museum in Hapeville on Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 24, 2021.Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Delta CEO Ed Bastian, who has made headlines of his own recently, will keynote one of Georgia Tech’s two commencements for its bachelor’s graduates.

Emory University’s College of Arts & Science grads will hear from Dr. Anthony Fauci. Very appropriately, Emory announced, “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, his address will be given virtually and will be available to all Emory graduates and the university community via livestream.”

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff will be the keynote speaker at Emory’s Class Day, the student-organized event for bachelor’s graduates.

And up in Bulldog Heaven, the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism has tapped one of your Insiders, Greg Bluestein, to inspire its graduates’ young minds during this year’s spring convocation. Listen to (almost) everything he says, kids.

***

Sabrina Greene-Kent announced she’s running for the state House seat in the Lowcountry’s District 165, expected to be vacated by the ailing Rep. Mickey Stephens, the Savannah Morning News reports.

More on the next steps for the seat:

“The responsibility for holding the election falls on the shoulders of the county it affects, in this case, Chatham.

“Greene-Kent would run as a Democrat and would be a challenger to two other candidates who have already said they were running or considering a run.

“Chatham County Elections Board Member Antwan Lang, also a Democrat, announced his candidacy last week. Former Savannah Mayor Edna Jackson, another Democrat, is also considering throwing her hat in the ring. Additional candidates are expected in the race.”

***

03/15/2021 —Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Rep. Derrick Jackson (D-Tyrone) speaks to a group gathered to peacefully protest HB 531 and SB 241 outside of the World of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta, Monday, March 15, 2021. The group of activists from different organizations staged a die-in outside of the World of Coca-Cola to protest HB SB 241 and HB 531. These bills, which deal with the Georgia elections, aim to change the voting process. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
03/15/2021 —Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Rep. Derrick Jackson (D-Tyrone) speaks to a group gathered to peacefully protest HB 531 and SB 241 outside of the World of Coca-Cola in downtown Atlanta, Monday, March 15, 2021. The group of activists from different organizations staged a die-in outside of the World of Coca-Cola to protest HB SB 241 and HB 531. These bills, which deal with the Georgia elections, aim to change the voting process. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

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

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

POSTED: Yet another state House Democrat has announced he is seeking higher office in 2022.

State Rep. Derrick Jackson will run for lieutenant governor. As we reported Wednesday, Johnson said he’ll focus his campaign on his more than two decades of service in the U.S. Navy and his three terms representing a Fayette-based district in the Legislature.

Jackson joins the race that already includes Democratic state Rep. Erick Allen and will likely attract multiple Republicans, since Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan has indicated he won’t seek reelection.

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FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2021, file photo, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Congressional leaders have always faced rebels in their ranks. But Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene are presenting top House Republicans with a test of how to handle a new breed of Trump-era, social media-savvy firebrands. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 5, 2021, file photo, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Congressional leaders have always faced rebels in their ranks. But Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene are presenting top House Republicans with a test of how to handle a new breed of Trump-era, social media-savvy firebrands. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Credit: Susan Walsh

Credit: Susan Walsh

Democrats in the U.S. House, with the blessing of Republican leaders, have found a temporary work-around to far-right members’ insistence on roll-call votes on mundane and bipartisan legislation.

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and other conservative members were blocking easy passage of so-called “suspension” bills as a form of protest about unrelated legislation, leading the 435-member body to spend extra hours on floor votes. The practice was wearing thin, even on their fellow Republicans.

For the past two days, the rules have been revised to allow these “suspension” bills to be voted on en bloc, or all at once. House leaders said this new rule saved them about seven hours of voting in just one day alone.

The question now is whether Greene, R-Rome, and her comrades come up with a new way to slow down action in Washington.

***

Six Georgia Republicans are cosponsoring a U.S. House bill that would strip antitrust protections from Major League Baseball after the organization moved its all-star game from Georgia in protest of the state’s new election law.

The only two delegation Republicans who have not backed the proposal are Reps. Drew Ferguson and Barry Loudermilk, whose district includes parts of Cobb County near Truist Park where the Braves play. Among the 29 original cosponsors are Georgia’s Buddy Carter, Austin Scott, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jody Hice, Rick Allen and Andrew Clyde.

“Georgians believe in election security and we won’t be bullied by ‘woke’ mega-corporations like Major League Baseball who do business with totalitarian communist regimes like China and Cuba,” Clyde, R-Athens, said in a statement. “If MLB wants to play hard ball, I am happy to oblige.”

Of course, with Democrats in control in the House and Senate, it’s highly unlikely this bill will go anywhere. However, it gives us another example of Republicans’ attempting to punish businesses that have criticized states’ efforts to overhaul election laws after the 2020 cycle.

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The U.S. Senate is expected to pass anti hate-crimes legislation today that was motivated in part by the Atlanta spa shootings that left six Asian women dead.

Senators from both parties announced Wednesday afternoon they had reached agreement on amendments that would allow the bill to move forward to final passage without Republicans filibustering the measure. The legislation, currently titled the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, was the first big test this congressional session of whether a priority of the new Democratic majority would be stifled by the 60-vote threshold to pass bills in the Senate.

Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock, one of the primary sponsors of the measure, said at a news conference earlier this week that he fought for the names of the victims of the Atlanta area mass shooting last month to be included in the bill.

“I’m especially proud that my colleagues worked with me to include a critical provision in this legislation that names and acknowledges the pain and experiences of Georgia’s AAPI community specifically, and makes sure we never forget the names attached to lives and families that we lost in the horrific shootings in Atlanta,” he said.

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