Look no further than former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who made a not-so-quiet visit to her old stomping grounds at the U.S. Capitol this week and then posted a message to Instagram that her return reminded her how grateful she is “to serve the great state and people of Georgia — and our exceptional country.”
Loeffler, who spent heavily to build a pro-Republican grassroots network after her 2021 defeat, is seen as a possible contender to take on Ossoff in four years. So are a range of other GOP figures: Attorney General Chris Carr, U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter and Drew Ferguson, and so on.
But the biggest name is Gov. Brian Kemp, who has left the door open to the possibility of a Senate bid. He’s created a federal PAC and bolstered his political network even before he’s started his second term. Notably, he’s also a favorite of Mitch McConnell, especially after signing over his massive get-out-the-vote operation over to the Senate GOP leader’s political organization for the Herschel Walker runoff campaign.
The race for governor will also be wide open. Keep an early eye out on incoming Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, Agriculture Commissioner-elect Tyler Harper, Insurance Commissioner John King, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and — if they don’t run for Senate — Carr, Loeffler and Ferguson.
On the Democratic side, we wouldn’t count out state Sen. Jen Jordan, who lost her bid for attorney general in November; Jason Carter, the party’s 2014 gubernatorial nominee; and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.
(Among those missing from the list is U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams. But we think she may well end up competing to be the next U.S. House speaker down the line rather than running for a statewide post.)
Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC
Credit: Steve Schaefer/AJC
LISTEN UP. If that’s not enough speculation for you, then tune into the Friday edition of the Politically Georgia podcast, which is now ready for your eager ears. We’re talking about what’s next for Stacey Abrams, what’s next for Georgia’s general election runoff system, and answering your questions with a deep dive into the Politically Georgia mailbag.
We’ll be on a reduced schedule for the next two weeks, but still delivering fresh episodes to your podcast feeds, so be sure to subscribe at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast platform.
TIKTOK SENATOR. During the heady days of the 2021 runoff, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff caught outsized attention for his campaign’s viral TikTok videos that tapped into youthful memes that confused even savvy millennials.
Since then, the social media app has come under increasing fire for its ties to China and threats of security breaches. On Thursday, Gov. Brian Kemp joined roughly a dozen other state leaders in blocking public employees from using state-owned devices to access TikTok, WeChat, or Telegram.
Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC
Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC
In a directive to state agencies, Kemp said information about the apps’ connections to the Chinese Communist Party had come to light, as well as information about “the threat that TikTok poses to government security.”
So where does that leave Ossoff? His TikTok account, which racked up millions of views, has gone dormant, with its last post logged in November 2021.
His office didn’t comment on his stance on the platform, but his voting record speaks for itself: Ossoff joined a unanimous U.S. Senate vote this week for a measure to block federal employees from using TikTok on government-owned devices.
HOUSE ARREST. Weeks after he was elected to a Georgia House seat, Republican Danny Rampey was arrested on charges of swiping prescription narcotics from a residence at a Winder retirement complex where he works.
“We had a couple of instances of him on video taking the items and today we had one as well,” Barrow County Sheriff Jud Smith told the Athens Banner-Herald. “We actually filmed him going into the residence and taking the items.”
Rampey, a former chair of the Barrow County Chamber of Commerce, is set to take office in January after steamrolling a Republican opponent in the GOP primary and running unopposed in the November election. He is to succeed retiring state Rep. Terry England.
An attorney representing Rampey couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.
What happens next is unclear. The state Constitution lays out a process that could be used to suspend Rampey if he takes office, but senior party officials say they hope he resigns to set up a special election for the solidly Republican seat.
In a joint statement, House GOP leaders Jan Jones and Jon Burns did not go into detail of what’s next.
“Obviously this is disturbing news as we take very seriously any allegation of criminal activity by members or members-elect. However, as this is an on-going law enforcement investigation, we will withhold any further comment for the time being.”
RUN OVER RUNOFFS. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger got a vote Friday for his call to end general election runoffs in Georgia from an unexpected source: The Washington Post’s editorial board.
“Whatever the motivations, and however unpredictable the consequences, we believe legislators can make voting easier while maintaining election integrity. We don’t think it’s fair to require Americans to vote twice to make their voices heard.”
Credit: Rebecca Wright for the AJC
Credit: Rebecca Wright for the AJC
DEMOCRATIC SHAKEUP. After eight years as a Democratic Party of Georgia officer, Ted Terry is stepping aside to “give other leaders from the grassroots of our party an opportunity” to make their mark.
Terry, a DeKalb County commissioner, won’t run for another term as the party’s first vice chair. Instead, he’s endorsing James Woodall, a former Georgia NAACP president and prominent civil rights advocate who is seeking the post.
“He has the energy and drive that our party needs right now,” said Terry.
GEORGIA BLACK CAUCUS. State Rep. Carl Gilliard, D-Savannah, will chair the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus for the term beginning Jan. 9.
Georgia has the largest legislative Black caucus of any state, with 69 members as of January.
Gilliard said in a news release that he wants to spend the year focused on identifying solutions for issues raised by Black farmers and related to economic development. He also plans to launch the “Chairman’s Roundtable” event series featuring elected officials from across Georgia.
JAN. 6 REPORT. The U.S. House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol will unveil its final report and recommendations during a business meeting on Monday afternoon.
U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the committee chairman, told reporters that he was hoping to get the report printed this week and Monday’s meeting will include a preview of the eight-chapter tome, plus an executive summary.
The committee is also working to produce a list of people to refer for either criminal prosecution or ethics investigations.
The select committee is authorized for this congress only, so Monday’s report is likely the last we’ll see of this group in an official capacity.
GETTING IT DONE. The Senate on Thursday evening signed off on the $858 billion National Defense Authorization Act, as well as legislation that will keep the federal government funded for another week.
That means when members of Congress return next week, the only big-ticket item on the agenda is a long-term spending plan to keep the government operating until October of 2023.
The military policy and spending plan the Senate approved Thursday night includes pay raises for service members plus money for construction and new equipment at bases across the nation, including Georgia. It also has language rescinding COVID-19 vaccination mandates for active duty personnel.
Georgia U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both Democrats, celebrated its passage, saying they worked hard to make sure the state’s priorities were reflected in the legislation.
“Georgia notched notable wins in this year’s defense package, including bolstering Georgia’s military bases, ensuring our state is a crucial component to our nation’s national defense for years to come and securing more affordable military housing for servicemembers and their families,” Warnock said in a news release after the vote.
The measure now goes to President Joe Biden to sign into law. But first, Biden is expected to sign the stopgap government funding bill, known as a continuing resolution. Without it, federal agencies would begin shutting down today at midnight.
TICK TOCK, SENATORS. In between working on appropriations next week, expect the U.S. Senate to also try to push through as many confirmations as possible. These are expected to be the final legislative days of the current Congress, meaning anyone not confirmed by the time senators leave will have to be reappointed by President Joe Biden and start the process again.
Former state Rep. Calvin Smyre, who was nominated to serve as ambassador to the Bahamas, is among those whose confirmations are still pending.
TODAY IN WASHINGTON:
- The U.S. Senate and House are both done for the week.
- President Joe Biden is traveling to Delaware where he will deliver remarks at an event for veterans held at a National Guard center named for his late son, Beau Biden.
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