The Jolt: John Lewis Capitol statue passes committee. But there’s a Hank Aaron catch.

FILE -- Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 18, 2019. Lewis, an icon of the civil rights movement, announced on Dec. 29 that he had advanced pancreatic cancer, but planned to return to Washington to continue work and begin treatment. (Alyssa Schukar/The New York Times)
FILE -- Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) on Capitol Hill in Washington, Dec. 18, 2019. Lewis, an icon of the civil rights movement, announced on Dec. 29 that he had advanced pancreatic cancer, but planned to return to Washington to continue work and begin treatment. (Alyssa Schukar/The New York Times)

Credit: ALYSSA SCHUKAR

Credit: ALYSSA SCHUKAR

MTG, “muchas gracias,” and menacing militias lead the day

It was with great bipartisan fanfare that state legislators united to back an effort to remove the figure of Confederate leader Alexander Stephens from the U.S. Capitol and replace it with a likeness of civil rights icon John Lewis.

But there could be a wrinkle in the effort to revamp Georgia’s offering to the National Statuary Hall. Though the legislation advanced Wednesday at a state House committee meeting, some Republicans voiced support for a more “unifying” pick.

“Hank Aaron’s name has come up,” said state Rep. Jodi Lott, R-Evans. “Politicians tend not to be considered unifiers.”

Indeed, we’ve heard rumblings around the Gold Dome, confirmed by three Republican sources, that the late homerun king could be swapped out for Lewis, a long-serving Democratic member of the U.S. House.

Doing so would mean unraveling a powerful coalition that includes Gov. Brian Kemp, House Speaker David Ralston and others who united behind the idea of the Lewis statue.

Of course each state gets two statues in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, so lawmakers don’t have to pick one beloved icon over the other. Georgia’s second statue is currently medical research pioneer Crawford Long.

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Under the Gold Dome, Legislative Day 12:

  • The House gavels in at 10 am;
  • The Senate convenes at 10 am;
  • House and Senate Committees meet throughout the day;
  • Off campus: Gov. Brian Kemp and Dr. Kathleen Toomey tour local Kroger vaccination site at 8:30 am.

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State Rep. Philip Singleton (R-Sharpsburg) and 36 members of the state House will hold a press conference this afternoon announcing his legislation “to preserve female-only sports in Georgia.”

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Expect today’s U.S. House floor vote to strip U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments to fall largely along party lines.

Republicans indicated as much during Wednesday’s Rules Committee meeting, where they questioned the process and precedent set by Democrats in pushing the resolution. In that way, they downplayed the proposal without engaging directly on the question of whether Greene’s past statements make her unfit to serve.

Some Republicans have been willing to criticize Greene for peddling conspiracy theories about mass shootings and QAnon and making offensive statements about Jewish people, Muslims and Black people. Still, don’t expect many of them to vote with the Democrats.

Even if no Republicans vote in favor of the resolution, it is likely to pass. That will render the freshman from Rome largely ineffective in Washington.

Greene tried to mute some of the criticism, showing remorse for some of her comments during a brief speech to House Republicans Wednesday afternoon. Reporters with sources inside the private meeting said a number of her colleagues gave Greene a standing ovation when she was done speaking.

Still, it wasn’t Greene who was invited to stand with Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy when he addressed the media after the four-hour gathering. It was Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, who had escaped with her leadership position intact after critics forced a vote. Cheney angered Trump loyalists by voting with Democrats to impeach former president Donald Trump a second time for inciting the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.

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Roll Call details the precedent for House members losing their committee assignments, which is nearly always done within each party’s caucus leadership, or being reprimanded and expelled, a move that’s been taken by the full chamber.

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POSTED: Chris Joyner has an alarming must-read on today’s front page about the extremism taking root with paramilitary militias in Georgia, including their past association with U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene:

“The leader of a private paramilitary group that provided security for Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene said he has formed alliances with other far-right groups to advocate for Georgia’s secession from the union, following the arrests of participants in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“The way patriots are now being hunted down and arrested by fellow men and women who have taken the same oath has disheartened any faith I had in the redemption or reformation of the USA as one entity,” Justin Thayer, head of the Georgia III% Martyrs, said in a text exchange with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week.

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Even if House Democrats don’t support Greene, the leader of a local Republican party clearly does.

In a letter to House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy just before Wednesday’s GOP meeting, Whitfield County Republican Party chair Dianne Putnam wrote that the party wanted to “convey its concern over the treatment” of the congresswoman.

“Marjorie has maintained, if not increased her level of support from Republican voters in the 14th Congressional District, despite relentless attacks from the Democrats, the media and come Republicans….Marjorie has our total support and we ask that you and other Republican congressmen take this into consideration before taking any negative action against our choice to represent the 14th Congressional District.”

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The Whitfield County GOP leader seems to be less cozy with state Rep. Kasey Carpenter (R-Dalton).

An eagle-eyed tipster flagged an FYN report of fireworks between party leadership and Carpenter over a bill he introduced last month to extend in-state tuition to Georgia “Dreamers,” undocumented Georgia residents who have been formally granted temporary legal immigration status after their parents brought them to the United States as minors.

After the Whitfield GOP sent an email to members warning, ”Carpenter is renewing his attempts to make Georgia a magnet for a new wave of illegal,” he responded in kind from the well of the House.

“I come today infuriated by the actions of my local GOP and one lobbyist with a weird mustache,” Carpenter told his colleagues last week. “It is not an absurd idea to allow a DACA student to pay a taxpayer rate for college when in fact they are or will be taxpayers.”

The Carpenter ended his remarks with a flourish: “Muchas gracias, Speaker.”

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The “Blue Wall” held. That’s the take away from an analysis from Zachary Hansen of how Dekalb County proved crucial to Democrats runoff wins in January. While rural Republican counties underperformed, Dekalb turnout did the opposite.

“The densely populated, mostly Democratic county had the lowest drop off in voter participation between the general election and the runoffs of any county in metro Atlanta.”

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The Macon Telegraph interviews Anita Reynolds Howard, the Macon Judicial Circuit’s newly elected district attorney, who is the first woman and first Black person to hold the job. Her territory covers Bibb, Peach and Crawford counties. She is one of several progressive Georgia D.A.s elected in 2020.

Howard talked about her new hires, her focus on social justice issues, and very real the challenges of prosecuting cases during COVID.

“The major challenge is not being able to have in-person court. There is only so much that you can really do and accomplish via Zoom. ... It's just difficult because you don't always get the participation from the folks who are out on bond to come. There's not a lot of bench warrants that are being issued. ... You don't know if these people aren't (coming to court) because they have COVID or they've been exposed to COVID, and if someone calls and says, ‘I think I've been exposed to COVID,' if we have 50 people on a (court) calendar and 30 of them call and say they're exposed to COVID, then for safety precautions we've got to tell them ... not to come."

- The Macon Telegraph

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The sometimes tense relationship between Fulton County’s elections director, Rick Barron, and the Secretary of State’s office is the focus of a deep, deep, deep-dive by Johnny Kauffman by WABE-FM in collaboration with Atlanta magazine.

The story details the now-famous moment on Election Night when Fulton election workers stopped counting for the night at State Farm Arena, only for some to be told to go back to work.

Kauffman also writes about the thaw that occurred between Barron and Georgia voting system manager Gabriel Sterling as both battled election disinformation spread by supporters of former President Donald Trump:

“In an interview, Sterling said Fulton still had things it needed to fix but described their relationship as “pretty good.” A few days later, Barron told me about a Zoom call between the Secretary of State’s office and metro Atlanta counties. Barron said, for the first time in years, he felt the state was listening to their problems and concerns. “There was almost a sense of team-building on that call,” he said.

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Great news for Augusta-based lobbyists or Washington, D.C. golf lovers with an upcoming tee time at Augusta National: Delta announced it will resume flights from Augusta to Washington Reagan National Airport next week.

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For your listening pleasure: Catch up on the week’s politics with this week’s Politically Georgia podcast from the AJC, featuring two of your Insiders.

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