The Jolt: Judge to hear abortion law challenge ahead of Election Day

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Despite a request from state attorneys, Fulton County Superior Judge Robert McBurney won’t delay a trial over Georgia’s new abortion law. He is pictured in an Atlanta courtroom on Aug. 25, 2022. (Bob Andres for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Bob Andres for the AJC

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Despite a request from state attorneys, Fulton County Superior Judge Robert McBurney won’t delay a trial over Georgia’s new abortion law. He is pictured in an Atlanta courtroom on Aug. 25, 2022. (Bob Andres for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Bob Andres for the AJC

Despite a request from state attorneys, Fulton County Superior Judge Robert McBurney won’t delay a trial over Georgia’s new abortion law, our AJC colleague Maya T. Prabhu reports.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed the “heartbeat bill” into law in 2019, and it went into effect earlier this year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The law bans most abortions after a doctor can detect cardiac activity, typically at about six weeks of pregnancy and before many know they are pregnant.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / AJC

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / AJC

McBurney has scheduled a two-day bench trial for Oct. 24-25 to hear arguments from abortion rights supporters who want him to block the new restrictions from being enforced. State lawyers will contend the law should remain in effect because “abortion always harms a third party.”

Last week, the state asked McBurney to either cancel or postpone the trial, citing the upcoming Nov. 8 election and other issues. In an order issued , McBurney made it clear he has no intention of doing that.

“The state has offered four reasons for this ‘cancellation,’ which can be summarized as ‘We are really busy with other things,’ ‘There are no facts in dispute,’ ‘We don’t know what facts are in dispute,’ and ‘You can’t do what you are trying to do,’” McBurney wrote.

“The court’s response, detailed below, can be summarized as ‘Who isn’t?,’ ‘There are,’ ‘You do,’ and ‘I can,’” he added, saying the schedule to begin on Oct. 24 is “both workable and reasonable.”

That puts the public phase of the abortion challenge on the calendar just two weeks before the Nov. 8 midterm elections, when Democrats believe abortion will play a key role in the decisions of most voters.


Credit: Ben Gray for the AJC

Credit: Ben Gray for the AJC

ANOTHER WALKER TALKER. Yet another Herschel Walker headline rocked the political world last night when the Daily Beast reported that the same woman who accused Walker earlier this week of paying for her 2009 is also the mother of one of his four children.

The GOP Senate nominee had called the Daily Beast’s earlier report that he paid for an abortion a “flat-out lie” and told Fox News he has no idea who the woman is, since she has remained unnamed.

His campaign issued a terse statement last night: “There is no truth to this or any other Daily Beast report.”

Walker released a new ad on Wednesday, vaguely responding to the first report and blaming U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, although he doesn’t explain how the two are connected.

“The Revered doesn’t even tell my full story, my true story. Everyone knows I had a real battle with mental health … and but by the grace of God, I’ve overcome it.”

The former football star will try to stabilize his campaign against Warnock today with a rally at a lumber yard in the east Georgia town of Wadley, not far from his hometown of Wrightsville.

Walker’s son Christian, who lashed out at his father on social media earlier this week, responded to the latest report with a rebuke to wear a condom.


Credit: Curtis Compton / AJC

Credit: Curtis Compton / AJC

BIG MONEY. Georgia’s marquee candidates have reported raising huge sums of money, according to the last full quarter reports before Election Day.

Gov. Brian Kemp collected nearly $29 million in the three-month period, while fellow Republican Herschel Walker raised more than $12 million for his bid.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock took in more than $26 million for his reelection campaign. And Stacey Abrams, who will report this week, will likely top them all.

Down-ticket candidates have raked in impressive hauls, too. State Rep. Bee Nguyen will report she raised more than $1 million for her bid for secretary of state, and she’ll end the period with $1.2 million on hand.


MEET US AT MANUEL’S. Join us next Tuesday at the world-famous Manuel’s Tavern in Atlanta for a live taping of the Politically Georgia podcast. We’ll have drinks, apps, and a guest you all know. If only we had something to talk about.

For all the details, go to


RING MASTER. U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has a new role, according to Michael Bender of the New York Times.

She’s “become a reliable warm-up act at Donald Trump’s rallies,” he reports, “a role once reserved for Mike Pence.”

She’s set to speak at Trump’s Arizona rally on Sunday — her fourth appearance in his last six rallies.

As we noted earlier this week, Trump’s camp is now unlikely to stage a rally in Georgia, despite talks last month about a mid-October visit.

We’re told senior Republicans shared polling data with Trump’s advisers that showed a visit was more likely to hurt Herschel Walker and other GOP candidates than help them.


CARR FOR KEMP. In his first TV ad, Republican Attorney General Chris Carr is tying himself closely to his most important GOP ally: Gov. Brian Kemp.

He highlights support for Kemp’s decision to reopen businesses and encourage schools to return to in-person classes during the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, Maya T. Prabhu reports.

“As attorney general, my job is to protect and defend our state. Some days that’s prosecuting bad guys. Other days, it’s keeping our kids learning,” Carr says in the 30-second spot.


DOWN-TICKET BLITZ. In other ad news, GOP state Sen. Burt Jones launched a $1.5 million ad campaign Wednesday for his bid for lieutenant governor, our colleague Maya T. Prabhu notes.

“Growing up in a small town, you quickly learn the importance of giving back to your community,” Jones says, highlighting promises to end the state income tax and giving parents more say in school policies.

The spot takes a different approach from Charlie Bailey’s latest ad, which calls Jones “a poster boy for extremism.” Jones’ ad does not mention his opponent’s name.


CAR DEALERS’ CASH. It’s good to have insurance, especially when you’re in the car business.

New car dealers have been fighting for years to make sure electric vehicle manufacturers like Rivian, which is planning a plant east of Atlanta, are not allowed to sell directly to Georgia consumers. Tesla has a small exception, but others still have to sell their vehicles through car dealers.

Earlier this year, the powerful car dealers’ lobby put its campaign donations behind Senate President Pro-Tem Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, in his bid for lieutenant governor. Miller is a car dealer and has been credited with stalling the direct-to-consumer bills.

But our colleague James Salzer reports the car dealers have their money on a new pony.

In the latest campaign filings, Salzer notes they gave $7,600 to Miller’s primary rival, state Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, for his general election bid, along with another $50,000 to Jones’ leadership committee. Jones had initially signed onto the pro-Rivian legislation this year, before removing his name from the list.

The dealers have also donated $7,400 to Gov. Brian Kemp’s reelection campaign this year and another $40,000 to his leadership committee.

We don’t know yet whether the e-car companies have donated to Kemp’s and Jones’ leadership committees.

But if Rivian and its fellow e-vehicle companies make another run at their legislation next year, they’ll do so knowing the state’s leadership received major political backing from their opponents-- if Kemp and Jones win.


WEST WORLD. Chris West, the Republican nominee in Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District, released two TV ads on Wednesday.

In the “Roots” spot, the narrator highlights West’s background as an Air Force veteran who supports “common sense” values. The second ad, titled “One of Us,” describes incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop as “just another Washington liberal” who “is not one of us … not anymore.”

West’s camp said he is spending six figures on the ads.


BOTTOMS DOWN. Politico’s West Wing Playbook has reported in-house complaints about former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ schedule as head of the White House Office of Public Engagement. As we told you earlier, she usually flies home to her family in Atlanta on Thursdays for her son’s Friday football games, cutting the work week short.

Bottoms has reportedly also told staff she only plans to stay on the job through the midterms, creating uncertainty about the position for the final two years of President Joe Biden’s first term.

More from West Wing:

A White House official said that both Lance Bottoms' travel schedule and her likely departure were part of her arrangement when the White House convinced her to join in June. Biden has long pushed his staff to prioritize family obligations, and the official said Lance Bottoms flies back on Thursdays to attend her son's football games. The official also noted that Lance Bottoms pays for her lodging and travel, and works remotely on Fridays.

Cedric Richmond, the former Louisiana congressman who headed OPE before Lance Bottoms, dismissed the drama to West Wing Playbook. “I think a lot of this is just the same bullshit reporting that the vice president went through as a Black female. I flew home every weekend for a whole year, and nobody said shit."

- Politico


VOTER GUIDES. The Atlanta Civic Circle and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are partnering to produce a voters’ guide for the 2022 general election.

Candidates were sent questionnaires to the email addresses disclosed in their election filing documents. Any candidates who did not receive a questionnaire can e-mail AJC Managing Editor Leroy Chapman at


PERSONNEL MOVES. Jared McKinley is the new district director for U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams in Atlanta. McKinley previously served as Williams’ Constituent Services Manager and is a veteran of Congressman John Lewis’s district office. Williams’ former district director, Aaron Johnson, is now serving as chief of staff for Atlanta City Council President Doug Shipman.


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