The Jolt: Kelly Loeffler’s message for past (and future?) rival, Doug Collins

FILE -- Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) wait to greet President Donald Trump at the airport in Atlanta on Sept. 25, 2020. Collins is running in a special election against Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat; but the Democrat in that race, Raphael Warnock, is now leading in a poll. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)
FILE -- Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) wait to greet President Donald Trump at the airport in Atlanta on Sept. 25, 2020. Collins is running in a special election against Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat; but the Democrat in that race, Raphael Warnock, is now leading in a poll. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times)

Credit: Wire

Credit: Wire

By now, you may have seen the news about former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s new foray into Georgia politics: A group she just launched called Greater Georgia that’s focused on boosting voter registration and building party infrastructure.

It’s the conservative counterweight to Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight voting rights group, and it could pave the way for a Loeffler comeback bid against newly elected Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.

First, though, she’d have to win a Republican primary. The field is frozen until former U.S. Sen. David Perdue decides whether he’ll run, and we’ve told you why we’re skeptical about talk of a fresh Perdue campaign.

Then there’s her old archrival, Doug Collins, who challenged Loeffler from her right last year and finished third-place in the special election. Collins is contemplating another bid, too, but Loeffler had pointed words about that possibility.

Said Loeffler:

“I appreciate Doug’s service to our country. I appreciate his work in our runoff. I beat Doug by six points in the general election. But the outcome is what happens when Republicans team up with Democrats to attack other Republicans.

“It doesn’t end well for Republicans, and it hurt us up and down the ticket. My focus is on lessons learned. We need to make sure that together, we’re moving forward, and strengthening our party, not tearing it apart.”

We also asked her several times whether she blamed former President Donald Trump for the GOP upsets in January.

Trump promoted false claims of systemic voter fraud and warred with Georgia Republicans about his election defeat, undercutting the push for party unity ahead of the runoffs. Loeffler echoed many of his claims during the campaign.

“I’ll leave that to the pundits, because during the nine-week runoff every single day I woke up to work hard to get our message out,” she said, repeating a version of that line several other times during the interview.

As she floated the notion of another run, she said the searing spotlight on the runoff proved she could “rise to the challenge.”

“We controlled every variable that was within our control. And we also learned a lot. And that’s the basis for Greater Georgia…We can look back and look at every element, and see what we could have done differently, but I worked every single day to deliver results, which we did. Sadly, we didn’t win. But we’re going to apply those lessons to make sure that we win in the future.”

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POSTED: Look for the U.S. Supreme Court today to hear oral arguments in Florida v. Georgia, the epic water rights case that has been brewing between the two states for years.

The AJC’s Tamar Hallerman has the story of the many Georgians who will be affected by the Court’s decision.

And SCOTUS blog details what’s happening today in Washington and why, including this bit of background:

“At issue is whether the court will require Georgia to cap its water use in the Apalachicola River system and allow more water to flow downstream into Florida. Georgia says its water use is reasonable and insists that a cap would severely harm the Atlanta metropolitan area and the state's agricultural industry. Florida says that Georgia is using far more than its fair share of the water, depleting flows into the Apalachicola Basin and wreaking havoc on Florida's oyster fisheries.

“Because the dispute is between two states, it falls under the Supreme Court's original jurisdiction – meaning it has not been litigated in the lower courts. Critical to the case are reports by two different court-appointed special masters, as well as thorny questions of evidence and the addition of two new justices since the last time this case was before the court in 2018. Given the special master's most recent report and the acting U.S. solicitor general's recommendations, Florida faces a challenge to prove its case for an “equitable apportionment" decree.

- SCOTUS Blog

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There was a conspicuous absence at Gov. Brian Kemp’s press conference last week touting legislation that would crack down on dangerous illegal street racing in Atlanta: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Unlike the cozy city-state relationship under two terms of Gov. Nathan Deal, Kemp and Bottoms remain at an icy impasse.

The relations aren’t as sour as they were last year, when Kemp was locked in a legal battle with City Hall over the governor’s strategy to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

But they’re still far from the alliance that helped Deal and then-Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed broker compromises and win economic development projects. Nor are Bottoms and Kemp on the same page on key policy debates.

Last week, the mayor turned heads by urging NBA fans not to visit Atlanta for the NBA All-Star Game in March. Kemp followed up with a tweet welcoming the event to the city.

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While we’re on that note, two of our loyal readers sent us two separate online polls that raised interesting potential political matchups.

The first was sent to Democrats and included these two questions:

“Kasim Reed is the previous mayor of Atlanta. Should he run for mayor again or is it better if others have a chance to run?”

And, “In the race for mayor, would you vote for Keisha Bottoms or vote for Kasim Reed?”

The second quizzed Republican-leaning voters about their support for a host of potential candidates, including two long-shot contenders: Former Gov. Sonny Perdue and legendary UGA running back Herschel Walker.

It also polled voters on potential head-to-head matchups between Gov. Brian Kemp and two possible challengers: Former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins and state Sen. Burt Jones.

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Under the Gold Dome (Legislative Day 20):

  • 8:00 am: House and Senate committee hearings begin, including a 4:45 Senate Ethics Committee hearing on two elections bills;
  • 10:00 am: The House convenes;
  • 10:00 am: The Senate gavels in.

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We’re expecting Atlanta City Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong to announce a run for Council president today now that Felicia Moore is challenging Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

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After getting raked over the coals for refusing to resign his secretary of state seat during the 2018 elections, does Gov. Brian Kemp really want new oversight of the state election system heading into the 2022 vote?

That issue could come front-and-center in the Legislature soon as HB 492, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Shaw Blackmon, gets a closer look.

The measure would grant the governor power to appoint the chair of the State Election Board and reduce the secretary of state to a non-voting member of the five-person panel.

We expect it would also be catnip to Democrats, who pilloried Kemp for not stepping down as secretary of state during his 2018 bid for governor against Stacey Abrams.

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Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight Action organization is stepping up its visibility this week in opposition to a slate of proposals from Republican lawmakers that would tighten voting access in Georgia.

On Sunday, which would have been Congressman John Lewis’ 81st birthday, Abrams posted a tribute to Lewis on social media, along with details of Fair Fight’s plans to mobilize against HB 531, state Rep. Barry Fleming’s omnibus elections bill:

“To honor Congressman John Lewis’s birth, we must honor the cause that illuminated his life: the fight for justice grounded in the right to vote,” she wrote. “We stand & bear witness by rejecting suppression, destroying barriers intended to push citizens out of our democracy. We fight & win.”

The group will hold a series of daily virtual hearings this week, including a Monday launch, Tuesday talk with county election officials and a focus Wednesday on protecting in-person early voting on weekends. The final hearing on Thursday: “Protect Georgia Voters’ Identity.”

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Speaking of John Lewis, his legacy could be used to end the years-long fight to rename the Talmadge Memorial Bridge. The bridge is currently named for former Georgia Gov. Eugene Talmadge, who was a proud segregationist.

The Savannah Morning News’ Katie Nussbaum reports that a local state lawmaker has introduced a bill to rename the span after Lewis, who died of cancer last year.

Noting Lewis’s lifelong commitment to civil rights, racial justice, fair housing and livable incomes, State Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah), who is sponsoring the resolution, said it’s time for the renaming.

“Although Georgia is not his birthplace, Georgia was his home for much of his life. He represented Georgia with not only distinction, but with valor. He was a man who risked his life to stand up for righteousness and justice for all Americans, and should rightly so be honored in Georgia,” Jackson said.

The Talmadge bridge itself is in line for a replacement by the end of the decade, a reality that has complicated efforts to rename the existing span that connects Savannah to South Carolina.

In 2018, Jackson and state Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) proposed a measure to rename the bridge after Juliette Gordon Low, the Savannah native who founded the Girl Scouts.

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The Wall Street Journal highlights a fascinating takeaway from a McKinsey & Co. analysis of corporate efforts to diversify their upper leadership ranks. Specifically, companies may need to open new offices in cities like Atlanta where diverse talent already resides.

“For example, Clayton County, Ga. It has a majority Black population, and much of the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is located there. Clayton County also claims to have the largest amount of available real estate next to a major airport—potentially marrying an attractive location with a relevant and diverse workforce.”

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