The Jolt: Kemp deploys political machine for 2024 legislative battle

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Gov. Brian Kemp's political machine is pushing to protect a handful of vulnerable GOP state Legislative districts. (Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Gov. Brian Kemp's political machine is pushing to protect a handful of vulnerable GOP state Legislative districts. (Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

If you were one of the many people we heard from last week who received text message fundraising appeals from Gov. Brian Kemp, the blast wasn’t for any office the just-reelected governor is seeking.

Instead, Kemp’s political machine is pushing to protect a handful of vulnerable GOP state legislative districts, while also putting a bullseye on Democratic districts they think are within reach. It’s the first major maneuver in the still-developing 2024 battle for the Georgia Legislature.

Kemp adviser Cody Hall said the goal of the six-figure campaign from Kemp’s Georgians First Leadership Committee is to thank the governor’s Republican allies and take the offensive against Democrats “who put their far-left agendas ahead of hardworking families in their districts.”

Although Republicans have a comfortable edge in the Legislature, which they reinforced with once-in-a-decade redrawing of political maps in 2021, Democrats are confident they can gain new ground in closely divided rural areas and fast-changing suburban territory.

The effort focused on Kemp’s legislative agenda this year, which included a package of $2 billion in tax cuts, an expansion of the HOPE scholarship to cover all tuition costs and $2,000 annual teacher pay raises.

The aggressive new push comes a week ahead of the Georgia GOP’s convention, a semi-regular gathering that the governor and other statewide officials are bypassing this year, even as the party’s biggest national names descend on the event ahead of the 2024 presidential contest.

Not long ago, Georgia leaders relied on the state party to coordinate this sort of attack. Now Kemp and key allies are sidelining the state GOP and building their own network through “leadership committees.”

Created by a Kemp-backed law, the committees can collect unlimited contributions from donors and coordinate directly with candidates and their campaigns.

Kemp’s initiative is designed to protect six state House Republicans: Scott Hilton of Peachtree Corners, Deborah Silcox of Sandy Springs, Matt Reeves of Duluth, Lauren Daniel of Locust Grove, Mike Cheokas of Americus and Gerald Greene of Cuthbert.

And it takes aim at these five Democratic incumbents: State Rep. Michelle Au of Johns Creek, state Rep. Farooq Mughal of Dacula, state Rep. Jasmine Clark of Lilburn; state Sen. Nabilah Islam of Lawrenceville and state Sen. Josh McLaurin of Sandy Springs.


LISTEN UP. Gov. Brian Kemp is back from a weeklong trade mission to Israel and our Greg Bluestein has the full report from the trip, which he covered first hand, in today’s edition of the Politically Georgia podcast.

We also break down the latest on the debt ceiling negotiations in Washington and discuss why House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s leadership was always going to be tested by this moment.

Listen and follow out podcast at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.


U.S. Rick Allen, R-Augusta, was among about two dozen Republicans who gathered for a late-night news conference afterward to show their support for the bill. (Nathan Posner for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

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Credit: Nathan Posner for the AJC

DEBT LIMIT VOTE. The U.S. House will vote this afternoon on the long-awaited legislation that would lift the debt limit for two years in exchange for cuts to federal spending. The original deal was negotiated by President Joe Biden and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over the last week.

McCarthy met with fellow GOP lawmakers late Tuesday following a key committee vote. U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Augusta, was among about two dozen Republicans who gathered for a late-night news conference afterward to show their support for the bill.

We already told you that Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens, is among the far-right members who oppose the legislation. Speaking at a news conference Tuesday morning, he called himself a “hard no in this fiscally irresponsible insanity.”

Rep. Mike Collins also announced Tuesday that he will vote against the bill.

“Supporting this legislation would send the wrong message about how seriously we must take our debt problem,” the Jackson Republican said in a statement. “For those reasons, I will vote against the bill.”

No other Georgia lawmakers so far have indicated they’ll oppose the measure.

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, waivered a bit after initially indicating she supported the negotiated agreement. But by the end of the day, she told reporters she was a firm “yes,” even as she described the legislation using a “(expletive) sandwich,” adding that she’d like “dessert” to go along with it. “I’m a dessert girl. Everyone loves dessert, and that’s impeachment,” she said. “Someone needs to be impeached.”

Democrats will huddle this morning prior to the floor vote. All indications are that between the two parties there are enough votes to pass the bill and send it to the Senate, but stay tuned.


HALEY HEADING HERE. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley may be trailing in the polls, but she’s collecting some prominent Georgia donors in the opening months of her White House bid.

About two dozen metro Atlanta supporters will host an Atlanta fundraiser for Haley on Monday, the day after her CNN town hall broadcast scheduled for Sunday. Tickets for the event start at $1,000 a pop, though a photo with the candidate will cost $3,300 each.

The hosts include state Rep. Deborah Silcox, R-Sandy Springs; retired General Electric executive John Rice; beverage titan Doug Hertz; ex-gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidate Guy Millner; real estate mogul Steve Selig; and longtime GOP booster Eric Tanenblatt.

Tanenblatt, an early Haley supporter, said she can’t be counted out despite struggles in early public polls that show her trailing former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott in key states.

“She’s always been underestimated,” said Tanenblatt. “She’s been working Iowa and New Hampshire relentlessly. National polls don’t show that — and the national media doesn’t cover it — but it makes a huge difference on the ground.”

Haley is not among the Republican contenders currently expected to speak at the Georgia GOP convention next week.


FUNDING THE POLICE. The Atlanta City Council has scheduled a vote Monday on legislation to increase the city’s contribution to the public safety training center from $31 million to $67 million.

Our colleagues Riley Bunch and Brian Eason report that the funding measure is expected to pass easily, despite the revelations last week that taxpayers will be on the hook for more than double the initial announced cost. The higher amount goes back to an agreement under then-Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the 2021 city council for the city to pay $1.2 million per year for the next 30 years for use of the training center property.

The planned facility continues to be the focus of protests and vehement opposition from members of the community, and criticism has taken off nationwide.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens appeared virtually at a community meeting with East Atlanta residents recently, and resistance to the training facility was top of mind, Bunch and AJC reporter Wilborn P. Nobles wrote.

They wrote that attendees held up signs on their screens that ranged from phrases like “stop cop city” to “vote Andre out.”



  • The U.S. House will vote on the debt ceiling legislation.
  • The U.S. Senate will hold a procedural vote to advance a House-approved measure overturning President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan.
  • President Joe Biden will meet with emergency preparedness officials to receive the annual briefing on the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, wildfire threats and the potential for other extreme weather events.


POWERING ON. The country’s first new nuclear reactor in 30 years generated electricity and connected to the power grid for the first time at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle over the weekend, the AJC’s Drew Kahn reports.

The effort comes after nearly six years of delays and $15 billion in cost overruns, Khan writes.

Although it is not yet supplying commercial energy, Georgia Power customers can also expect to see a Vogtle-related price hike in their monthly bill soon, approved by the Public Service Commission.


Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter, at their home in Plains, Ga., June 25, 2021. Rosalynn Carter, herself a longtime advocate for expanded access to mental health care, has dementia, the Carter Center said on May 30, 2023. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)

Credit: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

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Credit: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

ROSALYNN CARTER UPDATE. Former first lady Rosalynn Carter, the longtime wife of former President Jimmy Carter, has dementia, her family announced Tuesday.

The family made the announcement as Mental Health Awareness Month draws to a close, the AJC’s Ernie Suggs wrote.

“The family made the decision to announce this now, and it aligned with her lifetime of selfless work,” said Paige Alexander, chief executive of the Atlanta-based Carter Center. “They wanted to do this now to tell her story and to lead the conversation about dementia and what caregiving means.”

In a statement released by the center, the Carter family added that Rosalynn is “enjoying spring in Plains and visits with loved ones.”

Rosalynn Carter, 95, and her husband are both convalescing at home. In February, the Carter family announced that Jimmy Carter, 98, had decided against any further medical treatment and entered home hospice care.


Ellie (left) and Winnie are the boxer mix and pit bull of the AJC's Tamar Hallerman and her partner, Mason Chilmonczyk. (Courtesy photo)

Credit: Courtesy photo

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Credit: Courtesy photo

DOG OF THE DAY. Meet Ellie and Winnie, the only two dogs in Atlanta hoping Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis holds off on announcing potential indictments in the Donald Trump probe as long as possible.

That’s because they belong to the AJC’s Tamar Hallerman and her partner Mason Chilmonczyk. Hallerman is on the team tasked with covering what could amount to the trial of the century, right here in Georgia.

When they’re not watching the Fulton County docket, Ellie and Winnie pursue their own hobbies, which are squirrel chasing and napping, respectively. And like us, they’re wishing Tamar a slightly belated, but very happy birthday.

Send us your dogs of any political persuasion and cats on a cat-by-cat basis to, or DM us on Twitter @MurphyAJC.


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