The Jolt: New poll suggests ticket-splitting in top Georgia races

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (left) and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. AJC file photos.

Credit: AJC

Credit: AJC

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (left) and U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock. AJC file photos.

A new poll offers one of the clearest snapshots yet of the state’s marquee matchups – and provides further evidence of a budding ticket-splitting trend that could help shape the November outcome.

The poll of likely voters commissioned by the Georgia AARP shows Republican Gov. Brian Kemp with a comfortable 52-45% edge over his Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is in a tighter contest against Republican Senate hopeful Herschel Walker. Warnock is at 50% in the poll compared to Walker’s 47%. That’s within the margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

It’s the latest survey to suggest a significant number of voters are casting bipartisan ballots, a trend we explored in an article earlier this week. Kemp outdid Walker by seven points, while Warnock garnered about 5 points more support than Abrams.

“This poll shows what we saw in June 2020 that no one really believed back then: This is a purple state,” said John Anzalone, who is perhaps best known as President Joe Biden’s pollster. “This is the new North Carolina. And this might be a ticket splitting state.”

Other findings from the poll:

  • Both candidates in the race for governor captured 95% of their party’s voters, but Kemp’s lead comes thanks to his 14-point edge with independent voters. His image with likely voters is 50% favorable and 45% unfavorable, while Abrams has a 50% unfavorable rating and 46% favorable.
  • Walker leads Warnock narrowly among voters who are older than 50, while the Democrat has a 58-39 lead with women voters. Warnock’s image is evenly divided at 49-49. Walker is underwater, with a 41% favorable rating and a 49% unfavorable.
  • Biden’s approval rating stands at just 34% while nearly two-thirds of likely voters disapprove of his job performance. Just one-third of likely voters say the economy is working for them, and most indicate inflation or the economy are their top issues.
  • Most voters say that rising prices will be more important to their vote in November than the fallout of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade or the findings of the Jan. 6 commission.
  • While both Walker and Kemp garnered more than 50% of the vote among likely voters who are over the age of 50, about 15% of the age group is persuadable.

You can delve deeper into the findings here.

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HE OBJECTS. Attorney General Chris Carr, a Republican running for reelection, has attacked his Democratic opponent Jen Jordan for saying she wouldn’t use taxpayer money to defend Georgia’s pending restrictive abortion law, according to our AJC colleague Maya T. Prabhu.

During an appearance Tuesday on the Austin Rhodes Show on WCAG, Carr said Jordan and several district attorneys across the state who have separately said they wouldn’t prosecute anyone under Georgia’s pending abortion law can’t pick and choose which laws they support.

“It’s a dereliction of duty,” Carr said. “If you don’t like a law, that’s fine, but we’ve got a process for changing laws. It’s the Legislature.”

Within hours of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Carr submitted a letter to a federal appeals court asking the judges to allow the 2019 Georgia anti-abortion law to take effect. The court gave attorneys until Friday to submit documents explaining how the Supreme Court’s decision affects Georgia’s pending law. Jordan has said she does not believe it is lawful while the DA’s said they would use their prosecutorial discretion to focus on other matters.

A day after Carr’s statement, he and his wife visited with Christian Wise Smith, Jordan’s Democratic primary challenger for AG, and posted about the visit on social media. Jordan easily defeated Smith in the May primary with more than three-quarters of the vote.

“(Joan Carr) & I sat down for an iced tea with @chriswisesmith at his kind invitation,” Carr wrote on Twitter. “Had a great conversation about Johnny Isakson, Ahmaud Arbery, civility in politics & building bridges. Looking forward to the next one.”

Smith said his photo-op with Carr was not an endorsement.

“Working to understand our differences to identify solutions. It’s about building bridges and not wedges of division. This is nort (sic) an endorsement – just a conversation,” he wrote on Twitter.

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QUASH COURT. Lawyers for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham have filed a motion to kill the subpoena issued for him in the Fulton County special grand jury probe of Donald Trump, the AJC’s Tamar Hallerman reports.

Graham has been subpoenaed in connection with two calls he made to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger following the 2020 election.

Graham’s lawyers argued that the “Speech or Debate” clause in the U.S. Constitution, along with sovereign immunity, shield him from being compelled to testify. In the 13-page filing, they also wrote that the senator did nothing wrong.

“Senator Graham did not inject himself into Georgia’s electoral process, and never tried to alter the outcome of any election,” it said.

Separately, they also said Graham has been told he’s not the target of the Fulton County investigation.

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PAPERWORK ISSUES. Four Democrats who are on the ballot in November are among more than 20 candidates for office who agreed to pay ethics fines for failing to properly file campaign disclosure forms.

Our colleague James Salzer reports that the cases all involve a new requirement that candidates list their sources of income for the past five years within seven days of qualifying for office. An ethics commission audit produced a list of those who didn’t do it correctly or on time.

Salzer writes that those caught up in the probe include candidates who lost in the primaries, including Kandiss Taylor and U.S. Rep. Jody Hice. But the list also includes the following Democrats still in the running: State Sen. Jen Jordan, the nominee for attorney general, State Rep. William Boddie, who is running for labor commissioner, state schools superintendent candidate Alisha Searcy and Janice Laws Robinson, who is bidding for insurance commissioner.

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TIME & PLACE. After GOP Senate hopeful Herschel Walker said for the second time he’s ready to debate U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock whenever Warnock names the time and place, Warnock’s spokeswoman Meredith Brasher reminded reporters that the places have already been named.

Warnock has committed to debate invitations from the Atlanta Press Club for Oct. 16; from WTOC-TV in Warnock’s hometown of Savannah; and from the Mercer University Center for Collaborative Journalism. The dates for the last two have yet to be announced.

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AFTER ROE. A series of congressional hearings this week have focused on what America could look like now that the Supreme Court reversed federal protections to the right to abortion.

State Rep. Renitta Shannon, who recently lost her primary bid for lieutenant governor, testified Wednesday during an hourslong House Oversight Committee that Georgia’s new anti-abortion law was likely to go into effect and limit access to care, especially for the poor, people of color and in rural areas. The Democrat from Decatur said doctors may also be hesitant to prescribe medications needed to treat miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies as a result.

“This put fear in doctors,” she said.

There are three Georgia lawmakers on this committee. U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Democrat, introduced Shannon at the top of the meeting and lobbed friendly questions to the pro-abortion panelists. Republican Jody Hice brought up the issue of personhood and applauded the response from an anti-abortion panelist who said life begins at conception. U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde asked one of the experts to define what a woman is then criticized her use of inclusive language.

Today, the House Judiciary Committee is holding a similar hearing on the effects of the SCOTUS ruling and how it could reach beyond reversing Roe v. Wade. Among those scheduled to testify is the plaintiff in the case that led to the landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, which Justice Clarence Thomas would like to reconsider.

Georgia Reps. Lucy McBath and Johnson are both on that committee, and McBath’s team tells us her remarks will be worth watching.

Earlier this week during a Senate Judiciary Hearing on post-Roe America, one exchange went viral after a panelist said U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley’s refusal to accept inclusive language equates to transphobia. Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff was among the last to question the witnesses in that meeting, focusing on the impact to maternal health if abortion access is limited.

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ABORTION RIGHTS. The Democratic National Committee launched a new TV ad this morning to urge viewers to access DefendChoice.org to get involved in the fight to preserve access to abortions following the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The ad promotes an online hub where volunteers can connect with organizers, sign up to make calls or send texts to voters, or share their own personal story about why they support abortion rights.

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TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • After a late night of votes Wednesday, the U.S. House continues plugging away at the National Defense Authorization Act.
  • Hershel “Woody” Williams, who prior to his death was the last living Congressional Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, will lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol.
  • President Joe Biden’s trip to the Middle East continues with meetings in Israel.

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MORE MASKS. Two government units at Augusta’s Fort Gordon have instituted masking policies after increases in COVID local transmission rates.

The Augusta Chronicle reports Army Cyber and National Security Agency Georgia now require masks, although Fort Gordon as a whole does not.

The changes came after reports of COVID cases in Richmond County jumped 41% earlier this month.

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EX-MAYOR SENTENCED. Former Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary was sentenced to 57 months in prison resulting from his guilty plea for diverting nearly $1 million in COVID relief funds.

Lary, the city’s founding mayor, was also ordered to pay nearly $120,000 in restitution, the AJC’s Tyler Estep reports. Lary won’t have to turn himself in until December at the earliest to give him time to undergo another round of cancer treatments.

United States District Court Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr. said Lary’s fraud scheme, which funneled money to shell companies that was intended to help businesses and families stay afloat at the height of the pandemic, was “deplorable.”

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AD WARS. A day after Stacey Abrams released an ad featuring a law enforcement officer criticizing Gov. Brian Kemp’s public safety policies, the Republican countered with a 30-second ad and 2-minute video highlighting the story of a widow of a slain officer.

It features Katherine Bedwell, whose late husband Justin was a Decatur County sheriff’s deputy who was shot and killed in the line of duty in March 2021.

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RENAMING EFFORT. Georgia U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop and Rick Allen are taking the lead in the House on an effort to rename the Department of Veterans Affairs’ administrative offices in Decatur after former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Their resolution, which has the support of all 14 members of the state’s delegation, mirrors one already filed in the Senate by Georgia’s Jon Ossoff and Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican.

Ossoff, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Georgia’s 14 House members also wrote a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate’s Veterans’ Affairs committees encouraging them to support the renaming effort.

Separately, Georgia lawmakers are also backing a campaign to name the Veterans Affairs hospital on the same Decatur campus after former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland. Cleland and Isakson both died in late 2021.

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AS ALWAYS, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.

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