The Jolt: Newt Gingrich flips, then flip flops, on endorsement for Vernon Jones

News and analysis from the politics team at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 20: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich delivers a speech on the third day of the Republican National Convention on July 20, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party’s nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 20: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich delivers a speech on the third day of the Republican National Convention on July 20, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party’s nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

For a while there, it seemed like Vernon Jones had pulled off something of a coup.

The former Democrat-turned-Republican candidate for a U.S. House seat announced with great fanfare – and an accompanying CNN article – that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had rescinded his endorsement of GOP frontrunner Mike Collins and endorsed his bid.

There was a gushing video featuring Gingrich touting Jones as a “legislative experienced person who can get things done.” Jones’ campaign welcomed him to the “America First” team of supporters that also includes Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani.

Except there was a catch. We’re not sure how it happened – miscommunication, poor staffing, a miscue – but Gingrich pulled back his endorsement a few hours later and reaffirmed his commitment to Collins.

In a tweet, Gingrich declared that Collins “will be an excellent servant of the people” of the district. And in a statement, Gingrich aide Louie Brogdon blamed a junior staffer who prematurely released the video endorsement on social media.

“It had not been thoroughly vetted to ensure there were no conflicts with Speaker Gingrich’s prior commitments,” said Brogdon.

“Speaker Gingrich continues to support Mike Collins for Georgia’s 10th Congressional District. He has known Mike and his family for decades, and he believes Mike is the best candidate for the job.”

So what does it all mean for the May 24 primary? Probably nothing. But Collins’ camp will present it as another embarrassing setback for a candidate already struggling to prove himself to local Republicans.

Collins spokesman Stephen Lawson took a victory lap, boasting that Gingrich “endorsed Mike Collins from day one because he knows he’s the only true Pro-Trump America First conservative in this race.”

Jones made clear he would continue to falsely claim he was backed by Gingrich, pointing to the video that the former speaker has now rescinded.

“The video is clear. Speaker Newt Gingrich endorsed our campaign for Georgia’s 10th Congressional District, and Mike Collins went whining,” he said.


The 2022 session of the General Assembly wrapped up Tuesday night after midnight, but the dust is still settling on the last-minute crush of bills that passed in the final 45 minutes.

We’re here to answer the question everyone’s asking-- what the heck just happened with transgender athletes?

The AJC’s newest addition to our politics team, Shannon McCaffery, breaks down the transgender sports language that was added, literally at the 11th hour, to the “divisive concepts” bill that passed shortly before midnight.

It now kicks the decision of who can play which sports over to the Georgia High School Association. The bill also established a 10-member executive oversight committee to study the issue of trans athletes in school sports in Georgia.

The committee will be especially important since no lawmaker we spoke with knew an instance of a trans athlete playing sports in the state.

One twist: The GHSA has never weighed in on the issue and Robin Hines, executive director of the Georgia High School Association, said he hadn’t had time to assess the bill.

“At first glance, the GHSA will need to determine if they believe this is an issue that needs a by-law clarification that goes beyond the current policy of accepting member school’s gender determination,” Hines said in a statement.


If you’d rather listen to your news than read it, or if you’re just an audiophile at heart, may we humbly present you with the latest Politically Georgia podcast?

Our Wednesday edition features special guest stars Maya Prabhu and Mark Niesse, who joined your Jolters to break down the final hours at the General Assembly and what it all means for 2022.


Another question we were asking- What ever happened to that Clarence Thomas statue idea that passed the Senate?

The proposal to erect a likeness of Justice Thomas on the grounds of the Georgia Capitol got nowhere in the House. We’re told it didn’t help that Thomas’ wife, Ginni, is now embroiled in controversy after sending multiple texts to White House staff on January 6th ahead of the Capitol insurrection.

The Thomas statue wasn’t the only bill sleeping after midnight. Other headline-grabbing ideas that failed to gain consensus-- banning voter drop boxes, adding restrictions to abortion medications by mail, making the rabies vaccine optional, legalizing gambling, jump starting the stalled medical marijuana program, and of course, the bill to create the City of Buckhead City, which went nowhere.


We told you it wouldn’t be long between Sine Die and election day and indeed, it was Election Day in Cobb County Tuesday, with a special election to replace former GOP state Rep. Matt Dollar in East Cobb.

The Marietta Daily Journal reports that the race appears to be headed to a runoff between former Republican state Representative Mitchell Kaye and Democrat Dustin McCormick, who finished with 41.7% and 40.5% of the vote, respectively.

The runoff will be May 3.


Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) attends a Republican National Committee Victory Rally at Dalton Regional Airport in Dalton, Ga., on January 4, 2021. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

One motivating factor Republicans are counting on in the 2022 elections is inflation, including the skyrocketing cost of gas.

So Kelly Loeffler’s Greater Georgia has a plan to mobilize potential voters at their moment of peak-price shock with a voter registration event planned at gas stations across the Metro Atlanta area this Saturday.

Since gas isn’t the only thing that costs an arm and a leg these days, Greater Georgia has similar events planned in the months ahead at more gas stations, grocery stores, and, naturally, gun stores.

The last day to register to vote in the May 24 primary election is on April 25.


In describing himself in his U.S. Senate race, you don’t have to listen to Herschel Walker for long to hear him call himself a “fighter” or a “warrior.”

But one of Walker’s GOP rivals, former Navy SEAL Latham Saddler, will run his first ad on Fox News today telling voters, “This isn’t a game.”

The ad opens with Walker running down a football field in his famous UGA uniform, but Saddler says he wore a uniform, too, in the military.

The title of the ad is “Battlefield” and Saddler wraps it by saying he approved the ad, “So that you can choose between a war fighter and a celebrity.”


If you were one of the millions of Americans scouring the internet in 2020 for gloves, masks, and other pandemic essentials, a bill from U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson will be right up your alley.

The American Made Medicine Act would incentivize investments in American-made personal protective equipment (PPE), including surgical masks, respirators, gloves, and gowns, many of which are made overseas.

In a statement, Ferguson said the bill would boost both national security and pandemic preparedness.


Atlanta Congresswoman Nikema Williams held a news conference Tuesday morning to talk up a trio of bills she is sponsoring that are aimed at helping reduce student debt.

One proposal would remove negative credit reports from the records of students who consolidate their loans while another would protect the credit score of students who defaulted.

Williams said the bills are her effort to address student debt while bigger pieces of the puzzle, such as loan forgiveness, remain stalled both in Congress. She also noted that she is still paying off her own student loans.

Coincidentally, news leaked right around the same time as Williams’ event that the Biden-Harris administration could be extending the pause on federal loan repayments through August.


The American Federation of Government Employees, which bills itself as the largest union representing federal employees, has endorsed eight candidates in Georgia, including U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath over U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux in the 7th Congressional District.

The rest of the all-Democratic slate includes Stacey Abrams for governor; Raphael Warnock for U.S. Senate; U.S. Reps. David Scott, Sanford Bishop, Nikema Williams and Hank Johnson; and longshot candidate in the 3rd Congressional District, Dr. Val Almonord.


Republican Jeremy Hunt is now a candidate for the U.S. House seat held by Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop. In 2016, he wrote a Fox News op-ed criticizing the “alarmist” fears from Black leaders about Donald Trump’s victory.

“My biggest concern about Trump’s presidency is its potential to push us further into the self-destructive mindset of victimhood culture,” wrote Hunt, who is Black, in a piece headlined: “Why I find the Black community’s response to Trump’s election a little embarrassing.”

Here’s a snippet:

“The more I read, however, the more I realize that our fear has little to do with the most vulnerable among us and everything to do with middle class black struggles. If the articles I read (or my Facebook and Twitter feed) are any indication, it seems that we are most afraid of encountering newly-emboldened whites who will say racist things to us.

“Many of us, myself included, have already experienced the racial slurs and insensitive remarks that seem to be inspired by Trump’s election. Racism is painful, no doubt. But it should never cause us to fear, nor should it be the primary concern of the black community writ large.”

It closed with this line: “We will survive a Trump presidency, whatever it may bring.”

Read it here.


Mark your calendars. The Atlanta Press Club has announced its schedule for primary debates as part of its Loudermilk-Young Debate Series.

The debates will be held May 1-3, with the highest profile races to be aired on both livestream and Georgia Public Broadcasting channels.

The Republican candidates for governor will debate on May 1 at 7 p.m., and the event will air on GPB live. Republicans and Democrats running for Georgia Secretary of State will debate on May 2 in separate sessions that will air on GPB later that evening.

Find the full schedule here and includes candidates for other statewide offices, U.S. Senate and four key U.S. House races.


Once-and-forever Insider Jim Galloway might have had the most astute observation we’ve seen about the legislation that allows the troubled Georgia High School Association to ban transgender athletes from competing in sports.

Jim has been woodworking and writing in his semi-retirement and we’re thrilled that he’s back in the pages of the AJC today. It’s a special feature on a box he carved as a remembrance to his longtime friend, U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, who died in November.


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