The Jolt: Poll of conservatives shows Kemp besting Perdue in governor’s race

Former President Trump endorses Perdue over Kemp in race for Governor

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Former President Trump endorses Perdue over Kemp in race for Governor

Yet another public poll shows a hardening dynamic in Georgia’s top races.

A survey of 1,000 likely Georgia Republican voters by the conservative Trafalgar Group between Feb. 11-13 showed Gov. Brian Kemp with a 49-40 edge over former U.S. Sen. David Perdue. About 8% were undecided.

In the Senate race, former football standout Herschel Walker has earned his frontrunner status. He polled at 70% in the GOP primary, far ahead of Agriculture Secretary Gary Black, who hovered around 6%.

Two other contenders - military veterans Latham Saddler and Kelvin King — were in the low single digits.

If there’s a bright spot for Perdue, it’s that nearly 40% of GOP voters aren’t aware he’s been endorsed by Donald Trump. Robert Cahaly, the firm’s chief pollster, told Fox 5 that gives Perdue room to grow.

“We find among people who do know Trump made an endorsement that Perdue had a lead,” he said, “but on the whole, Kemp still has about a 10-point lead.”

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UNDER THE GOLD DOME, Thursday, Feb. 17:

  • 8:00 a.m.: Committee meetings begin;
  • 10:00 a.m.: The House gavels in;
  • 10:00 a.m.: The Senate convenes.

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We’re keeping an eye on the state Senate Regulated Industries Committee Thursday, which holds a hearing on four separate bills to eventually bring horse racing to Georgia.

The Georgia state constitution currently bans all forms of gambling. But don’t bet on a vote today — it’s a hearing for testimony only.

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POSTED: The state House Health and Human Services Committee heard deeply personal testimony Wednesday about the crisis in mental health care in Georgia, including from some of their own members.

State Rep. Todd Jones and his wife discussed their son Justin’s ongoing struggle with severe mental health illness and the difficulty of finding in-patient treatment for him.

“We were told at one point, ‘Have him commit a felony,’” Jones said, of the reality that jails are often the only place mental health services and housing are simultaneously available in the state.

Jones’ wife, Tracey, also testified that insurance companies routinely pushed for less severe diagnosis for Justin to save money and often end treatment prematurely with terrible consequences.

State Rep. Sharon Cooper, the chair of the committee, said two of her siblings struggle with varying degrees of mental illness and told of graduating from high school in Texas early in an effort to move away from home where her step- mother suffered from schizophrenia.

The hearing will inform the finishing details of the Mental Health Parity Act, the bipartisan omnibus bill from Jones, state Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver and Speaker David Ralston to expand mental health care services across Georgia.

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A double blast from the past: Republican Tim Fleming, the former chief of staff to Gov. Brian Kemp, is running for an open House seat in a Covington-based district now held by retiring Rep. Dave Belton.

And in a race further west, Mitchell Kaye is running in the special House election to fill the unexpired term of Republican state Rep. Matt Dollar, who recently announced he was resigning. Kaye is a former state representative who served from 1993 through 2003.

The winner of that April 5 contest, set just after the legislative session is scheduled to end, will serve in the seat for the remainder of 2022. Another election will be held in November to serve in the redrawn House seat.

Kaye said he’s running for the Cobb-based district because he wants the seat to remain in Republican hands even if he doesn’t serve a single day when the Legislature is in formal session.

But if new political maps are overturned by a federal judge and a special redistricting session is required later this year, he said, he’ll be an experienced hand at the Capitol.

“Now is not the time for on-the-job training,” he said.

Democrat Dustin McCormick is also expected to run in the special election, while state Rep. Sharon Cooper, who was drawn into Dollar’s district, is set to compete in the November contest for the full two-year term.

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Reta Jo Lewis, a native of Statesboro, was sworn in Wednesday as president and chair of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Lewis earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and a J.D. from Emory University School of Law.

Lewis’ swearing in came just a couple of days after the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to confirm her appointment. She is the first Black woman and first person of color to lead the credit agency for American exporters.

“Today is the start of a historic new chapter for the Export-Import Bank,” she said in a news release. “I am deeply humbled by the faith President Biden has placed in me. I will lead the agency with high standards and work tirelessly to lift the agency towards fulfilling its mission.”

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Georgia U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams testified during a hearing Wednesday about the need to modernize how congressional district offices operate. She spoke about how some rules made it difficult when new members are picking up constituent caseloads left over by their predecessor, in her case U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

Here is what Roll Call wrote from Williams’ story of “freshman office woes”:

Williams said she was told that when a member dies in office, typically the member’s wife can sign off to share the case files.

“But Ms. Lillian passed away before Mr. Lewis did, so they said that I was in a unique situation,” she said of Lewis’ late wife Lillian Miles. “I started from scratch, zero, nothing, because staff were not allowed to transfer information over.”

Yes, Kwanza Hall held the seat for two months between Lewis and Williams after winning a special election. But it appears the caseloads were always stuck with team Lewis.

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In endorsement news, Gov. Brian Kemp picked up the support of the Police Benevolent Association of Georgia. The Republican has been leaning into his pro-law enforcement credentials in a primary against former U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

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A note to make all overachievers in Georgia politics feel like they might be falling short: U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff just turned 35 on Wednesday.

Many noted that means he is now eligible to run for president, although he told journalists that isn’t in his plans for now.

Ossoff’s staff celebrated the milestone with conference room cupcakes for the boss and other well-wishers on video conference. In turn, the senator came to the party with plenty of baby pictures to share of his two-month-old daughter, Eva.

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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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