The Jolt: Raffensperger, Carr and runoffs set up epic Tuesday in Georgia politics

12/14/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger during a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Monday, December 14, 2020.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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12/14/2020 — Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger during a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol building in Atlanta, Monday, December 14, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Buckle up, readers. An epic day in Georgia politics awaits as voters go to the polls for Tuesday’s runoffs, while legal and congressional hearings dig further into what happened in Georgia after the 2020 elections.

We’ve got your full rundown of what to watch in the runoffs, including two more crucial tests of Donald Trump’s power in Georgia GOP elections. Those two House races will also likely determine two new members of the U.S. House from vacant Republican-leaning seats.

Tuesday also brings a major development in Washington, where Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, his deputy Gabriel Sterling and local election official Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss will all testify before the Jan. 6 House committee meeting about efforts by Donald Trump and his allies to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia and in other states.

Raffensperger’s testimony will likely hinge on the infamous phone call first reported by The Washington Post and the AJC that featured Trump urging the secretary of state to “find” enough votes to surpass Biden.

And Sterling is likely to be asked about his prediction that Trump’s election lies could lead to violence, a statement that preceded the violent Capitol riot by roughly a month.

As for Moss, the AJC’s David Wickert reports she will likely speak about the pressure she and her mother, Ruby Freeman, faced after being put at the center of election fraud lies after the 2020 general election.

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CARR TALK. Attorney General Chris Carr is expected to testify Tuesday in front of the Fulton County special grand jury investigating whether Trump and his supporters broke the law in Georgia with their attempts to reverse his defeat.

Our AJC colleague Tamar Hallerman reports that Carr will likely be questioned about his Dec. 8, 2020 phone call with Trump. Carr attracted Trump’s attention for panning a lawsuit that Texas officials had filed at the Supreme Court challenging Georgia’s elections outcome. Carr called the doomed suit “constitutionally, legally, and factually wrong.”

As one of your Insiders reported in his book, “Flipped,” Carr, who was then also the chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association, insisted to Trump that he hadn’t been pressuring other AGs to take a stance even as he answered their questions about the case.

Oh, and we’ll continue to watch the Supreme Court for a potential ruling on abortion rights that could overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

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LISTEN UP. We’ve got a preview of the runoffs and today’s January 6 hearing in a special Tuesday edition of the Politically Georgia podcast.

Listen for free at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.

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DAD GENES. On the eve of Georgia’s runoff elections, former President Donald Trump spent about three minutes on a phone call with supporters of his pick for the 6th Congressional District.

“I’d like everyone to get out and vote for Jake Evans,” Trump said. “He’s a great guy. I’ve known him for a long time. He’s really something; his family is exceptional and he is exceptional.”

Evans’ father, Randy Evans, was Trump’s U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg after heavily donating to Trump’s and other GOP campaigns. And he’s already put $450,000 into a Super PAC boosting his son’s campaign.

The younger Evans faces frontrunner Rich McCormick, an emergency room physician, in tonight’s primary. The winner is expected to win the seat in November after Georgia lawmakers redrew its lines to be a GOP pickup.

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NOT SO FAST. Jake Evans isn’t the only candidate on the ballot Tuesday whose dad has an “in” with Donald Trump.

In the 2nd Congressional District, Jeremy Hunt’s father, Bishop Garland Hunt, got a callout from the former president during the Faith & Freedom conference this weekend. Hunt, Sr., is a conservative Atlanta-area pastor and attorney who endorsed Trump in 2020.

“Bishop Hunt, I know your son, I just endorsed your son and he won big…what a great son,” Trump said from the stage.

Was Trump endorsing Jeremy Hunt? Trump has not formally endorsed Georgia’s Hunt, but has endorsed Texas congressional candidate Wesley Hunt, who did win his primary.

Jeremy Hunt sent the clip with a mass text to 2nd District voters. “President Trump just gave my father and me a HUGE shoutout! Like President Trump said, we won big in the primary, but we need you to come back out to the runoff…”

Reached for comment, Hunt’s campaign manager said the text is accurate.

“We were just going based on what the President said, speaking about Jeremy’s father, and then we took it as referring to our big win, coming in first place in the primary.”

Hunt faces Chris West in Tuesday’s runoff, with the winner going on to challenge Democratic U.S. Rep. Sandford Bishop in November.

So far, Hunt and Hunt-aligned Super PACs have outspent West about 10-to-one.

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DIRTY TRICKS. We told you in yesterday’s Jolt about suspicious robo-calls that appear to be trying to shift support in the 2nd Congressional District runoff away from Jeremy Hunt.

Now different unsourced robo-calls are also running in the 10th Congressional District and the target appears to be Mike Collins.

“Mike Collins and his racist family don’t deserve to be in office,” a voice says. It also calls Collins, a “dirty old crook.”

Supporters of former Democrat Vernon Jones, Collins’ rival in Tuesday’s runoff, say it’s really an attempt to use reverse psychology to steer voters away from Jones.

You can listen to the call here.

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BAILEY V. HALL. The week before the runoff in the Democratic race for lieutenant governor, Charlie Bailey reported far outraising his opponent, former U.S. Rep. Kwanza Hall.

Our AJC colleague Maya T. Prabhu tells us that Bailey reported nearly $314,000 between May 1 and June 15, bringing him to a total of about $841,000 raised during his campaign. Hall reported about $174,000 in campaign contributions, to bring his total raised to about $324,000.

Hall, who received the most votes in the nine-way primary election last month, was trying to pick up momentum heading into today’s runoff, rolling out a number of endorsements on social media last week.

Bailey has racked up his own endorsements during his campaign, including popular big-name Democrats such as Stacey Abrams, and former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, along with an ad running on Atlanta TV featuring an endorsement from U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath.

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BIDEN BREAKTHROUGH? President Joe Biden might soon take action on two priorities pushed by U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

The Democrat has for months lobbied the White House to suspend the federal gas tax to combat rising energy prices, part of a broader effort to lower consumer prices of specific goods. But the idea has only picked up significant traction in recent days. It would require congressional approval.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday she was open to a federal gas tax holiday, which would save motorists around 18 cents a gallon. And Biden told reporters Monday he was considering the idea.

“I hope to have a decision based on the data I’m looking for by the end of the week,” he told reporters. Another option could include a rebate to motorists to offset the rising prices, officials said.

Biden also spoke glowingly of another Warnock proposal to lower the out-of-pocket cost of insulin to $35 a month.

“I think we’re going to be able to get a change in Medicare and a reduction in the cost of insulin,” Biden told reporters.

Georgia lawmakers have already suspended the state’s 29.1 cents-a-gallon gas tax, which Gov. Brian Kemp recently extended until July. Stacey Abrams, his Democratic opponent, is pressing him to suspend the tax through the year’s end.

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TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • The House and Senate return from a long weekend, with the House scheduled to vote on a bill that would set up an Amber Alert-type system for mass shootings.
  • President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill will visit a Washington clinic to highlight the recent authorization of COVID-19 vaccines for children under age 5.

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BOURDEAUX’S A “NO”. We took note of a House vote last week when Georgia’s U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux was one of just three Democrats to break ranks with their party and on a bill that passed 215-207.

The measure in question would require the Federal Reserve Board to work to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities as it goes about its mission setting the nation’s monetary policy. Bourdeaux and moderate Democrats Stephanie Murphy of Florida and Jared Golden of Maine voted with Republicans.

We reached out to Bourdeaux’s office to find out more and were told she supports the mission of the bill, but believes the timing is wrong.

“I strongly support taking action to end racial economic disparities in American society, and have co-sponsored and supported numerous bills to address this issue,” she said in a statement. “However, altering the Federal Reserve’s mission so dramatically at this point in time without understanding how this change would be implemented could have significant unintended consequences for our nation.”

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MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. A U.S. House Appropriations subcommittee said it will not move forward in closing a military facility in Savannah that has been the subject of an intense lobbying effort by Georgia’s congressional delegation.

Closure of the Combat Readiness Training Center in Savannah was part of the proposed budget President Joe Biden put forward in March. U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, the Republican whose district includes the facility, said Monday that the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense has issued a report denying that request.

Carter was joined by a powerful coalition of Georgians to oppose the measure, including U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Savannah native, and U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff; U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, who serves on the Armed Services Committee; and U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, the only Georgian on the Appropriations Committee.

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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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