The Jolt: Rudy Giuliani headed back to Georgia to unseat Gov. Brian Kemp

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
201203-Atlanta- Rudi Giuliani listens to testimony during a subcommittee of the state Senate judiciary committee meeting at the State Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Giuliani brought fellow lawyers and witnesses who alleged serious voting problems in Georgia and asked that the State Legislature chose GeorgiaÕs electors. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray for the AJC

Credit: Ben Gray for the AJC

201203-Atlanta- Rudi Giuliani listens to testimony during a subcommittee of the state Senate judiciary committee meeting at the State Capitol on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Giuliani brought fellow lawyers and witnesses who alleged serious voting problems in Georgia and asked that the State Legislature chose GeorgiaÕs electors. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It seems like only yesterday that Rudy Giuliani was in a Georgia Senate hearing, sweaty, maskless, and unbeknownst to anyone in the room, contagious with COVID-19.

The disgraced former New York mayor had his New York law license suspended Thursday following a disciplinary investigation related to his conduct at that hearing.

In its decision, the New York State Court of Appeals called Giuliani “an immediate threat” to the public and repeatedly cited the false information he peddled in Georgia as evidence.

As one of your Insiders reported, the 33-page decision mentioned Georgia 35 separate times and wrote that Giuliani’s attempt to discredit Georgia’s election was “knowingly made with the object of casting doubt on the accuracy of the vote.”

The court also wrote that Giuliani’s ongoing attempts to overturn the November election results “directly inflamed” the violent movement that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“The seriousness of respondent’s uncontroverted misconduct cannot be overstated,” read the decision by the New York State appellate court.

Even without his law license, Giuliani will be back in Georgia next week, when he headlines a fundraiser for Vernon Jones in his primary bid against Gov. Brian Kemp.

Former President Donald Trump goaded Jones to challenge Kemp in the primary, but has yet to endorse him.

The minimum donation at next week’s Buckhead Club event is $1,000. We’ll be especially interested to see which elected Republicans turn out to see their old friend Rudy-- and support Jones against Kemp in the process.


Even with Vernon Jones in the primary, there are still rumblings coming out about the pro-Trump wing’s ongoing search for an alternative to challenge Gov. Brian Kemp in 2022.

To recap: Many of the Republican governor’s critics can’t stomach Jones, a former Democrat with personal and political baggage.

Earlier this week we reported that Trump adviser Corey Lewandowski had touted an unnamed future addition to the race, just as Ames Barnett, the former mayor of Washington, Ga., posted a (now deleted) picture of himself with Lewandowski to Twitter.

Now a senior GOP operative sends over a survey making the rounds in conservative circles that could point to yet another potential candidate.

The survey asks Republicans: “If a self-made, wealthy executive from a Big Technology company like Facebook, Google or Apple who lives in Georgia and announced a candidacy to be the next Republican Governor, how excited would you be to learn more about this candidate?”

We don’t know who this might be -- or if this person even exists. But the operative who sent the poll might be onto something with this analysis: “The Trump folks are working overtime to find someone.”

Are you that someone? We want to hear from you.


President Joe Biden’s tricky two-step to adopt a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure measure could give Georgia’s vulnerable Democratic incumbents some headaches.

Biden happily declared “we have a deal” on a long-anticipated infusion of cash to repair crumbling bridges, expand broadband access, shore up transit systems, strengthen the energy grid and fight global warming.

But hours later, the president also joined Democratic congressional leaders in linking the package with a separate pricey measure, derided by Republicans, that would pump trillions of dollars into childcare, higher education access and health care programs.

The latter would have to be passed using the budget reconciliation maneuver in the Senate, which lets it pass without GOP support.

But even if the second package earns all 50 Democratic votes in the upper chamber, it could face a tougher fight across the Hill in the House, where Democrats have just a four-vote edge and plenty of vulnerable incumbents with an eye on midterms.

Already, House Republicans are warning they’ll hold swing-district Democrats accountable if their colleagues in the Senate “blow up a bipartisan bill.”

U.S. Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux and Lucy McBath, along with U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, are all top targets for Republicans in 2022.

They’ll have some time to hash out their viewpoints, though, since a vote isn’t likely until the fall.


The Georgia Ethics Commission is moving forward with its case against former state Sen. Chip Rogers, who is accused of using campaign money for personal expenses, large and small.

State law says that politicians can only use campaign money to win and maintain their office. Once they leave office, they can dispose of that money by donating it to charity, returning it to donors or repaying campaign debt and expenses.

Rogers, the former GOP Senate leader, is accused of using his leftover funds for expenses at Six Flags, Dillard’s, the PGA Super Store, a luxury car dealership in Florida and the Shaky Boots Music Festival, the AJC’s James Salzer reports.

At least it sounds like he had fun?


Jolt readers know by now not to view next month’s special election runoff for a legislative seat in Cobb County as a litmus test for all of Georgia Georgia in the post-Trump era.

Turnout is expected to be low and Republicans are largely favored to hold the seat being vacated by GOP state Rep. Bert Reeves after posting good numbers in the first round of voting.

But the July 13 contest between Republican Devan Seabaugh and Democrat Priscilla Smith is worthy of watching for another reason, particularly if Democrats decide to pump in resources to flip the seat.

We saw a hint of that possibility on Thursday when Stacey Abrams tweeted a video reminding Democrats that her Fair Fight voting rights group has endorsed Smith, the Democrat in the race. She also touted Smith as a champion for voting rights and an expansion of Medicaid in Georgia.

Remember, too, that this is also the first competitive legislative race where former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her conservative voting group, Greater Georgia, have been heavily engaged.

Heading into the June special election, Loeffler personally stumped in the district, holding signs, knocking on doors, Tweeting, and pumping Greater Georgia cash into digital ads.

The upcoming runoff in Cobb will be instructive to see how both organizations use it as a warmup for 2022.


Just how rampant is the misinformation campaign by pro-Trump supporters?

So widespread that an obscure staffing agency that has been maligned by far-Right conspiracy theorists -- lies promoted by some far-right Republican candidates -- was compelled to send out a statement debunking the falsehoods.

We won’t go into the details of the convoluted lie targeting Happy Faces, a decades-old, Georgia-based staffing agency.

But you can check out the statement from the company yourself, particularly the line where the CEO says it isn’t associated with a Stacey Abrams venture:

“Happy Faces has entertained various funding sources during our existence, but under no circumstances have we EVER taken loans, lines of credit or other Accounts Receivable-based lending from NowCorp, (or any non-bank lender for that matter). Our reasoning is simple, we focus on our relationship with our customers and our banks and manage our operation in a fiscally responsible manner.”


Our AJC colleague (and Jolt alum) Tamar Hallerman has a long read about Atlanta’s first gay pride march, which took place in Midtown 50 years ago this weekend.

The entire story is worth your time, but Hallerman also sends along this bit from her notebook: Among the rag-tag group of 125 activists who participated in that inaugural march was Jolt regular, state Sen. Nan Orrock.

The Atlanta Democrat was then a 20-something civil rights activist, marching as an LGBTQ ally.

She and her then-husband, Gene Guerrero (who’d eventually go on to become the executive director of the ACLU of Georgia), had co-founded the weekly underground newspaper The Great Speckled Bird. It was one of the only local media outlets that regularly covered the gay community at the time.

“It almost seems antiquated now that showing up and marching would be a bold step, but it certainly was in 1971,” Orrock told Tamar. “There was not unanimity on seeing gay rights as a core or fundamental issue in the struggle for expanding democracy.”

Another Speckled Bird veteran: Georgia journalist, activist and friend of the Jolt, Neill Herring.


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will form a select committee to pursue an investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection after a proposal for an independent bipartisan commission failed to win enough Republican support in the U.S. Senate.

Select committees in the House are usually noncontroversial, but occasionally viewed with skepticism since they can be created by the majority party without input or support from the minority. The Republican-led Select Committee on Benghazi is a recent example.

Pelosi has not announced whom she will tap for the committee, but she said she hopes Republicans participate.

“It is imperative that we establish the truth of that day and ensure that an attack of that kind cannot happen, and that we root out the causes of it all,” she said Thursday.


U.S. SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman made headlines when she was appointed by President Joe Biden as the only Latina in his cabinet.

Look for Guzman to make local news next week when she visits Macon, Duluth and Atlanta for events with members of the Georgia congressional delegation.

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux will each host Guzman in their districts, where they’ll meet with small business owners, as well as recipients of the Restaurant Revitalization Funds through the SBA.

The stops are part of a nationwide tour to tie Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan with COVID-19 vaccinations and the role the Administration says they’ve both played in getting Americans back to work.


If you need a haircut and a COVID-19 vaccination, has U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson ever got a deal for you.

The Atlanta Democrat will be at the First Class Barber Shop at Panola Center Saturday morning from 10 to noon for a “Shots at the Shop” event, where a medical team is offering Pfizer, Moderna or J&J jabs for anyone who still needs them.

Georgia has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. While the national vaccination rate is up to 46%, just 35.4% of Georgians are fully vaccinated.

If you’re one of the unjabbed, the shots Saturday are free, but you may still have to pay to take a little off the sides. Inquire within.


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