The Jolt: Rudy Giuliani’s back in Georgia to knock out Brian Kemp

Rudy Giuliani endorses GOP candidate Vernon Jones for Governor of Georgia during a press conference Wednesday, June 30, 2021 in Atlanta, Ga. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)
Caption
Rudy Giuliani endorses GOP candidate Vernon Jones for Governor of Georgia during a press conference Wednesday, June 30, 2021 in Atlanta, Ga. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

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

Just days after he was suspended from practicing law in New York in part because he was promoting lies about the 2020 election in Georgia, Rudy Giuliani was back in Atlanta to hold court with Vernon Jones.

Giuliani stood with Jones at the St. Regis Hotel in Buckhead on Wednesday night to rip into Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Jones is challenging in the 2022 GOP primary.

The former New York mayor called the Republican governor a “failure” and promised Jones, a party-switching former Democrat, will be a “leader for reform.”

Through much of the 45-minute press conference, the two promoted a string of false conspiracy theories we won’t repeat. The end devolved into a tiff between Jones and a CNN reporter who asked him a question he didn’t like. Giuliani tried, in vain, to steer Jones from the confrontation.

A few hours later, at a pricey fundraiser at the Buckhead Club, Giuliani and Jones outlined the contours of Jones’ campaign to a few dozen donors. Among the faces in the crowd: Marietta City Councilman Reggie Copeland.

Over the course of the two events, Jones endorsed the Buckhead cityhood movement. He promised to oppose critical race theory. He labeled Kemp a RINO. He touted former President Donald Trump. And he attacked President Joe Biden and other Democrats.

Trump has not backed Jones and we’re told he has no plans to do so, despite his hatred for Kemp. But one remark from Jones that caught our attention: He expects to soon be endorsed by others from Trump’s inner circle.

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The U.S. House is expected to vote today on an infrastructure package that includes about $6 billion in member-requested earmarks for transportation projects under a process that was reinstated by the Democratic majority this year.

Most Republicans are expected to vote no on the $547 billion package that amounts to a first step toward accomplishing one of President Joe Biden’s key priorities.

We will be paying close attention to the votes cast by Georgia U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter and Barry Loudermilk. They were the only two GOP members in the delegation to participate in the earmarks process, and the bill passed in committee contained nearly $30 million for four projects in their districts.

Will they vote “no” on legislation that contains money for their constituents that they asked for?

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Today marks the first day that most state laws passed by the Georgia General Assembly earlier this year go into effect, including the remaining portions of the state’s new elections law, Senate Bill 202, that have not already been enacted.

The AJC’s Mark Niesse has the details on what these new features will mean for voters, candidates and ballot counting going forward.

The biggest changes voters are likely to notice are the new identification requirements for requesting and casting a mail-in absentee ballot, a shorter window to request one and an earlier deadline to send it back in.

Maya Prahbu writes up the other important new laws going into effect for Georgians today, including the state’s overhaul of the antiquated citizens arrest law, a state law preventing large cuts to local police budgets and new drivers’ ed requirements for 17-year-olds applying for a license.

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We’re picking up word that Democratic state Sen. Elena Parent of Atlanta is considering joining the wide-open field for lieutenant governor.

Two Democratic House members are already in the race — state Reps. Erick Allen and Derrick Jackson — but none from the Senate are in the running.

The most prominent Republican in the hunt so far is Senate GOP heavyweight Butch Miller, but state Sen. Burt Jones is expected to soon join him in the contest. Activist Jeanne Seaver is among the others in the race.

They’re all vying to replace Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who plans to promote his vision of a post-Trump “GOP 2.0” rather than run for a second term.

If you’re wondering why so many state senators are looking at this post, the lieutenant governor in Georgia is also the president of the Senate. He or she has the power to set the agenda, choose committees, and wield a handful of other authorities.

A Jolt reader rightly notes a Democratic LG would be mostly a figurehead over a GOP-led Senate, and vice versa.

Any new LG will run the show for their friends — and their enemies — in the upper chamber.

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Today also begins a new state fiscal year, FY 2022, which brings with it a new $27.2 billion budget.

AJC money man James Salzer wrote an overview of what’s in it when Gov. Brian Kemp signed the spending plan into law. If you are an even bigger finance nerd than Salzer — and that’s nothing to be ashamed of — we’ve got the whole budget for you to review at your leisure.

But if you can’t bring yourself to care about the state budget, Salzer’s got an answer for why you should:

“The taxes the state collects help it educate 2.5 million children and young adults, provide healthcare to more than 2 million Georgians, manage and improve parks, investigate crimes, incarcerate criminals, and regulate the insurance industry, banks and loan companies, utilities and dozens of professions. The state issues driver’s licenses, oversees elections and helps pay the cost of nursing home care for most elderly.

The state is a major provider of treatment for mental health and drug addiction treatment, helps fund public health programs fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, and also builds roads and bridges.

Besides paying salaries, it helps make sure that hundreds of thousands of former teachers, university staffers and state employees receive pensions and health care.”

Any budget passed by a GOP-led legislature will reflect Republican priorities. For a left-leaning take on what it all means, the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute has a primer posting this morning.

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The chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee wants an investigation into former agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue’s financial disclosures, a move that could further complicate the Republican’s push to be the next chancellor of Georgia’s higher education system.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan called for the investigation the day after The Washington Post revealed the firm that Perdue owned purchased a South Carolina grain facility that was worth millions of dollars for $250,000 just before he joined Donald Trump’s Cabinet. Read more here.

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The head of the Buckhead cityhood movement, Bill White, has been making the rounds on New York-based media recently.

In a segment with WABC radio in New York earlier this week, White claimed credit for Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ decision not to seek reelection in November.

“The mayor of Atlanta, who’s announced she’s not running for office a hundred percent because we announced we’re splitting from Atlanta,” White said. “That is the reason why she dropped out. She knew she would never have a chance.”

White added, “They’re about to lose $1 billion a year in their piggy bank from us. They get this money and they just piss it away and we’re going to take our city back.”

In a separate segment on Fox News Wednesday night, White dropped GOP state Sen. Clint Dixon’s name. He told Tucker Carlson that he’d just gotten off the phone with the senator, who updated him on the condition of the Atlanta police officer who was shot in Midtown Atlanta Wednesday afternoon.

Later, White called a multi-unit zoning proposal from Bottoms, “a Marxist land grab.”

White, a friend of former President Donald Trump, relocated to Atlanta from New York about three years ago.

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The quarterly campaign finance deadline isn’t for a few more days, but we’re already starting to hear fundraising reports from some candidates.

This morning, we brought you word of Gov. Brian Kemp’s record-setting haul.

Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed told supporters last night he’s already collected more than $1 million for his comeback bid.

His former nemesis, former City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, is set to report raising at least $370,000 for her council bid with roughly $300,000 in cash on hand.

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Maybe the most surprising report so far came from Manswell Peterson, a military veteran and author who is running as a Democrat for secretary of state.

Peterson reported raising nearly $319,000 for his 2022 bid. That would be a significant sum even for a well-known contender. But we’ve rarely seen a fundraising report quite like his.

It included only two itemized contributions, consisting of $850 in total. The other $318,000 or so listed on his form is from small-dollar donors who gave $100 or less and aren’t required by state law to be itemized.

His expenses amounted to only about $600, and he didn’t report loaning himself any cash.

We called up Peterson for more information, and he said it was no typo. He claimed the bulk of his donors gave him a few bucks here and there at different events around Georgia and through online appeals.

“I was hoping to get big donors, but when you don’t get a lot of press, we had to get it through social media,” he said. “It’s shocking to us, too. But I’m a veteran, I’m an established author. I’m not some no-name person.”

He doesn’t boast a huge following on social media and even raising a few thousand dollars in small-dollar contributions is a heavy lift for more big-name contenders this early in the campaign. For comparison, Stacey Abrams raised roughly $67,000 during the same stretch in 2017 for her 2018 governor’s race.

Peterson told us he had documentation for each of the donors if investigators come calling for proof of the funds.

He also said he hoped his report will help position him as a legitimate rival to state Rep. Bee Nguyen, the Democratic front-runner.

“Do I think I can beat Bee? That’s going to be tough. But they’ll see that I’m here now, that I can raise money.”

We reached out to Sarah Riggs Amico, a former Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor and U.S. Senate, for some context on how difficult it is for contenders to collect that sort of haul solely through small-dollar donations.

To amass $318,000 in unitemized contributions, she noted Peterson needed a minimum of 3,212 donors if each of them donated $99. If each gave $50, he would have needed 6,360 donors.

“That would seem improbable this early in a primary — during a pandemic — when many events are sparsely attended,” Amico said.

“I may be new to politics but I’ve been good at math for a long time. The math in his report is highly suspicious.”

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The Republican National Committee isn’t wasting any time getting its volunteers and even possible 2022 office seekers trained up in Georgia.

The national committee will hold its first Leadership Training Initiative Thursday in Atlanta. Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer is hosting.

Republicans have made it clear it wants a different result in Georgia in 2022 than it had in 2020. Training new troops early and often could be a way to do that.

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Name change alert: The Family Policy Alliance of Georgia, a conservative advocacy group led by activist Cole Muzio, is now known as Frontline Policy.

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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.