The Jolt: Sam Nunn: Time for Perdue, Loeffler to ‘step up’ for Biden transition

Sam Nunn - Former U.S. senator from Georgia served from 1972 to 1996. He began his political career as a Democratic member of the Georgia General Assembly in 1968. In 2001, he and Ted Turner created the foundation, Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), to reduce the threat to the world of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
Sam Nunn - Former U.S. senator from Georgia served from 1972 to 1996. He began his political career as a Democratic member of the Georgia General Assembly in 1968. In 2001, he and Ted Turner created the foundation, Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), to reduce the threat to the world of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

Credit: File

Credit: File

Signatures, surrogates, and SoS staying put lead the day

In the 24 years that former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn represented Georgia in Washington, the Democrat built a reputation as a statesman, both for his measured, bipartisan demeanor and his expertise in international affairs.

So we listened closely when Nunn took Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to task Monday for what he sees as their failure so far to support the transition of American presidential power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden in the weeks after Election Day.

Speaking to Bill Nigut on GPB’s “Political Rewind,” Nunn said:

“They’ve got to step up right now. This is a crucial moment. It’s a dangerous moment for America. They’ve got to step up and basically say to President Trump, ‘We want you to cooperate in the transition.’ This is their constitutional responsibility: preserve and protect our democracy. So I, frankly, have been disappointed in their silence so far.”

While the General Services Administration began the formal transition process on Monday, Trump said on Twitter he believes he will still win the election. Neither Georgia senator has publicly acknowledged Biden as the president-elect.

Nunn praised Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp for their work since Election Day and said he hopes that no matter who wins the runoffs (he’s supporting the Democrats), he hopes Georgia’s senators will remember they’ve been sent to Washington to be a check and balance to the president’s power, regardless of party.

Nunn also talked about his 1972 campaign for Senate, a wild 16-person affair (sound familiar?), the single national security threat he wants the Biden administration to focus on, and the chilling detail he remembers about starting in the Senate the same year as Biden.

The entire hour-long conversation is worth any political insiders’ time this Thanksgiving.

***

Even before President Donald Trump’s administration authorized President-elect Joe Biden to begin a formal transition, there were signs of a thaw directly linked to Georgia’s pivotal U.S. Senate races.

The New York Times’ report of a letter signed by more than 160 business executives included this:

As a way of gaining leverage over the G.O.P., some of the corporate executives who signed on to the joint letter Monday have also discussed withholding campaign donations from the two Republican Senate candidates in Georgia unless party leaders agree to push for a presidential transition, according to four people who participated in a conference call Friday in which the notion was discussed.

- The New York Times

Then there was U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who broke from his standard stump speech on Monday.

“The tiebreaker will be the VP. That means they’ll have the majority,” Perdue said at a campaign stop in Griffin.

The “VP” in that scenario is vice president-elect Kamala Harris, who would serve as the tiebreaker for Senate control if Democrats hold 50 seats.

Perdue campaigned with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, who used similar language to present a Republican-held Senate as a hedge against a “potential President Joe Biden.”

And recall how Vice President Mike Pence, in town on Friday for two campaign stops, pitched the 2021 runoffs as something of an insurance policy to the gathered Republicans.

“We need you to do everything in your power to make sure — to just be certain — that your two senators will be there to be a check on the agenda of the radical left,” he said.

***

The Trump-requested recount of Georgia ballots starts today. It will be a machine recount, as prescribed by law, but don’t look for an audit of signatures from absentee ballots. That’s a labor-intensive step Trump and his allies say they want, but state officials say isn’t warranted.

“We can’t open investigations based on generalized `we’re not happy with the outcome’ of the election,” Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager, said. “If somebody comes to us with specific evidence, we investigate that.”

So far, Team Trump has presented no such evidence.

***

We’ve talked about how difficult it would be for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to run for another term in 2022 after clashing with the state’s GOP establishment and President Donald Trump after he debunked and defied false claims of widespread voter fraud.

That question came up in a WABE interview on Monday when he was asked if the internal criticism was so loud he’d consider switching parties.

“No,” he said. “Perhaps some of the people who are upset over this will consider leaving the Republican Party, but I intend to stay.”

***

Former President Barack Obama stands ready to assist the Democratic candidates in the U.S. Senate runoffs in January, he is just waiting on his marching orders.

But he believes people who have been working in Georgia politics for years, including Stacey Abrams, have a bigger influence on voters who could help Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win. Obama spoke about the upcoming election during a video chat with the Washington Post to promote his new memoir, “A Promised Land.”

The former president said he understands his draw and knows he is a crowd favorite. But he thinks the true game-changers have been on the ground all along.

“That’s the reason that Georgia went for Joe Biden, and that’s what I think it’s going to take for us to be able to sustain this down the road,” Obama said. “If I’m doing some robocalls or some guest appearances, it gets people excited. But, ultimately, it’s the people in Georgia recognizing their own power that makes all the difference.”

***

On the trail. Jon Ossoff will host a drive-thru yard sign pick up at the Gathering Spot in Atlanta today. On Thanksgiving Day, Ossoff and his wife, Dr. Alisha Kramer, will volunteer at Hosea Helps for their famous Thanksgiving food distribution event.

And while Sen. Kelly Loeffler doesn’t have public events scheduled this week, she will resume her regular schedule after testing negative for COVID for a second time Monday.

***

Knock-knock. Democrats will resume door-to-door canvassing this week, Politico reports, after the party largely put face-to-face elements of their GOTV efforts on hold since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Republicans resumed traditional canvassing over the summer, Democrats decided in-person contact with voters at their homes would not only be unsafe, but unwelcome. But eight months into the pandemic and with two Senate runoffs on the line, the Warnock and Ossoff campaigns said they’re sending organizers back into the field.

They’ll be required to wear masks, stand six feet back from voters and observe other safety protocols. The change will be welcome news to many grassroots Democrats, who vented after Election Day that they’d given up one of their best advantages over Republicans and fell short of expectations, especially in state House and Senate races, as a result.

***

The National Republican Senatorial Committee is putting another $200,000 behind attack ads targeting Democratic Senate candidates, buys that will focus on the Jacksonville and Tallahassee markets that reach South Georgia viewers.

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Mercedes-Benz Stadium will join State Farm Arena in serving as an early voting site for the January runoffs. During the lead-up to the November general election, more than 40,000 Fulton County voters cast ballots on the Hawks’ home court.

The Falcons’ field was added to the partnership to solve conflicts that limited the arena’s availability because of scheduled home games.

State Farm Arena will be open for early voting Dec. 14-19 and Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be available Dec. 22-30. The site will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

***

For the first time in state history, the Democratic caucuses in the Georgia House and Senate will be led by Black legislators at the same time. The AJC’s Maya T. Prabhu has more about the significance of the roles for state Sen. Gloria Butler of Stone Mountain and Rep. James Beverly of Macon.

Beverly said the shift in leadership reflects a change the state and nation has undergone. Beverly, an optometrist, was first elected in 2011. He was elected caucus chairman in 2017, his first leadership role.

After the deaths of Black people such as Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and George Floyd in Minneapolis, more people have engaged in the fight to battle racism, he said.

Having Black leadership better positions the caucus to address issues of racial injustice, said Beverly, a Baltimore native who’s lived in Macon since 1998.

“Lived experiences give you an opportunity to approach problem solving in a different way,” Beverly said. “In this moment and this time, I think it bodes well for Georgia.”

The Democratic caucus in the General Assembly has added more Black lawmakers and women to its ranks over the years.

Stacey Abrams in 2011 became the first woman and the first Black person to lead the House Democratic Caucus. Charles Walker served as the Senate’s first Black caucus leader in 1996, a time when Democrats were still in the majority.

***

Kudos to Cody Hall, who was promoted this week to Director of Communications of Gov. Brian Kemp’s office. The grizzled Kemp press aide, who joined his campaign after the 2018 primary, succeeds Candice Broce, who was recently named the governor’s chief operating officer.

***

Your Insiders are taking off Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week. The Jolt will return on Monday. Happy Thanksgiving!

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