The Jolt: Sam Olens, a Republican, endorses a Democratic candidate for Cobb County sheriff

Maj. Craig Owens, who is running for Sheriff of Cobb County, listens during a town hall meeting hosted by the ACLU of Georgia, Cobb County Southern Christian Leadership Conference and La Gente de Cobb to discuss the conditions at the Cobb County Detention Center Monday, Dec. 9, 2019 at Life Church in Marietta, Ga. PHOTO BY ELISSA BENZIE

We’re down to 22 days before Election Day, and things are getting rather elemental – and not necessarily in a good way.

U.S. Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., is on television alleging – falsely – that the Communist Party is backing Jon Ossoff, his Democratic opponent.

In Georgia’s other race for U.S. Senate, the GOP fight between incumbent Kelly Loeffler and Doug Collins has devolved into a disturbing game of “Who Stood Closest to the Black Lady?” (Details below)

And yet this weekend brought one sign of comity. A robocall hit Cobb County phones over the weekend, featuring former attorney general Sam Olens, a Republican who back in the day was chairman of the Cobb County Commission.

Olens was soliciting votes for Craig Owens, the Democratic challenger to longtime Sheriff Neil Warren, a Republican.

“These days it’s unusual for a Republican to support a Democrat,” Olens said. “But the safety of our families and community is too important to let partisanship dictate how we vote for sheriff. Craig Owens is a veteran, a leader, a person with integrity and solid values, who works hard for our country and our county.”

Warren, 73, has served as sheriff since 2004. He joined the department 43 years ago. One of his chief bragging points, more effective when Cobb was thoroughly Republican, was the fact that his was the first law enforcement agency in Georgia to join the 287(g) program that allows local policing units to enforce federal immigration law.

But Warren has been a target in recent years over a spate of deaths in a county jail that he oversees.

Last month, Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes, a Republican, asked federal prosecutors to launch an independent probe into inmate deaths at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center.

Owens is a major with the Cobb County Police Department. If elected, he would be the first African American to serve as sheriff in Cobb.

Our AJC colleague Meris Lutz rightly reminds us that Olens and Warren have a history. In 2017, Warren and state Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, pressured Olens, then president of Kennesaw State University, to keep the school’s cheerleaders off the field during the national anthem in response to several kneeling in protest. Olens resigned later that year.

ExploreElection 2020: Georgia voter guide

***

We’ve pointed out time and again how the image of Democrat Stacey Abrams has been weaponized by both incumbent Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins on the Republican side of U.S. Senate race No. 2.

Collins has pointed to video of Loeffler embracing Abrams at midcourt of an Atlanta Dream game in 2018, just before a climactic vote for governor.

But it has been the well-funded Loeffler campaign that has been most prolific, sending out mailer after mailer featuring Collins hugging Abrams – when they were both members of the state House. Outside allies of Loeffler have adopted the same practice. Below is one of the more recent and elaborate ones:

A mailer in support of Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler in the race for U.S. Senate/AJC

Credit: Jim Galloway

Credit: Jim Galloway

“Reckless” is the title of a book Abrams wrote several years ago under the pen name of Selena Montgomery. One of the characters is named Doug Collins. “He appears briefly as a young lawyer who annoys the main character, but is loveable,” Abrams said several years ago.

Attacking opponents by showing them consorting with members of a race not their own unfortunately has a long history in Georgia.

More than a few of your older readers have sent word that this reminds you of the attacks made by the Jimmy Carter campaign during the 1970 race for governor, showing Democratic primary opponent Carl Sanders, then part owner of the Atlanta Hawks, being doused with champagne by a celebrating Black player.

***

Dr. Jill Biden during a campaign stop for her husband, Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden, at Jeffers Pond Elementary School in Prior Lake, Minnesota, on September 9, 2020. (Anthony Souffle/Minneapolis Star Tribune/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Surrogate city: Georgia is about to be a favorite stopping ground for a slew of presidential loyalists.

Jill Biden is set to headline a 1 p.m. event today in DeKalb County with the aforementioned Stacey Abrams, marking the first in-person visit to the state for either of the Bidens since her husband won the Democratic nod.

Donald Trump Jr. will headline a 6 p.m. rally in Kennesaw and his sister, Ivanka Trump, is scheduled to arrive in Georgia on Tuesday for a sitdown conversation with U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

And we’re told U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris will soon hold a “virtual” event focusing on Georgia.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler is traveling Georgia with a key supporter of her own: She’s in Augusta and Albany today with fellow Republican Sen. Tom Cotton to kick off early voting.

***

Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta.

Three years after flipping an Atlanta-based district, state Sen. Jen Jordan is considered to occupy a safe seat. But the Democrat, seen as a potential contender for statewide office, is boosting her name ID with a new 30-second spot.

It highlights her efforts to shut down a plant in her district because of toxic gas emissions and her support for preserving coverage of pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act.

***

Today’s schedule includes a slew of congressional debates and a U.S. Senate showdown between Republican incumbent David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. They’ll be meeting remotely. The debate will be livestreamed at 3 p.m on GPB.org, but will also air at 8 p.m. on GPB-TV and on the Atlanta Press Club’s Facebook site.

***

People wait in line to vote in Decatur, Ga., Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. (Ben Gray/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

We are seeing long lines across metro Atlanta as the three-week early voting period gets underway today in Georgia.

Our colleagues report that the line at the Art Place-Blackbox Theatre in east Cobb County was wrapped around the building by the time that site opened at 7 a.m. Hundreds of people also lined up at the State Farm Arena, the state’s largest early voting site. By 9 a.m., the wait there was about 30 minutes.

The AJC is collecting reports of voter problems. Fill out this form if you experience any.

***

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was featured in a digital ad that dropped over the weekend featuring over a dozen mayors encouraging Black voters to support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

***

Republican state leaders, including Georgia’s Brian Kemp, have written a letter to U.S. Senate leaders encouraging swift confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Kemp is among 24 GOP governors who signed the letter. A different letter with the same message was backed by House Speaker David Ralston and Senate Pro Tem Butch Miller.

Barrett’s Judiciary Committee hearing, a first step in the confirmation process, begins today.

***

If Democrats are successful this year in Georgia, it will likely be due to the solid support of the party’s most reliable voting bloc: Black women. AJC reporter Ernie Suggs wrote about efforts to keep these women engaged and mobilized:

For the past 20 years, Black women, who make up only about 7% of the country’s population, have been critical to the success of Democratic candidates across the nation.

They vote at higher rates than any other demographic, according to the Pew Research Center. In the past five presidential cycles, registered Black women have voted at or above 60%.

That’s not likely to change in November.

“Black women are going to continue to do what we have always done, and that is to lead our community,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said. “We are gonna show up and show out in record numbers and bring other people with us.”

-

In Other News