The Jolt: Sen. Raphael Warnock talks Ted Cruz, Afghanistan, COVID

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

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock spoke out Thursday about the first foreign policy crisis in his Senate career- the final withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan and the chaos that’s followed.

“We’ve been in a 20-year, endless war,” Warnock said. “And like most Americans, and most Georgians, I think that these endless wars have not served us well.”

Asked about how he thinks President Joe Biden has handled the crisis, Warnock did not address the president specifically. Instead, he said there will be time later to talk about the process of the exit.

“But right now,” he said. “I think we have to focus on the people who are on the ground, American citizens, we have to focus on our Afghan allies who are there helping us, and we’ve got to get them out safely.”

Warnock’s remarks came at the latest Newsmakers event at the Atlanta Press Club and was one topic in a wide-ranging conversation that included audience questions.

One name that popped up several times was U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s, the arch-conservative senator with whom Warnock recently found the most unexpected of alliances.

Warnock name-checked Cruz several times to plug an amendment to the bipartisan infrastructure bill both senators added to formally designate an interstate highway that would stretch from west Texas to east Georgia.

“I even partnered with Ted Cruz -- yes, that Ted Cruz -- to put a provision” in the bill, he said.

The measure sets the stage for the proposed I-14 project, which aims to link up military bases and population centers. When it passed by a voice vote in the Senate earlier this month, the chamber broke out into spontaneous applause.

Warnock’s remarks made it clear he’ll use the rare alliance to prove to moderate voters he’s got a knack for bipartisanship.

More on Cruz:

“The Warnock-Cruz amendment. I didn’t necessarily see that coming. But if there’s a road that needs to get built in Texas that also needs to get built in Georgia, then we ought to get together and do it even if we disagree on almost everything else.

“And I think that that’s a lesson for our politics in general, that there’s a way in which there is a road that runs through all of our communities. And we all have a stake in building and maintaining that road that connects our humanity. And that’s the spirit that I try to bring to governance.

Other tidbits from the conversation:

On COVID safety measures:

“When did viruses become partisan? Viruses don’t know partisan divides. They don’t know geographic divides. Leaders need to be leaders in this moment.”

On Herschel Walker’s potential challenge:

“I got elected seven months ago. It’s been a whirlwind of activity. If you hear me talking for a while, you hear me bring up my dad. I had an older father, he was born in 1917. He told me if somebody hires you to do a job, do the job they hired you to do. So right now I’m focused on doing the job.”

On Battleground Georgia:

“Who would have thought on Nov. 4, after it looked like Joe Biden would win the White House, that the balance of the Senate would still be undetermined? Who could have predicted that you need two Senate seats to answer that question? And what are the odds that they both be in the same state? And if someone had said to Democrats that’s the scenario, who would pick Georgia? But Georgia delivered for the whole country.”


At the same Atlanta Press Club event, your Insiders ran into Marshall Guest of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. We asked him what the corporate group was doing to live up to Gov. Brian Kemp’s challenge to get tough on crime.

He told us the group has spent the past few months working to understand public safety issues in the region, retained a criminologist to chart out crime trends and interviewed community leaders to get their perspective. The goal is to develop “constructive solutions” to improve public safety.

Here’s a bit more:

“Other major metros and states are experiencing similar violent crime increases, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act to address this complex problem. We also must acknowledge the important role law enforcement plays in keeping our communities safe and thriving. We will support them while simultaneously holding them accountable for their actions. Public safety is a top priority for MAC, and we will continue to address it.”


U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was far away from her Rome district yesterday, all the way over in Iowa with her pal, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, for another installment of their two-man Trump-style show.

You’ve seen our reporting here in the Jolt about Greene’s expulsion from House committees, her repeated comparisons of COVID safety measures to the Holocaust, and her multiple suspensions from Twitter for spreading false COVID information.

Just eight months into the job, the first-termer’s reviews from the Iowa audience remind us of 2015 fans of a New York developer-turned-reality-show-star. From the Des Moines Register:

“We came because Marjorie Taylor Greene is a spitfire," said Dennis Eggenburg, of Muscatine, who wore a blue “Trump 2024" hat to the rally and carried a baseball card of Greene in his pocket. “Love her gumption. She gets after people."

Eggenburg said he wondered if Greene would run for president in 2024 and that he believes she could make a good vice president. He said he supports the stances Greene and Gaetz take on opposing mask and vaccine requirements and banning the teaching of critical race theory.

He said she should “keep doing what she's doing" and not pay attention to the “haters and the RINOs" — or Republicans in name only — who oppose her.

Brad Boustead, of Urbandale, also said that “maybe she's a little too outspoken" for some people, but he said he likes a “spicy Republican." Nicer approaches aren't always the best approach to addressing the “swamp problems" in Washington, he said.

“It's going to need somebody kind of spunky that can clean some of that out, which I'm in favor of," he said.

- The Des Moines Register


Here’s an amazing stat: Nearly every Georgia adult -- 95% of those age 18 or over -- is registered to vote, giving the state one of the highest registration rates in the nation, the AJC’s Mark Niesse writes.

The numbers, which come from the biennial U.S. Election Assistance Commission Report, show the active voter registration rate in Georgia lept from 76% in 2016 to 95% in 2020 after the state began automatically registering people to vote when they applied for driver licenses.

Many of those in the unregistered 5% are ineligible to vote because they are serving parole or have not yet completed prison sentences for felony charges.

The original change to automatic voter registration was made without a corresponding change to state law.

Instead, as the AJC reported at the time, officials with the Department of Driver Services, the Secretary of State’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office implemented automatic voter registration administratively through the driver’s license application form.

The Secretary of State at the time was now-Gov. Brian Kemp.


August 19, 2021 Atlanta - Gov. Brian Kemp makes remarks on an executive order during a news conference at the Georgia State Capitol building on Thursday, August 19, 2021. Gov. Brian Kemp signed an executive order Thursday that he said would ÒprotectÓ private businesses by barring local governments from forcing them to enact vaccine requirements, indoor capacity limits and mask rules aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. (Hyosub Shin /


icon to expand image


Speaking of the governor, Kemp signed an executive order Thursday afternoon allowing local businesses to ignore municipal mask or vaccine mandates.

The move infuriated some mayors around the state, who said they’re just trying to keep residents safe and hospitals from overflowing.

In an open letter responding to Kemp’s move, Athens Mayor Kelly Girtz, Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms slammed Kemp for what they said was a political stunt.

“Rather than seeking prohibitions on masking, Governor Kemp should set the expectation that masks will be worn at state institutions under his purview to demonstrate his interest in the long-term health of our populous, and of Georgia’s economy,” the wrote.

Jonson also Tweeted, “While the Governor Kemp believes he has shown leadership in “keeping Georgia businesses open”, he should start by re-opening the closed Dept of Labor offices across the State or perhaps by even re-opening the Governor’s Mansion which has been closed for months.”

Bottoms tweeted out a report of the governor’s executive order, simply writing, “The gift that keeps on giving...”


Data analyst Gregg Liddick worked up a fascinating chart using new U.S. Census data. It showed that more than 70% of Georgia’s population lives in a county where both population and Democratic vote share grew over the last decade.


A few City of Atlanta election updates:

* Alex Wan, the chair of the Fulton County Elections Board, resigned from that volunteer position and will run for a seat on the Atlanta City Council, the AJC’s Ben Brasch tells us. Wan served on the council from 2010-2017 and is seeking to reclaim his District 6 seat in northeast Atlanta.

* Courtney English, a former chair of the Atlanta Public Schools Board, has qualified to run for Atlanta City Council president. He announced his bid back in February.


U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk will lead a political discussion on Afghanistan hosted by the Republican National Committee Saturday.

The Cassville resident will head just down the road to the Cobb County GOP offices in Marietta for the chat, which will focus on criticism of President Joe Biden’s handling of withdrawing U.S. troops from the country and the Taliban takeover.


07/23/2021 — Decatur, Georgia — U.S. Congresswoman Nikema Williams, center, makes remarks during a joint presser with U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff ,right, and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, left, following a tour and visit to Kelley Lake Elementary School in Decatur, Friday, July 23, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

icon to expand image

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams has been named one of three honorary co-chairs of the National Democratic Training Committee. The NDTC bills itself as the largest organization in the country focused on training Democrats on how to run for office, work on campaigns or become local party leaders.

U.S. Reps. Lauren Underwood of Illinois and Katie Porter of California were also named honorary co-chairs.


As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to, and