The Jolt: Sen. Tim Scott defends Georgia voting law in GOP response to Biden

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

South Carolina’s U.S. Sen. Tim Scott gave the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress last night, including a robust defense of Georgia’s recently passed voting overhaul.

“I am an African-American who has voted in the South my entire life. I take voting rights personally,” Scott said.

When Scott was appointed to the Senate by then-Gov. Nikki Hayley in 2013, he became the first Black senator to represent the South since Reconstruction. So he is uniquely positioned to speak to issues of race on behalf of the GOP, which he did Wednesday night as he spoke about a range of issues from police reform to changes in election laws.

Using Gov. Brian Kemp’s frequent refrain, Scott said Republicans support making it “easier to vote and harder to cheat.” He also called the new law “mainstream,” and described the ways he said the bill will expand, not reduce, opportunities for Georgians to vote. (The AJC has reported the specifics of the bill extensively.)

Mostly importantly, Scott slammed Democratic anger over SB 202 as a thinly veiled excuse to pass HR 1, a sweeping new voting proposal that would give the federal government more control over how states conduct federal elections.

“This is not about civil rights or our racial past,” the senator said. “It’s about rigging elections in the future.”

Scott, also took Democrats to task who have called the filibuster rules in the Senate racist.

Although Scott did not name him, Georgia’s U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock has been critical of the filibuster and used his maiden speech in the Senate to call the Georgia law, “Jim Crow in new clothes,” and to urge the Senate to pass HR 1.

It’s clear that the national fight over voting rights has only just begun. In Biden’s speech Wednesday night, he also called for passage of the legislation Scott warned against.

“If we truly want to restore the soul of America, we need to protect the sacred right to vote,” Biden said.


Because of COVID restrictions, seating for the president’s address was drastically reduced from the usual 1,600 spectators in the House chamber to just 200.

Among the 30 or so senators to score a ticket were Georgia’s U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. The senators sat together in the visitors’ gallery high above the House floor, although naturally, six feet apart.


The White House featured another prominent Georgian Wednesday night when First Lady Jill Biden hosted a virtual event for grassroots Democrats along with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.

Bottoms was one of the Biden campaign’s earliest supporters in Georgia, endorsing him in June of 2019 well ahead of the 2020 primaries and, in Biden’s words, “Back when most folks didn’t think I had a chance.”


We’re fast beginning to see whether the idea of Sonny Perdue as the next chancellor of the higher education system will emerge as a potent political weapon in Georgia.

As the AJC reported this week, Democratic state Rep. Derrick Jackson joined a “Students Against Sonny” protest in Atlanta, urging the Regents not to tap the former Georgia governor to lead the agency.

A day later, state Rep. Erick Allen, Jackson’s top Democratic rival for lieutenant governor, called the decision by the Board of Regents to pause its selection process a “win for students.”

“This is just the beginning,” Allen said. “It’s important that the calls for qualified leadership for the crucial role don’t stop, and I am in full support of students standing up for their own education.”

Meanwhile, Republicans have been eerily quiet about the push for Perdue. The former governor hasn’t said anything publicly about the chancellor role, and a range of GOP leaders we polled are steering clear.

The biggest and most important exception: Gov. Brian Kemp’s office, which echoed an influential accrediting agency that raised questions about whether the chancellor selection process has been overly politicized.

Kemp’s spokesman said the governor’s orbit is concerned a “minority of Board of Regents members may be controlling or influencing key decisions of this critical personnel process without input from the majority of the Board.”


First in the Jolt: We caught up with U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, whose flip of the Gwinnett-based 7th District was one of the few down-ticket bright spots for Democrats in U.S. House contests.

The public policy and finance professor told us that President Joe Biden’s $4 trillion proposal for infrastructure and education-related measures addressed some important needs, but she’s concerned about the price tag.

“I’ll be putting on my green eyeshades and sharpening my pencil, looking at the spending,” she said, adding that infrastructure improvements have traditionally been funded through user fees and not tax hikes.

Asked last night if she opposed a specific funding mechanism, Bordeaux said: “I’m not taking anything off the table.”

She is a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of 28 Democrats and 28 Republicans in the House that met last week to start roughing out the contours of the legislation. She said she left the meeting encouraged that there could be room for consensus, though she acknowledged the challenge ahead.

Bordeaux also faces a tough re-election bid, made more complicated by the looming possibility that the Republican-controlled Legislature could redraw her district boundaries to make them more palatable for a conservative candidate.

“I’m taking it one step at a time,” she said. “I’m preparing to defend the 7th and looking to do some good during this time I have. There’s a lot I would like to see accomplished, and we’re making significant progress.”


Governor Brian P. Kemp announced Wednesday that he’ll appoint Bobby Christine to fill the Columbia County District Attorney vacancy. His term will begin July 1, 2021 and end December 31, 2022.

From 2017 to 2021, Christine served as the United States Attorney for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, appointed by former President Donald Trump.

Christine made national news in January when Trump also named him to replace BJay Pak as the acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia after Pak abruptly resigned his post.

Days before, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger released a recording of a call from Trump demanding that he find the additional votes he would need to carry Georgia. In the call, Trump referred to a “never-Trumper U.S. attorney there.” Although Trump didn’t say Pak’s name, he had repeatedly debunked accusations of voter fraud in Georgia.

Shortly after Trump named Christine to oversee the Northern District as well, he dismissed two election fraud cases challenging the Georgia election. On a conference call with staff at the time, Christine said, “There’s just nothing to them.”


First in the Jolt: As Joe Biden prepares to visit Georgia, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is stepping up its defense of incumbent U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

The group aired a five-figure digital ad campaign on Thursday that emphasizes the Democrat’s support for the recently passed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

The 30-second spot ends with an image of the pastor and the caption: “Thank you Rev. Raphael Warnock and Senate Democrats.”


Lin Wood, the former Georgia attorney and self-appointed lawyer for the Trump campaign during its effort to overturn Georgia’s election results, sent a bizarre four-page letter Wednesday to members of the State Bar of Georgia, which then began circulating on social media.

Wood wrote that he is “under attack” by the Bar and asked other Bar members for their support.

“Our State Bar Association has ventured into unlawful waters,” he warned. “We need to reign (sic.) it in before it implodes.”

In a complaint from the Georgia Bar that Wood posted publicly in February, the State Disciplinary Board wrote that it had received information about Wood “that suggests that said attorney may have violated one or more of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct.”

We’ll keep an eye out for developments.


GOP activist Darryl Wilson is launching an effort to raise money for a nonprofit group called Men of Excellence, one of the larger organizations that staff concession stands at Atlanta Braves games.

Wilson said the group and other nonprofits who work the concession stands could lose roughly $50,000 now that the All Star game was yanked from Georgia. So he’s launched a GoFundMe to help them out.

Writes Wilson:

Lost in the frustration and anger from both sides of the aisle, are the men and women who will lose out on one of the largest revenue-generating events they will see in their lifetime.


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