The Jolt: “Senator” David Ralston?

03/31/2021 —Atlanta, Georgia — Speaker of the House Rep. David Ralston (Blue Ridge) speaks with members of the press following Sine Die, legislative day 40, at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Wednesday, March 31, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
03/31/2021 —Atlanta, Georgia — Speaker of the House Rep. David Ralston (Blue Ridge) speaks with members of the press following Sine Die, legislative day 40, at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Wednesday, March 31, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

News and analysis from the politics

It might be time to add another name to the list of potential U.S. Senate candidates in Georgia.

With no real heavy hitters in the GOP race against U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock yet, House Speaker David Ralston has been said to be considering a bid.

Ralston added fuel to the fire on Thursday with social media posts highlighting his visit in Washington with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

“This was a race we never should have lost,” Ralston wrote, “and it represents the best opportunity for a Republican in the nation next year.”

Keep in mind that Ralston has flirted with bids for higher office before and never followed through. He’s already one of the most powerful politicians in Georgia as leader of the state House. And he’d face fresh questions about his use of legislative privilege in his legal practice to delay court cases before leading the General Assembly to change the leave rules.

But no big names have yet announced a challenge to Warnock, who narrowly defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler in January.

And some senior GOP officials are uncomfortable with the leading figures ruminating on a run, including UGA football great Herschel Walker, U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter and Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.

Several folks close to Ralston say he’s kicking the tires, though his top aide, Kaleb McMichen, wouldn’t reveal much in a statement, saying only that the visit was centered on discussing Georgia’s new election law and the Senate seat.

“He has stated several times that Republicans shouldn’t have lost that seat,” said McMichen, “and he’s working hard to see that does not happen again next year.”

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will make three stops in Atlanta Friday, including Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, with Sens. Jon Ossoff and Sen. Raphael Warnock to highlight Democrats’ push for President Joe Biden’s $2.1 trillion infrastructure proposal.

During a Senate hearing on Thursday, Ossoff pushed Buttigieg to commit to expand funding for MARTA services and to complete the Atlanta BeltLine.

In response to Ossoff’s questions about investing in Atlanta transit projects, Buttigieg said resources can be put into rapid transit and other efforts to ease gridlock. He added that some of the money for these projects would need to come from Biden’s proposed American Jobs Plan.

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One day after Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were at the White House, U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson R-West Point, will head up to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., as well.

Ferguson will join President Joe Biden when the president awards the Medal of Honor to Third District resident, retired Army Colonel Ralph Puckett for gallantry during the Korean War.

The 94-year-old war hero has previously been awarded five Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross.

Also attending will be H.E. Moon Jae-in, President of the Republic of Korea, the Vice President, the First Lady, and the Second Gentleman.

The congressman gave a speech on the House floor last this week to honor Col. Puckett.

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The Biden Administration made the surprise move to shutter an immigration detention facility in Irwin County that had been the focus of complaints about mistreatment and abuse.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to terminate its contracts with the Irwin County Detention Center “as soon as possible.” The facility, located in Ocilla, about 200 miles south of Atlanta, is owned by the county but run by a private contractor.

Pressure had been building on the White House to stop sending immigrants to the facility. At a congressional hearing last week, U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, D-Ga., pressed Mayorkas on whether the Biden administration would make good on its campaign promise to end privately run immigration detention centers.

While Democrats applauded the decision to close the facility, Republicans questioned the motives and timing. U.S. Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton, dismissed the allegations against the facility’s medical staff, namely Dr. Mahendra Amin, accused of forcing unwanted hysterectomies on detainees.

“It’s clearly a political decision,” said Scott, who wants to know if ICE officials were consulted before the decision to sideline the facility was made. “What do you intend to do with the detainees?”

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We all know the redistricting process is looming later this year, but even the Joltiest of Jolt readers may not fully understand the process, or at least know how it will work in Georgia later this year.

State Sen. Michelle Au, D-Duluth, held a “Redistricting 101” Zoom seminar last night for her constituents to go through how the process works and what it means for Georgians.

Au introduced herself as the state senator from the “eccentrically shaped” 48th district and brought Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, and renown UGA professor of politics, Dr. Charles Bullock, to explain the history and future of redistricting in the state.

Parent described learning in 2011 that her state House district had been redrawn by the Republican majority. The final lines drew both Parent and Democratic state Rep. Scott Holcomb into the same GOP-majority district. Parent elected not to run in the new district, which Holcomb ran in and won.

Parent went on to win a seat in the state Senate, where she’s worked to change the redistricting process in the state.

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Censure resolutions have been filed against Georgia U.S. Reps. Andrew Clyde and Jody Hice, but it’s doubtful that either resolution will receive a vote on the U.S. House floor.

U.S. Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island followed through on his attempt to discipline both GOP lawmakers, plus a third from Arizona, for their comments at a recent House hearing that were widely regarded as downplaying the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

A total of 19 Democratic lawmakers have agreed to cosponsor the three resolutions. Only one is from Georgia: U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, has signed on so far.

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Deploying broadband has become a top priority at the state and national levels as a way to revitalize struggling rural areas, including in Georgia.

But Charlie Hayslett writes in the Georgia Recorder that it’s an expensive idea that can’t be seen as a solution to the areas’ deepest, most systemic problems:

“It won’t replace shuttered hospitals, failing school systems, or boarded-up businesses. Running fiber-optic cable to rural Georgia communities already in the throes of population loss and economic decline would be like serving filet mignon to a dying man who just lost his last tooth.”

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By a one-vote margin, the U.S. House signed off on $1.9 billion in emergency funding to increase security at the U.S. Capitol following the Jan. 6 riot.

The funds will go toward reimbursing the National Guard and other law enforcement agencies for security costs for the past several months. It will also be used to build new fencing and security around the Capitol, along with prosecuting those accused of participating in the breach.

The final vote on H.R. 3273 was 213-212 with three liberal Democrats voting “present.” All other Democrats were in favor, and every Republican voted against the measure.

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CAMPAIGN WATCH: State Rep. Timothy Barr, R-Lawrenceville, announced last week that he’s running for the 10th District Congressional seat to replace U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, reports the Gainesville Times.

Barr said in a press release, “I, for one, refuse to be a generation who hands our country over to socialism, and this is why I have decided to run for Congress.”

Hice has announced he’s leaving Congress to run in the GOP primary against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

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For your side-table reading this weekend:

  • Jamie Dupree’s latest column on how Democrats pouncing on U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde’s comment in last week’s hearing that video from the U.S. Capitol on January 6th showed some infiltrators so orderly they could have been on a “normal tourist visit.”
  • AJC Education reporter Ty Tagami’s trending story on the growing opposition to teaching “critical race theory” in Georgia schools;
  • A column from Ron Brownstein in the Atlantic on the rising power of Asian American voters in the U.S., with an interview with Georgia state Rep. Bee Nguyen.

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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.

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