The Jolt: Stacey Abrams’ ‘exciting’ tour stokes more buzz about 2022 plans

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Credit: Alyssa Pointer

Stacey Abrams isn’t acting like a future candidate for governor. Then again, Stacey Abrams won’t be a typical candidate if she launches an expected rematch against Gov. Brian Kemp.

And yes, senior Georgia Democrats still expect the voting rights activist to try to avenge her narrow defeat to Kemp next year.

But she’s stoking plenty of speculation about her future, most recently by announcing a nationwide tour of “exciting conversations on politics, leadership and social justice” that will take her from San Antonio to Durham, N.C. from September to November – with no events yet in Georgia.

Her tweet of her schedule set Georgia’s political crowd abuzz. Democratic officials reported being buried by texts and calls about Abrams’ plans. Republicans happily amplified talk that the tour was a sign she wouldn’t take on Kemp next year.

“Totally what you do when you’re running for governor of Georgia,” snarked Brandon Howell, a GOP operative.

We understand why some folks doubt she’ll run. Abrams’ profile has soared since her 2018 defeat. She was a contender to be Joe Biden’s running-mate. She’s started a constellation of influential groups working outside the political structure.

She’s grown her media platform, with lucrative book projects in the works. As for revenge, she already got a dose of that with Raphael Warnock’s victory over the governor’s hand-picked Senate appointment. The governor’s office, they posit, might not be as coveted as it once seemed.

Add to that the relative silence from Abrams about her future. Though she’s been clear she wants to run for office again, Abrams often says she’s primarily focused on expanding voting rights when she’s asked about her 2022 plans. Her friends say she’s tightlipped about her political future even in private.

And yet, you need not look far for evidence of how seriously Georgia Democrats are taking the speculation that Abrams might sit the race out. While Republicans have grown tired of waiting on Herschel Walker to make up his mind on a Senate bid, no Democrat has entered the race for governor.

Not only has Abrams frozen the field, she’s also offered a reminder why she need not rush. The Fair Fight voting rights group she launched has raised more than $100 million since she lost the 2018 vote -- and out-raised Kemp during the first half of the year.

In short, she’s got the financial power, name recognition and party support to bide her time. As one Democratic insider put it: “She’s under no obligation to comply with anyone else’s preferred timeline.”

A few weeks ago, we quoted state Rep. Al Williams about the likelihood his close friend runs again.

“I’m almost as certain Stacey will run as I am certain the sun will rise in the east tomorrow,” he said then.

When we asked him yesterday if he thought that still held true, the verbose legislator was succinct:

“It sure is.”

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Justice Department officials rejected an attempt by a top staffer to send a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp and other state leaders urging them to investigate Joe Biden’s victory, ABC News reported.

The news site reviewed emails dated Dec. 28, 2020 from Jeffrey Clark, who was then the acting head of the department’s civil division, that included a draft letter pushing a special legislative session to investigate false claims of widespread voting fraud.

By then, Kemp and other state leaders had repeatedly refused to call such a session. The letter claimed emergency action by lawmakers was in the “national interest.”

Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his top deputy, Richard Donoghue, both shot down the idea. Donoghue wrote that there is “no chance I would sign this letter or anything remotely like this,” and said any of the irregularities wouldn’t impact the outcome of the vote.

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Our AJC colleague Mark Niesse brings us some other breaking news in the realm of elections:

Sleuths have found more ballots that were initially scanned twice in Fulton County during the presidential election.

These 111 provisional ballots have duplicates within digital images of ballots, which were recently made public records by Georgia’s voting law. An additional 196 double-scanned absentee ballots had been discovered previously.

In all, these ballots would have added 78 extra votes to Joe Biden’s total, but it’s unclear if they were ultimately counted. After a recount, official results showed that Donald Trump gained a total of 121 absentee votes in Fulton, the heavily Democratic home of the city of Atlanta.

The findings were posted on Twitter by @HG_ND_Bmp, a newly created account that compared provisional ballot images published online by the Coalition for Good Governance. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution confirmed that the Fulton ballot images exactly match.

Fulton has a record of messy election procedures and poor management, according to a state monitor, but he found no evidence of dishonesty of fraud last fall.

Three ballot counts, both by hand and machine, reported similar results, with Biden winning Fulton by 243,000 votes and the state by 12,000.

But evidence of additional problems with Fulton’s elections will likely fuel calls for a takeover of the county’s election board.

A performance review is pending after Republican legislators from Fulton requested it last week. Georgia’s new voting law, passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, allows the State Election Board to replace a county’s election board after a performance review.

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Days after the Biden administration allowed a national moratorium on evictions to lapse, a new one is in place. And most of Georgia is covered.

The extension comes after Democratic members of Congress, led by Missouri U.S. Rep. Cori Bush, staged a sleep-in outside the U.S. Capitol to raise pressure on the Biden administration to take action.

As with the old policy, the new moratorium was put in place by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as an emergency measure during the coronavirus pandemic.

It temporarily halts evictions in counties with “substantial and high levels” of COVID-19 transmissions; 90% of the U.S. population lives in such areas.

The new threshold means that evictions are banned in most of the state, including all of metro and exurban Atlanta. The new order expires Oct. 3, giving Congress more time to hash out a new rule.

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The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a resolution to award Congressional Gold Medals to police officers who defended the Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

It was a somber development that came a day after the news broke that two more officers who faced the crowd that day had died by suicide.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took the opportunity to throw shade at the 21 members of the House who voted against the measure in June. That group includes Georgia Reps. Jody Hice, Andrew Clyde and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

“Those folks in the House were some of the same folks who likened the January 6th attack to ‘a normal tourist visit,’ who deny the events that day were an ‘insurrection,’” Schumer said in a floor speech beforehand.

“The same folks who screamed loudest about the dangers of ‘defunding the police’ refused to defend the police — the very police that shielded them from a vicious mob on January 6th. For the life of me, I don’t know how they sleep at night.”

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A trio of unions representing more than 3,000 workers in metro Atlanta penned letters to Georgia’s GOP congressional delegation urging them to support the bipartisan infrastructure package.

The letters expressed the need for infrastructure investments and the benefits it could bring Georgia workers and their families.

You can check out the letters here from the Atlanta North Georgia Labor Council, Amalgamated Transit Union Chapter 732 and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists.

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POSTED: Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill faces yet another federal indictment on charges that he allowed a man under arrest to be hooded and punched while he was strapped into a restraining chair at the jail. More from the AJC’s Leon Stafford:

A federal grand jury had previously indicted Hill in April on four counts of violating inmates’ constitutional rights with use of the restraint chair. The new charge is incorporated in a 14-page superseding indictment, which realleges the previous allegations. It was returned by the grand jury July 29.

The original indictment led Gov. Brian Kemp to suspend Hill from his duties in June. Hill has denied all charges.

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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, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.