The Jolt: Stacey Abrams lays out plan for 2022 campaign

Stacey Abrams departs a rally for gubernatorial candidate, and former Virginia Governor, Terry McAullife (D-VA) on October 17th, 2021 in Fairfax, Virginia. (Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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Stacey Abrams departs a rally for gubernatorial candidate, and former Virginia Governor, Terry McAullife (D-VA) on October 17th, 2021 in Fairfax, Virginia. (Nathan Posner for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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

“I’m not running a doom and gloom campaign because I don’t feel gloomy.”

That’s how Stacey Abrams described her second bid for Georgia governor at an inflection point for state Democrats. She fleshed out more details of her campaign – and outlined a policy proposal – before about 800 supporters.

Abrams spoke during a Democratic anniversary celebration Wednesday marking the twin Senate runoff victories of Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in 2021, victories made possible in large part by a massive ground game seeded by Abrams and other Democratic activists for years ahead of the Senate contests.

As Abrams put it, “It was the day Georgia showed who it was – not to the world, but to ourselves.”

Abrams said she’s now in phase one of her rematch attempt against Gov. Brian Kemp, a stage that’s as much about building a fundraising edge as it is amassing volunteers.

“We’re going to take the winter to put that together, and in the spring we’re going to do our massive launch when we call on folks to knock on doors and make phone calls – to do the hard work of campaigning. But we want to do it right.”

Contrast Abrams’ plans for a spring start to the task ahead of Kemp, who is daily fending off a primary challenge from former Sen. David Perdue.

The Democrat also advocated for a needs-based HOPE scholarship to join the merit-based awards for students who maintain a “B” average.

She said she’d change the lottery-based program’s reserve policies to expand the award for needy students and “help kids who lose HOPE to get it back.”

***

President Joe Biden and Democratic Members of Congress are planning various events today to commemorate one year since the deadly U.S. Capitol attack.

Republicans, on the other hand, are mostly avoiding the topic or in some cases using the day to spread conspiracy theories and false narratives about what happened that day.

Our D.C.-based Insider Tia Mitchell writes that Georgia Republicans in Congress have shifted in tone on how they’re talking about Jan. 6 and that many continue to support the false narrative that the election was stolen from then-President Donald Trump, a contributing factor to the insurrection.

Politico writes today that it’s not just Georgians. “Across the country, Republican activists are still planning rallies and vigils in more than a dozen states for Jan. 6 participants they depict as “patriots” or “political prisoners.”

Wednesday’s Jolt included a recap of some of the events planned today. If you’re interested in attending a local vigil, you can search on Jan6UnityDay.org. There are events in Cummings, Athens and metro Atlanta.

Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has scheduled counter programming, a news conference at 2:15 p.m. along with Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz. Her office says she will challenge the narrative outlined by Democrats who will give speeches earlier in the day.

However, members of the Cobb GOP canceled their prayer vigil planned to honor the Donald Trump supporters who remain in jail facing the most serious charges related to the breach of the Capitol. Organizers said their event, which described participants as “J6 patriots,” had been mischaracterized by the media.

***

With the 2022 session of the Georgia General Assembly less than a week away, the retiring Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan gave a preview Wednesday of how he’s planning to handle his role presiding over the state Senate, which includes several members running for statewide office.

In an exclusive interview he told our Greg Bluestein he plans to be the “steady hand in the state Senate” and believes people are ready to gravitate “toward the adults in the room.” Are you though, people? We’ll be watching.

At a Capitol press conference later, Duncan weighed in on several issues:

  • On Buckhead: “I’ve yet to see somebody deliver any sort of tangible information to me that says create a city of Buckhead and crime goes away overnight.”
  • On GOP proposals for more election bills: “I think it’s time to let what’s been done marinate. It’s time to let folks understand where we’re at in the electoral process and go forward…it’s a mistake to try to relitigate the 2020 election cycle.”
  • On constitutional carry or other efforts to loosen gun laws, Duncan said he’d need to see the details of the legislation before making any commitments.
  • On new Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, whom Duncan met with Tuesday: “I’m very upbeat about how hard he’s going to work on fighting crime. He’s earned the right to be the mayor of this city and earned the right to go do what he said he was going to do.”

***

Former President Jimmy Carter has written an op-ed for the New York Times to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the Capitol breach. In it, he says America’s democracy is on the brink of failure.

“Our great nation now teeters on the brink of a widening abyss,” Carter wrote. “Without immediate action, we are at genuine risk of civil conflict and losing our precious democracy. Americans must set aside differences and work together before it is too late.”

***

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have scheduled a return trip to Atlanta for next week.

The duo plan to visit Atlanta on Tuesday, where they will “speak to the American people about the urgent need to pass legislation to protect the constitutional right to vote and the integrity of our elections from corrupt attempts to strip law-abiding citizens of fundamental freedoms and allow partisan state officials to undermine vote counting processes,” the White House said.

We expect more details in the coming days.

***

A memorial for the late U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson is scheduled for this afternoon in Atlanta. A delegation of U.S. Senators and House members, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell plan to attend.

On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution from U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock honoring Isakson.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Warnock said, “With great appreciation and admiration for Senator Johnny Isakson, for a friend, I introduced a bipartisan resolution with Senator Ossoff honoring the life and legacy of Senator Isakson that is co-sponsored now by all of my 99 senate colleagues. He brings us together in death the same way he did in life”

***

In the GOP race for governor, our campaign finance wizard James Salzer noticed that a fund called “Patriots for Vernon Jones” filed its final report for 2021 earlier this week in support of GOP gubernatorial hopeful Vernon Jones.

The group raised about $350,000, of which $343,000 came in the form of contributions and loans from a M2B Yacht LLC on Piedmont Road. Salzer couldn’t find a listing for the company among LLCs registered on the Secretary of States site. Such companies are supposed to register annually.

He also found some businesses at the location listed, but none of them with the name M2B Yacht. There is, however, a company of that name registered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The “patriots” fund listed spending $3,100 more than it took in, with much of the money going to advertising and consulting. Of the $350,000 raised, $150,000 was listed as a two-year loan.

Election watchers don’t expect Jones to make it past the May primary, where he faces incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp and former U.S. Sen. David Perdue.

***

A decorated Army veteran has filed paperwork to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter in Georgia’s 1st Congressional District.

Michelle Munroe, a nurse by trade, was the first female commander of Winn Army Community Hospital at Fort Stewart. Upon her retirement in 2020, she settled in coastal Georgia.

Munroe joins a Democratic primary that also includes local attorney Wade Herring, who raised $175,000 during the first three quarters of 2021.

***

Gov. Brian Kemp endorsed a broad expansion of gun rights this week. His allies are now trying to build grassroots momentum for the idea.

State Sen. Jason Anavitarte is one of the most prominent supporters of legislation to allow Georgians to carry concealed handguns without a permit.

Shortly after Kemp vowed to devote his political power behind enacting that policy this legislative session, Anavitarte announced a “constitutional carry rally” in Woodstock on Jan. 19.

The idea won’t pass without loud opposition from state Democrats. Senate minority leader Gloria Butler said, “Gov. Kemp is clearly more focused on his reelection than on the health and safety of the people in our state.”

***

Insider Greg Bluestein hosts a special Jan. 6th edition of the Politically Georgia podcast today featuring David Wickert and Tia Mitchell.

They are three of the reporters on the team that produced the AJC’s recent feature on the extraordinary efforts former President Donald Trump and his allies went to in an effort to overturn the Georgia election results-- including on Jan. 6.

***

A squeaker, but a good one: Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker predicted the Georgia Bulldogs would defeat Alabama in the national championship next week 24-21.

Walker, of course, was a star member of the 1980 Georgia Bulldog team that won UGA’s last national championship.

***

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.

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