The Jolt: Stacey Abrams’ organizing model goes national

Stacey Abrams speaks Saturday, July 17, 2021, at the celebration of life and dedication of the Jordan Family Life Center in Vernon Jordan's honor at St. Paul A.M.E. Church, where he was a lifelong member. The Atlanta native, who became a champion of civil rights before reinventing himself as a Washington insider and corporate influencer, died March 1 at age 85. (Photo: Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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Stacey Abrams speaks Saturday, July 17, 2021, at the celebration of life and dedication of the Jordan Family Life Center in Vernon Jordan's honor at St. Paul A.M.E. Church, where he was a lifelong member. The Atlanta native, who became a champion of civil rights before reinventing himself as a Washington insider and corporate influencer, died March 1 at age 85. (Photo: Steve Schaefer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

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

On a sweltering August day in Las Vegas two years ago, Stacey Abrams trekked to a hotel on the Strip to announce a plan to export chapters of her Georgia-based Fair Fight voting rights groups to other battleground states.

Now another program with Abrams origins is taking root outside the state.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the New Pennsylvania Project is launching with a goal of registering young and minority voters who typically skip midterm elections, with the headline, “Is the Stacey Abrams method the only hope for saving democracy in Pa.?”

It’s modeled, of course, after the New Georgia Project that Abrams launched in 2013 to chip away at the GOP’s dominance of the state. In Pennsylvania, there’s a different sort of challenge for Democrats. From the Inquirer:

In Pennsylvania, Democrats have held a registration edge, but in 2020 Republicans closed their deficit from 800,000 to just 600,000 voters — partly because of Donald Trump's ability to woo working-class former Democrats, and partly because the GOP didn't suspend its door-to-door efforts as Democrats did in the worst of the pandemic.

- The Philadelphia Inquirer

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There are even more issues than previously reported in Herschel Walker’s past business and personal dealings that could come back to haunt him if he runs for public office.

We’ve explored several of them in previous stories, and the Associated Press recently uncovered more.

Among the revelations: The AP found that Walker exaggerated the size and profitability of a chicken supplier company he owns, Renaissance Man Food Services. And last month, a Texas bank sued him over an unpaid $200,000 debt for a pizza place he and a partner planned to open.

It also includes details from a court order involving a 2005 incident between Walker and his ex-wife, Cindy Grossman. In an affidavit, Grossman’s sister Maria Tsettos said Walker told family members that he would kill Grossman and her new boyfriend. From the story:

In an affidavit, Tsettos claimed Walker once called looking for his ex-wife while she was out with her boyfriend. Tsettos took the call and said Walker became “very threatening" when told of Grossman's whereabouts. In Tsettos' recollection, Walker “stated unequivocally that he was going to shoot my sister Cindy and her boyfriend in the head."

On another occasion, Tsettos said she talked to Walker “at length" after he'd reached out to her online. He “expressed to me that he was frustrated with (Cindy) and that he felt like he had ‘had enough' and that he wanted to ‘blow their f------ heads off,'" she recalled of the Dec. 9, 2005, exchange.

- Associated Press

The Republican hasn’t said yet whether he’ll challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, though former President Donald Trump has all but promised an endorsement if he enters the race.

It’s anyone’s guess right now if Walker will actually do so. Some GOP operatives are convinced he’ll run; others are just as sure he won’t.

They do agree on one thing, though. These sorts of reports exposing more details about his background aren’t likely to factor into his decision.

His violent incidents and erratic tendencies are well documented, including in Walker’s own book. Walker’s rivals, from both parties, have compiled vast opposition research files.

So have Walker’s allies, preparing for the coming onslaught. They know what’s out there -- and have a good idea what’s coming, too.

What they don’t have yet is any sort of response to the troubling facts emerging, as Walker remains on the sidelines.

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We told you last week about the election for state House GOP whip that would be seen as a test of Speaker David Ralston’s sway.

Ralston’s hold on the chamber remained intact as state Rep. Matt Hatchett, a close Ralston ally, defeated state Rep. Barry Fleming in a vote for House whip.

Fleming is seen as a potential rival to the speaker, but several Republican legislators with knowledge of the secret tally told us Hatchett won by an overwhelming margin.

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Republican Labor Commissioner Mark Butler already has plenty on his plate if he runs for another term: Formidable challengers from both sides of the aisle, a lack of institutional GOP support, sharp backlash over slow jobless payments.

The Georgia Recorder reports a new issue sure to surface on the campaign trail: The Department of Labor spent more than $6.6 million in rent for 21 career centers that haven’t been open to the public since March 2020.

Butler defended the decision, saying although the general public cannot access the offices, department employees have nevertheless been working inside of them processing claims since the pandemic began.

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Is former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick planning to make a new start in metro Atlanta? The scandal-ridden politician has been making some major life moves since former President Donald Trump commuted his sentence as one of his final acts in office.

Kilpatrick had served eight years of a 28-year sentence for 24 counts of fraud and racketeering as mayor.

He was married over the weekend, tying the knot with a former receptionist in the mayor’s office at Detroit’s Historic Little Rock Baptist Church, where he recently preached a sermon.

In reading about the nuptials on the Detroit News website, we caught this reference to our neck of the woods: Kilpatrick filed articles of incorporation for a nonprofit in Georgia last month.

The documents list Kilpatrick and his new wife as the owners of Movement Ministries. The address listed is for a UPS in a strip mall near his father Bernard’s home in Fayetteville. Someone with the same name as his sister, Ayanna Kilpatrick, incorporated another nonprofit ministry at the same address earlier this year called Project 61 Ministries.

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Although redistricting is a notoriously secretive process, the House and Senate Reapportionment and Redistricting Committees will continue to hear input from the public through a series of town hall hearings this week.

The committees will be in Brunswick on Monday night, Albany on Tuesday, Columbus on Wednesday evening, and at the Mercer School of Medicine auditorium on Thursday night.

Members of the public can sign up to speak starting at 4:30 on the day of each event. All hearings run from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

The hearings will also be livestreamed and archived at www.legis.ga.gov.

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Politico leads today with an Atlanta-based look at anxiety among progressive organizers that new voting laws passed in Republican-controlled states across the country will make some victories in 2022 midterm elections difficult, if not impossible.

The quote that really grabbed our attention comes from the New Georgia Project:

“If there isn’t a way for us to repeat what happened in November 2020, we’re f---ed,” said Nsé Ufot, CEO of the Stacey Abrams-founded New Georgia Project. “We are doing what we do to make sure that not only our constituents, our base, the people, the communities that we organize with, get it. We’re trying to make sure that our elected officials get it as well.”

Ufot’s concern appears to be widespread:

“I’m super worried,” said Max Wood, founder and CEO of Deck, a progressive data analytics company that analyzes voting behavior. “I try to be optimistic, and I do think there are times when this kind of stuff can galvanize enthusiasm and turnout. … But I don’t know that that will be enough, especially with how extreme some of these laws are.”

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The Augusta Chronicle shares a COVID-19 update from University Hospital there, where the COVID-19 inpatient levels had dropped to a few admissions a week, but had increased to 11 in the hospital Thursday, including three in the intensive care unit, with two on ventilators to help them breathe.

Jim Davis, president and CEO of University Health Care System, said the ICU patients ranged in age from 35 to 42.

“This is hitting young folks. None of them were vaccinated. That’s kind of scary.”

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When Tricia Pridemore took over as chair of the Public Service Commission last week, she became the first woman in Georgia to be elected as chair of the PSC.

Angela Speir was the first woman to serve as chair of the PSC in 2005, when she rotated into the chairmanship under the PSC’s old system of assigning the chairmanship. She was also the first woman elected to the Public Service Commission.

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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.