The Jolt: Stacey Abrams won’t be with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in Atlanta today

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

Stacey Abrams welcomed today’s visit from President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on social media, but she won’t be with them when they speak in Atlanta today. The Democratic candidate for governor cited a scheduling conflict for not being there.

Several voting rights groups also won’t attend, after saying separately they’ll boycott the Biden-Harris trip promoting voting rights in Atlanta on Tuesday.

And of course the president will also have to deal with a collective hangover from Bulldog Nation.

The day after Georgia bested Alabama 33-18 to win its first college football championship in 41 years, Biden and Harris will try to refocus the state’s attention on their push to expand voting rights with speeches at the Atlanta University Center and visits the King Center, as well as Ebenezer Baptist Church.

The president is expected to reiterate his support for an exception to the Senate’s filibuster rules in an effort to pass the Democrats’ voting rights bills.

“The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation,” he will say in prepared remarks.

“Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch,” according to the remarks. “I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign and domestic. And so the question is where will the institution of United States Senate stand?”

The timing is challenging. The leaders of the voting rights groups, which are active in Georgia, have said they feel the White House is more concerned with grand gestures than passing the legislation.

“We’re beyond speeches; we’re beyond events,” said Black Voters Matter co-founder LaTosha Brown.

Along with the frustrations about the progress itself, some senior Democrats have been grumbling about the visit since it was announced, complaining about the lack of coordination or questioning why Biden is visiting Georgia rather than working in Washington to break the logjam.

Still, Biden will have plenty of company when he visits. Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is expected to travel with him aboard Air Force One to Georgia, and U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are set to be in the audience. A coterie of other U.S. senators will join Biden and Harris on the flight down.

(Abrams, for her part, spoke with Biden ahead of his visit even though she wasn’t on hand to greet him, according to an aide.)

Warnock defended the trip to reporters, saying that Biden understands that “democracy itself is imperiled by this all-out assault that we’ve been witnessing by state legislatures all across the country, and this is a moral moment. Everybody must show up.”

The big question is whether Biden and Harris will assuage the concerns of activists by making it clear they have a plan to pass election legislation by Democrats’ target date of MLK Day. That’s a tall order for the bills, which currently don’t have the votes of a majority of senators.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki spoke in broad terms when pressed on the issue.

“The president will forcefully advocate for protecting the most bedrock American right, the right to vote and have your voice counted in a free and fair and secure election that is not tainted by partisan manipulation,” she said.

And the DNC launched a new billboard near the Atlanta airport to kick off the visit. It was an indication of the coordinated push behind the voting rights message.

“There’s no doubt that the time is now for the Senate to pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to protect our elections and secure the right to vote for all Americans,” said DNC Chair Jaime Harrison.

Check for updates throughout the day.


UGA’s National Championship win was savored by Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets alike Monday night, especially the political types.

Gov. Brian Kemp was on hand for the victory with First Lady Marty Kemp and their daughters and posted a late-night “HOW BOUT THEM DAWGS?!?” tweet.

One of your Insiders snapped a photo of State Rep. Kasey Carpenter’s memorable fan wear on the front row.

And the AJC’s Ken Sugiura writes that new Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, both Georgia Tech grads, hopped on the Dawg Nation bandwagon Monday with trips to Indianapolis themselves.

Although several members of Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign staff celebrated UGA’s win in Indianapolis, the star of the 1980 championship team stayed back in Atlanta with his own dawg, Cheerio, to cheer his alma mater on from home.


Georgia head Coach Kirby Smart partnered with University of Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne and the Biden Administration to star in a COVID-19 vaccination ad that aired during the national championship game.

Titled, “Stay in the Game,” the ad encouraged people to get their shots and boosters to help curb the spread of the coronavirus and especially the omicron variant.


In yet another sign that national political forces see Georgia as a must-win competitive state, new campaign finance reports this week show the state Republican Party got substantial financial backing from the Republican National Committee, even in an off-election year.

The AJC’s James Salzer reports that the state GOP reported collecting roughly $1.65 million in contributions during the second half of 2021. Of that, $882,000 came from the national party in DC, even though there were no major elections in the state. That’s on top of nearly $1.3 million the RNC gave in the first half of the year.

In total, the Republican National Committee donated about a third of all the money the state GOP raised in 2021.

For the state Democratic Party, the biggest donors in the second half of 2021 were former Google executive Eric Schmidt, who gave $200,000 and Fair Fight, the voting rights group Stacey Abrams founded after she lost the 2018 governor’s race. The group gave $92,000 in the second half of the year.

Salzer found that since Fair Fight’s founding a little more than three years ago, its political action committee has donated about $5.4 million in cash and in-kind services to the state party.


U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter is just one of many Republicans who wish the Georgia governor’s race didn’t include a knock-down primary between Gov. Brian Kemp and former Sen. David Perdue, reports the Savannah Morning News.

Here is Carter’s full quote to the News’ Will Peebles:

“I wish we could have avoided this. I think everybody wishes we could have avoided this. But it is what it is. And we were very fortunate to have two good candidates. I think Brian Kemp did a great job as governor. I think David Perdue did a great job as senator, and that if he were to be elected governor, he'd do a fine job there as well. Again, I wish we could have avoided this, but it is what it is. We have to face it. We're going to get through it."

- Savannah Morning News


A fascinating race to watch down-ticket: Former state Sen. Doug Stoner is mounting a comeback bid with a fresh campaign for the state House.

The Democrat is running for the Cobb-based House seat being vacated by state Rep. Erick Allen, who is running for lieutenant governor. Stoner has deep ties to the district, having served on the Smyrna City Council and represented portions of it in the Legislature before.

He’s got the backing of several well-known local officials, including state Reps. Teri Anulewicz and David Wilkerson. He’s focusing his campaign on opposition to abortion limits, pushing a voting rights expansion and increasing healthcare access.


Another race on our radars: The contest for HD-90, where Democrat Stewart Parnacott announced this week that he’s running for the territory currently represented by state Rep. Bee Nguyen.

Parnacott is one of the thousands of nurse anesthetists who have been working on the front lines of hospitals overwhelmed by COVID patients for the last two years. The East-Atlanta based LGBTQ+ advocate says he’ll focus his candidacy on “standing up and protect the health of our neighbors.”

Michelle Schreiner, a psychologist, is also running in HD-90 for the Democratic nomination.


Secretary of State candidate David Belle Isle doesn’t have the endorsement of former president Donald Trump (that went to U.S. Rep. Jody Hice), but he does have a question Trump might like: Was the 2020 election stolen?

“It’s a loaded question,” Belle Isle says in a new video. “A better question is, ‘Was Raffensperger’s count in the 2020 election correct?”

That will be the topic of what he’s calling “Belle Isle University,” a series of white-board YouTube videos addressing the 2020 election count, a count, we’re obligated to point out, that has been upheld by a machine recount, a hand recount, a signature audit, dozens of state investigations, and nearly as many court challenges. As we’ve reported many times, no evidence has ever shown widespread fraud in 2020.


A final public service announcement from our editor, Kevin Riley, that National Championship souvenir editions of today’s AJC will available this morning at Ingles, Kroger, Publix, QT, RaceTrac and select Circle K locations in metro Atlanta. Wednesday morning, a bonus 16-page section will be available where you buy the weekday Atlanta Journal-Constitution and in subscribers’ papers.


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