The Jolt: State Capitol statue for Clarence Thomas gaining steam

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was in Pin Point on Saturday to dedicate a historical marker. One of Thomas' friends, Harlan Crow, spent millions on a museum in the community.
Caption
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was in Pin Point on Saturday to dedicate a historical marker. One of Thomas' friends, Harlan Crow, spent millions on a museum in the community.

Credit: RANDY SNYDER

Credit: RANDY SNYDER

News and information from the politics team at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A proposal to display a statue of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on the statehouse grounds is gaining traction among Georgia Republicans.

State Sen. Jason Anavitarte, who said it’s “only fitting and proper” to honor the Pin Point native outside the Capitol, has picked up several key co-sponsors backing his effort.

They include state Sen. Ben Watson, who represents the coastal area near where the conservative jurist grew up.

Another backer is state Sen. Brian Strickland, who said Thomas deserves to be memorialized so Georgians “for years to come can recognize this man and what he accomplished.”

Thomas, the court’s longest serving justice, is also the nation’s second Black Supreme Court justice. He is a reliable conservative vote who sees himself as an originalist aiming to interpret the Constitution as the Founders intended it.

Appointed by President George H.W. Bush, Thomas was confirmed to the court in 1991 after contentious hearings that included Anita Hill’s allegations that he sexually harassed her.

Democrats vowed to fight the idea, with some saying it was an insult to Hill and victims of harassment.

“I’d rather them keep a Confederate monument than a statue of Clarence Thomas,” said Democratic state Rep. Donna McLeod. “That’s how much I don’t like the idea.”

The statehouse grounds now feature statues, plaques, towering portraits and marble busts of historic and contemporary Georgia leaders, including former President Jimmy Carter and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But controversy has swirled around monuments to Confederate leaders, too.

In late 2013, Gov. Nathan Deal quietly removed the statue of a white supremacist from the Capitol grounds, then traveled to Ebenezer Baptist Church on King Day to pledge to honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy with the statue near the statehouse, which was dedicated in 2017.

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Democrats avoided a federal government shutdown on Thursday after the House and Senate quickly passed a temporary funding bill through Dec. 3.

Georgia U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, who is chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on agriculture, laid out the stakes during a speech prior to the vote, since it also included funding for disaster relief and Afghan evacuees resettlement.

“Keeping our government funded and functioning is a basic responsibility of the Congress,” the Albany Democrat said. “This is must-pass legislation.”

Fifteen Republicans in the Senate and 34 in the House voted with Democrats on the bill. All eight Georgia Republicans of our GOP House delegation members were a “no” on the funding extension.

Avoiding the shutdown was the first order of business, but major hurdles remain for Democrats looking to pass the $3.5 trillion social services and climate change package and the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. Without an agreement on a larger measure, there weren’t the votes to pass the infrastructure package Thursday.

After waiting for votes late into the evening Thursday, members remained in Washington Friday for a possible breakthrough.

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Speaking of that $3.5 trillion package, U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock is hoping to make the case for why one lesser known provision should remain in the measure, even as Democrats talk about cutting the overall price tag.

Warnock held a virtual news conference Thursday to talk up a program in the bill that would provide down payment assistance to first-generation homebuyers.

“This is an important housing bill that removes barriers to purchasing a home,” the Atlanta Democrat said. “It helps make it possible for every American to achieve the dream of homeownership.”

Warnock said his housing initiative has the support of Finance committee leaders and he plans to fight to ensure it’s not stripped out with during larger negotiations.

Meanwhile, members fighting to add element to the package face an even steeper challenge. That includes Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff, who has been lobbying for language to add tax credits for solar energy projects.

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More fallout from the Trump rally Saturday night, with Peach Pundit publishing a letter Thursday from Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer to a group of GOP leaders, saying he has not taken a position in the 2022 statewide Republican primary races.

We heard grumblings from Republicans after Shafer spoke at Saturday’s rally in Perry, where former President Donald Trump showcased his hand-picked candidates and declared Stacey Abrams a better choice for governor than Republican Brian Kemp.

“I do not agree with anyone 100% of the time,” Shafer wrote, adding later, “I want to be in a position, once our nominees have been chosen, to unite and rally all Republicans around those nominees and against the Democrats.”

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The state ethics commission is considering easing rules on how candidates can spend contributions, including the option to cover home security for elected officials and hopefuls, according to our colleague James Salzer.

The issue isn’t entirely new. The ethics commission has historically frowned on state elected officials and candidates using campaign money on home security equipment, under the premise that it constitutes something that increases the value of a home. Under state law, campaign contributions can’t be used to enrich a candidate, and increasing the value of ones’ home fits that definition.

When Democrat Stacey Abrams was bidding to become the first Black and first woman governor of Georgia in 2018, her campaign spent more than $373,000 on security, specifically at her campaign office and on the trail.

But the Democratic Party of Georgia asked for an updated opinion after the rise in threats of violence and, in a few occasions, home visits from the politically unhinged in recent years, particularly since the 2020 elections.

That’s when then-President Donald Trump and his followers pushed conspiracy theories that he’d been robbed of re-election by rampant fraud and, in some cases, went to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s home. Raffensperger and other state officials have recounted graphic death threats that came in for them and their families during that time.

The commission is now looking at relaxing the current interpretation to allow candidates to use campaign money to secure their homes, so long as they reimburse the campaign for the value of security hardware once they leave office.

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POSTED: The state ethics commission on Thursday increased the limits on how much statewide candidates can take from individual donors by almost 9% for the 2022 election season, the AJC’s James Salzer reports.

Under the new limits, candidates for state office — such as the governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general — would be able to raise $7,600 from individual donors for both the primary and general elections, and $4,500 for a primary runoff.

So a candidate for governor, for instance, who ends up facing a runoff, wins it and is nominated for the general election could collect up to $19,700 from an individual, business or political fund.

For local hopefuls or General Assembly races, candidates can raise $3,000 for a primary and general election and $1,600 in a runoff.

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Since it’s Friday, we like to send you into the weekend with a little light reading, including.

  • Jamie Dupree’s Washington Insider column, “The Coronavirus brings positive change to the U.S. Supreme Court;”
  • Patricia Murphy’s Wednesday Political Insider column, “The Trump show in Perry was a warning about 2024,″
  • And a look ahead to the Sunday Political Insider column, the last installment, for now, of the Georgia Politics Road Trip. “Eight trips, 2,400 miles, and a lot left to learn about Georgia politics”

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And finally, happy 97th birthday to former president Jimmy Carter. Plains’ most famous product is the oldest living president in the history of the United States.

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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.

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