The Jolt: The little election with big names behind it

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Stacey Abrams and Kelly Loeffler

Stacey Abrams and Kelly Loeffler

The runoff for a vacant state House seat on Tuesday is going strong as a proxy battle for two big names in Georgia politics with very deep pockets.

The race is between Republican Devan Seabaugh and Democrat Priscilla Smith, both vying to represent House District 34, the GOP-leaning seat in Cobb County recently vacated by former state Rep. Bert Reeves.

The Fair Fight voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams has been involved in the race for months on the Democratic side. On the day of the special election in June, Fair Fight posted observers at several polling sites.

Heading into the final days of the runoff, Fair Fight released a digital attack on Seabaugh criticizing his support for Georgia’s new restrictive voting measure, gun rights expansions and anti-abortion measures.

On the Republican side of the race, Kelly Loeffler’s Greater Georgia group continued its own work to get voters to the polls there.

Ahead of the first round of the special election last month, Greater Georgia conducted polling, ran digital ads, and deployed volunteers to the race. Loeffler personally knocked on doors and even held signs on the side of a Cobb County highway, encouraging residents to vote on or before Election Day.

With the runoff looming Tuesday, Loeffler tweeted photos of herself working with volunteers for the Cobb GOP and her own organization to again get voters out to the polls.


When Gov. Brian Kemp and his Republican challenger Vernon Jones reported fundraising numbers last week, Kemp’s disclosure showed he ended the quarter with $9 million in the bank as of June 30. The challenger had barely $100,000.

The AJC’s resident money man, James Salzer, crunched the numbers.

Among donors whose names and hometowns were disclosed, Kemp trounced Jones among the Georgians, raising $3.5 million from in-state donors, compared to just $167,000 that Jones raised at home.

But Jones is holding his own in one category: Money from out-of-state donors, especially Florida, where ex-President Donald Trump now lives and where a few of the president’s supporters gave with gusto.

Jones topped Kemp in the Sunshine State, collecting about $80,000 from named donors there, while the governor brought in just $55,000.

Overall, Jones took in $194,000 in itemized out-of-state contributions – more than he reported receiving from Georgians. Kemp reported $247,000 in out-of-state donations.

Kemp has been the target of stinging attacks by Trump, who was livid that Georgia’s Republican governor didn’t do more to reverse his November election defeat.

Kemp, of course, didn’t spare Jones a mention at his campaign kickoff over the weekend. But he did allude to the specter of out-of-state money -- headed toward his expected Democratic rival, Stacey Abrams.

“We need everyone engaged because we know the Democrats are united,” he told the audience. “We know that they’re going to have unlimited money because they’re going to milk the California and New York crowd.”


Gov. Brian Kemp formally launched his re-election bid at a typically informal boots-and-jeans location: The National Fairgrounds in Perry, Ga.

One of your Insiders was on hand for the event, which attracted several hundred Kemp supporters, along with First Lady Marty Kemp and the Kemp’s three daughters.


Tuesday also would have been the day Cobb County hosted the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, had the league not yanked the game in protest of the state’s new election law, Senate Bill 202.

The cancellation has become a well-polling rallying cry for Republicans, who accuse Democrats for the backlash to the law the GOP passed through the General Assembly in March.

One of your Insiders was on hand Sunday at Murph’s, Dale Murphy’s restaurant at the Battery at Truist Park.

Instead of hosting pre-game activities, Murph’s was the site of a GOP rally about cancel culture. Along with RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, U.S. Senate hopefuls Latham Saddler, Kelvin King and Gary Black each spoke to decry MLB’s decision- and the Democrats they say should get the blame.

“Are y’all ready to cancel the cancellers?” Black asked the crowd.


The latest filing deadline was also the first big test of the state ethics commission’s new electronic filing system.

The AJC’s James Salzer found the system may be more difficult for the general public to navigate -- but easier for ethics staffers to spot when candidates get too much money from a donor. (Yes, there are still limits).

The same goes for when special interest PACs or businesses aren’t properly disclosing what they’ve given. That’s because the system was built to spot such violations of the law automatically.

An example of the type of thing the new system could catch in the future came up at last month’s ethics commission meeting in the case of a data center firm, Switch, that hadn’t filed any campaign reports in recent years.

The General Assembly approved a state tax break for the company in 2018 for a massive new data center in Douglas County. The “Switch tax” break for data warehouses could cost state and local governments up to $27 million in revenue this year.

In Switch’s case, the company called its non-disclosure to the attention of ethics officials. The company began donating to Georgia candidates before the 2018 session of the General Assembly, but didn’t file campaign reports to disclose its contributions.

The company acknowledged it hadn’t reported about $200,000 in donations from 2018-2020, and finally filed the disclosures last week.

Among the recipients, we learned: Gov. Brian Kemp; state Rep. Trey Kelley, the measure’s sponsor; and House Speaker David Ralston. The House Republican fundraising committee got $27,500 in contributions, according to the company’s reports.

The commission fined Switch $12,000.


Speaking of campaign money, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi headlined a fundraiser for U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams on Sunday.

The speaker frequently travels throughout the country to raise money for Democratic House members and hopefuls.

Pelosi was in Georgia for the 75th wedding anniversary celebration for Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, held at the old Plains High School in the former president’s hometown.


The AJC’s City Hall crew has a recap of fundraising for the Atlanta mayor’s race, which was led by Sharon Gay, who is an attorney at Dentons.

Gay raised just over $1.1 million, with about $650,000 from Gay’s own pocket in the form of a personal loan to her campaign.

Former Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed finished just behind Gay, reporting $1.05 million for the three weeks he was in the race before the fundraising deadline.

City Council president Felicia Moore rounded out the top three, having raised just over $700,000 for the November contest.

When Gay released her numbers earlier this month, she didn’t mention the self-funding component to her total. But she did have a heavy focus on the issue Kasim Reed has highlighted as well: Namely the spike in violent crime in Atlanta.

“I am convinced that we have been able to get such a fast start because so many people across our city are ready for a mayor who has the knowledge, expertise, experience and honesty to tackle the serious issues we are facing, particularly reducing crime and lawlessness across Atlanta,” Gay said in a statement.

Democratic activist Nabilah Islam, who ran and lost in the Seventh Congressional District primary in 2020, weighed on on the numbers on Twitter.

“In 2017 Ceasar Mitchell raised the most money in Atlanta mayoral history but he got 6th place and lost the district he represented,” she said in a tweet. “Let’s keep that in mind as fundraising numbers roll in. This is very much anyone’s race.”


An event center in California cancelled a planned rally that was to be hosted by U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz, but the show may still go on elsewhere, The Orange County Register reported.

A Laguna Hills event center canceled plans to host an “America First" rally on July 17 after learning the speakers were slated to be two of the most controversial Republicans in Congress: Reps. Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

“We just want to stay clear of that," Javad Mirtavoosi, general manager of Pacific Hills Banquet & Event Center, said by phone Friday.

Greene's campaign disputed that account of how the cancellation transpired. And they're still selling tickets for a rally, though they're still trying to find an Orange County venue for the same day.

“We're very close to securing a location that will proudly host our America First Rally with Congresswoman Greene and Congressman Gaetz," Nick Dyer, spokesman for Greene's campaign, said Friday afternoon.

- Orange County Register


Security fencing came down and the West lawn of the U.S. Capitol opened to visitors Saturday for the first time since Capitol insurrection on January 6th.

Jamie Dupree, our Washington Insider columnist, posted a photo of the sunny day, where families, tourists and picnikers enjoyed the Capitol lawn as they had so many times before.


As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to, and