The Jolt: The ‘Not Herschel’ candidates raising cash, endorsements in Warnock challenge

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
U.S. Senate candidate Latham Saddler

U.S. Senate candidate Latham Saddler

The storyline surrounding the Republican side of the race for U.S. Senate next year has revolved around Herschel Walker -- for good reason. But don’t count out the band of lesser-known candidates making a run at Raphael Warnock.

As we note in today’s dead-tree edition, the former Georgia Bulldog football icon is likely to be the GOP front-runner if he enters the race later this year, as senior Republicans now expect.

But one of his rivals offered a reminder Tuesday that there’s an appetite for someone other than Walker inside the GOP.

Military veteran Latham Saddler, a former Navy SEAL officer and national security official during the Trump administration, told us this morning he will report raising more than $1.4 million in the 10 or so weeks since he entered the race.

That’s real money for a political newcomer and more cash, his campaign says, than any first-time Republican candidate has ever raised in the first quarter of their Senate candidacy in state history.

We caught up with Saddler over the weekend at the Cobb GOP’s annual Independence Day barbecue, where he was greeted with polite applause by the crowd of a few hundred activists.

His stump speech was heavy on his biography, a story that included his post-Sept. 11 decision to join the military, his conservative agenda and his commitment to his twin brother, who has Down syndrome.

The takeaway line from Saddler, who is 38: “It’s time for a next generation conservative leader for the job.”

Of course, he’s not the only Republican running in the not-Herschel lane. Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black was at the Saturday breakfast, too, reminding activists he’s in the race regardless of who else enters.

The three-term Georgia Agriculture Commissioner has not announced his fundraising numbers yet, but picked up an endorsement from state Rep. Sharon Cooper, one of several county and local-level endorsements he’s announced recently.

Military veteran Kelvin King is also in the race. And Republicans close to U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler say she’s continuing to ruminate on a comeback attempt against Warnock, who defeated her in the January runoff.

Loeffler’s final report to the FEC for her 2020 race showed her ending the race with a whopping $21 million cash on hand, with a $1.75 million loan from Loeffler to her campaign still on the books.


Speaking of the Cobb GOP event, a straw poll offered a snapshot of where some of the party’s most fervent activists are leaning.

Gov. Brian Kemp trounced party-switching former Democrat Vernon Jones, nabbing about two-thirds of the vote. Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black was the GOP leader in the Senate race, though Herschel Walker wasn’t on the ballot.

In the open lieutenant governor’s race, which is still forming, Savannah activist Jeanne Seaver edged out state Sen. Butch Miller by four votes.

Most interesting were the two GOP incumbents in hot water.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger finished last out of the four GOP contenders on the poll. U.S. Rep. Jody Hice led the field, thanks partly to Donald Trump’s endorsement.

The straw poll also amounted to a warning beacon for Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, a three-term incumbent who says he’s running again next year. State Sen. Bruce Thompson, who worked the crowd in a branded, blindingly yellow shirt, captured 81% of the tally.

Jones’ campaign downplayed the setback in Cobb, an event both he and Kemp attended. (Kemp received a mixed ovation, while Jones was shadowed by a man wearing a “Trump won” shirt as he spoke.)

His aides pointed to his narrow edge in the Forsyth County GOP straw poll on Friday, a smaller event that featured a visit by Jones and a speech from Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald on Kemp’s behalf.


Sen. Raphael Warnock’s seat is one of the 10 “most likely to flip” next year, according to a new analysis from CNN.

The piece lists the Georgia seat as the second most vulnerable, just behind the fight for a Pennsylvania seat held by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.

More from CNN:

While everyone waits on Walker, national Republicans are not wasting time attacking one of their top targets. The National Republican Senatorial Committee has hit Warnock on TV for supporting the For the People Act, the sweeping voting and elections bill they dub “the welfare for politicians plan" (because of a public financing provision).


We’ve noted the very specific wording of that GOP attack on Warnock, who grew up in public housing and is the only senator the NRSC tagged with the “welfare” pejorative.


The White House announced over the weekend that First Lady Jill Biden will be in Georgia this Thursday, although it was not immediately clear where in the state she’ll be or what she’ll be doing on her visit.

We’ll keep you posted as we have more details.


Executions of federal inmates have been halted under U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who announced last week a review of the Justice Department’s capital punishment policies and procedures.

All 46 federal death row prisoners are men, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. Two of them were convicted in Georgia:

-Anthony Battle was sentenced to death in 1997 after being found guilty of bludgeoning a prison guard to death. He also received a life sentence after murdering his wife.

-Meier Brown was convicted in 2003 of stabbing a post office worker in Fleming during a robbery and leaving her to die.

A third man, William LeCroy Jr., was among the 13 people executed during President Donald Trump’s four years in office. LeCroy raped and killed a nurse practitioner at her Gilmer County home in 2001.


Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia overshadowed a different election dispute in the state that is heading to the state Supreme Court in the fall.

As the AJC’s Maya Prahbu has reported, Democratic state Rep. Shea Roberts defeated Republican incumbent Deborah Silcox in November of 202 by 377 votes — about 1.1 percentage points.

Silcox never conceded the race and five days after the result was certified, Warren Schmitz, a Sandy Springs resident, filed a lawsuit against the Fulton County Board of Registration and Elections alleging that it allowed illegal voters to cast ballots.

A judge dismissed that case but Schmitz appealed that decision to the state Supreme Court. The case has now been docketed for an October hearing.

The Reporter newspapers has a piece up with the latest on the saga, including reaction from Roberts, who was never notified of the suit until it was dismissed, and Silcox, who has spent $15,000 on attorneys’ fees for the case:

“Silcox has said that she wants “the truth to come out." However, in a recent interview, Silcox said she is not enjoying the court process.

Silcox said “this is not what I signed up for at all. I've just been trying to mind my own business and I've just got drug into this." She also downplayed the similarities to Trump's actions, saying she was not a fan of the former president.

- Reporter Newspapers


In case you missed it over the weekend, the AJC’s Ernie Suggs featured President Jimmy Carter and his bride of almost 75 years, Rosalynn, in their first interview in almost two years.

Wednesday marks the 75th wedding anniversary for the Carters, who are now the longest married presidential couple in history.

When Ernie asked if it was love at first sight, Mrs. Carter said no, because she fell in love with a photograph of Jimmy Carter before she ever met him:

What was it, Mrs. Carter, about the photograph?

Mrs. Carter: He was handsome. And he was so sweet to Ruth. He had two sisters.

President Carter, what were your thoughts when you first saw her?

President Carter: I first saw Mrs. Carter when she was a newborn baby, and I was three years older than Rosa. I thought she was a nice-looking baby.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Plenty of July 4th traditions were back on the calendar and in-person this year after a COVID-absence in 2020, including the annual AJC Peachtree Road Race, modified this year with the field split over two days.

Among the thousands of runners on the 6.2 mile course Monday were U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, running for the first time, with several staff members, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, whose son, Langston, joined her.

An intrepid Jolt reader (and runner) passed along the two pols’ race times, helpfully posted for all runners based on the time chips they carried. Warnock finished with a time of 1:14:34, while Bottoms wrapped up with a time of 1:32:20.

Neither result will win them an Olympic bid, but Olympians also don’t have to stop along their 10K routes to talk to constituents.


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