The Jolt: The question for Sonny Perdue’s chancellor job interview today

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
CLAXTON, GA - JANUARY 7, 2021: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue speaks at an event at the Spring Hollow Farm in Claxton, Ga. about bringing high speed internet to two rural Georgia counties. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

CLAXTON, GA - JANUARY 7, 2021: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue speaks at an event at the Spring Hollow Farm in Claxton, Ga. about bringing high speed internet to two rural Georgia counties. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

“How are you qualified for this job?” It’s the starting point for nearly all job interviews. Even former two-term Gov. Sonny Perdue will be no exception later today when he sits down for a formal interview with members of the Board of Regents to be chancellor of the University System of Georgia.

It will be his most important test in his bid to lead the state’s higher education system, even as the political pushback against him is ramping up, too.

After a lengthy standstill, Gov. Brian Kemp has reshaped the 19-member board by replacing some longtime members with close allies. The changes cleared the way for Perdue, who was Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary, to move forward with his bid.

Why would the 75-year-old Perdue want the job? He said in an interview months ago he wanted to bring stability to one of Georgia’s most important economic development engines and promote the “state’s values.”

Why would Kemp back the first-cousin of his Republican rival, David Perdue, to such a coveted post? A mix of political payback and a frustration with the “status quo” at the sprawling system are at play.

Our AJC colleague Eric Stirgus has a snapshot of one of the key questions in the debate: Should someone without higher educational administrative experience, but who once led the state, now lead a system of 26 colleges and universities?

The interview process could also lead to another round of student and faculty opposition to the idea. And it’s becoming campaign fodder for Democrats.

Charlie Bailey, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, is raising money off the idea. “Say no to Sonny Perdue for chancellor.”

“Just when you think a Republican relic of the past has finally faded into the background, he makes an unfortunate return.”


UNDER THE GOLD DOME, Friday, Feb. 11:

  • 8:00 a.m.: Committee work begins;
  • 10:00 a.m.: The House convenes;
  • 10:00 a.m.: The Senate gavels in.


East Cobb, U.S.A.? The proposed City of East Cobb got final approval from the state Senate Thursday. If the governor signs off on the bill, cityhood will move to a May ballot measure for Cobb residents in the area to decide.


November 9, 2021 Atlanta - Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan speaks during a special session debating and voting on redistricting maps in the Senate Chambers during a special session at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Tuesday, November 9, 2021. The hearing was a step toward votes on new political maps for the state House, state Senate and Congress during a once-a-decade redistricting session of the General Assembly. The Senate plans to vote on new maps Tuesday, and the House Redistricting Committee could advance its proposal as well. (Hyosub Shin /

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

icon to expand image

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

A different cityhood movement took its most significant blow Thursday when Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan told the AJC he will oppose any measure to split the Buckhead neighborhood away from Atlanta in 2022.

But behind the scenes, there are other signs of problems. We talked to a range of Republican lawmakers and operatives who are distancing themselves from Bill White, the face of the cityhood effort, after he promoted racist posts and conspiracy theories.

And two prominent lobbyists, Chuck McMullen and Amy Odom, said they are no longer registered as lobbyists for the Buckhead Exploratory Committee. They didn’t comment on why.

Cynthia Garst, the chief lobbyist for Buckhead cityhood, said the two “were not given a concrete reason but instead were just told they could no longer represent us” by their law firm.

“Rest assured that the two lobbyists left on good terms and have no problems with anyone associated with this effort – to the contrary they remain personally supportive of the effort,” she said.

Our colleagues J.D. Capelouto and Tamar Hallerman have a lengthy profile of White up this morning.


It was a rough day Thursday for Senate Republican frontrunner Herschel Walker.

He posted – then quickly deleted – a picture at a paid private speech at the University of North Texas. It served as a reminder that Walker has held only a limited number of open public events while keeping a busy schedule of lucrative speaking engagements held behind closed doors, including outside Georgia.

“You can’t go – or hear what he’s saying to get paid – but here’s. the info,” the state Democratic Party sent in a mock RSVP list.

Also on Thursday, the Associated Press reported new details about multiple past death threats Walker made against his ex-wife, her boyfriend and his own therapist, Dr. Jerry Mungadze.

The piece also raises questions about Mungadze’s role in diagnosing Walker with dissociative identity disorder; details a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader’s fear of the former NFL player; and includes more about an incident that led a Texas judge to temporarily strip Walker of his ability to carry a firearm in the past.

Walker’s GOP rivals swooped in with criticism.

“This wasn’t a sick guy looking to be cured, it was a bad guy looking for a PR fix before his image was destroyed,” said Agriculture Secretary Gary Black’s spokesman Dan McLagan.

And Latham Saddler – long reluctant to attack Walker – came out with a pair of barbs.

He pointedly noted he was delivering a free speech at the same time when Walker was giving his paid remarks. And he said he worries about the “drip, drip, drip” of damaging revelations about Walker’s past.

“Herschel cannot win this seat. I am the only candidate in this race who can lead us to victory against the Warnock-Abrams machine and stop Biden’s destructive agenda.”


We talk Buckhead cityhood, the Georgia governor’s race, Critical Race Theory and more in today’s Politically Georgia podcast.

Be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform.


Congratulations (maybe?) to U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff for winning the high-profile endorsement of Fox News personality Sean Hannity for an idea Ossoff has been pushing to ban members of Congress from trading individual stocks.

Hannity tweeted out a picture of Ossoff and wrote, “75% OF AMERICANS AGREE —NO STOCKS FOR CONGRESS! Ossoff Sounds Off on Stock Scandals.”

Hannity also featured video of Ossoff at the Capitol telling reporters about where he got the idea for the bill.

“The high profile scandals of stock trading during the COVID-19 pandemic, around confidential briefings that members were receiving, brought this issue to public consciousness,” Ossoff said.

The senator is, of course, referring to the scandals involving his then-opponent, former Sen. David Perdue, who is now running for governor and gave his first campaign interview to Hannity after the Fox host said Gov. Brian Kemp should drop out of the race.


Congressman, and candidate for Georgia secretary of state, Jody Hice speaks at the Georgia GOP convention at Jekyll Island on Saturday, June 5, 2021. (Nathan Posner for The Atlanta-Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Nathan Posner for The Atlanta-Journal-Constitution

icon to expand image

Credit: Nathan Posner for The Atlanta-Journal-Constitution

Georgia Secretary of State candidate Jody Hice will launch a statewide tour later this month that he is calling the “Election Integrity Fly Around.”

Hice, who has former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, has questioned the outcome of the 2020 general election that Trump lost although there is no evidence of fraud or mismanagement.

Over the course of three days, starting on Feb. 22, Hice will make 12 stops. All events are open to the public. View the entire schedule here.


U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux has introduced a resolution in the U.S. House that would condemn a series of racial atrocities in Forsyth County more than a century ago. Her five other colleagues in the Democratic delegation, including primary rival U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, have signed on as cosponsors.

After a white woman was raped and another murdered in 1912, a violent mob lynched three Black men and tore through the county to expel virtually all of its residents, ultimately displacing 1,100 people.

In 1987, Oprah Winfrey brought attention to Forsyth County’s hostile reputation toward Black People. More recently, however, the area has become much more diverse as Metro Atlanta’s growth reaches the exurbs.


U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock has an idea to lower gas prices: Temporarily suspend the 18 cents per gallon federal gas tax.

He signed on as a cosponsor of a bill to suspend the tax, alongside five other Democratic senators. The bill would eliminate the tax for about a year and require businesses to pass the savings onto consumers.


Georgia native Reta Jo Lewis was confirmed by the Senate this week to serve as president and chair of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. She is the first Black woman to serve in this role at the export credit agency.

Lewis is a Statesboro native who earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and a J.D. from Emory University School of Law. Her appointment to the Export-Import Bank carries a three-year term.


Criminal defense attorney Esther Panitch entered the race for a Sandy Springs-based state House seat being vacated by Democrat Josh McLaurin.

She said she was motivated by a “rise of extremism” in the Legislature and the decision of two members, Mike Wilensky and Zulma Lopez, not to seek reelection.

Panitch is Jewish and Wilensky is currently the only Jewish member of the state Legislature.

On her website she writes, “With anti-Semitism on the rise throughout the country, representation matters.”


Since it’s Friday, we’re sending you into your weekend with a few light reading materials, including:

  • Wednesday’s Political Insider column about the debate in the legislature on who decides what’s taught in Georgia classrooms, “When Critical Race Theory is really critical race history;”
  • Jamie DuPree’s Thursday column from D.C., “Will Congress really look for the union label?”;
  • Sunday’s Political Insider column, “Gazpacho soup is the tip of the ice cube in fact-challenged Georgia politics.”


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

Sign Up to receive the Morning Jolt & AJC Politics newsletters in your inbox.

About the Author