The Jolt: Two U.S. Senate races, not the presidential contest, will dominate your TV over the next 46 days

In his bid for re-election, Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue, left, faces Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Last night, we told you that, in a new TV ad, U.S. Sen. David Perdue for the first time acknowledged that he faced an investigation for his stock trades in the weeks before the pandemic sparked economic turmoil.

The spot accuses Democrat Jon Ossoff and his allies of lying when they say the first-term Republican benefited from a confidential briefing on the coronavirus to inform stock trades as the disease spread. Perdue points out that he was cleared by a Senate Ethics Committee probe.

The ad volley is but a small part of huge spending on the race between Ossoff and Perdue, and further proof that Georgia’s two U.S. Senate races -- rather than the presidential contest -- are likely to dominate the airwaves in the next 46 days.

Veteran media guru Rick Dent sent us the total tally, which includes candidate and PAC spending: Some $36 million has been spent or reserved on TV and radio in the race for U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s seat, a November special election featuring 20 other candidates on the same ballot.

The biggest portion of that -- about $29 million -- has gone to support Loeffler’s bid. The remaining $7 million has been on behalf of Democratic candidates, largely backing Raphael Warnock’s campaign.

And roughly $91 million has already been spent or reserved for TV and radio spots in the contest for Perdue’s seat, the broad majority from outside groups, Dent said. Pro-Perdue forces are spending $51 million, while Ossoff and his allies have amassed $40 million worth of ads.

All told, more than $127 million in Georgia has been spent or booked on U.S. Senate races alone this cycle.

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In Cobb County, both the district attorney and sheriff are on the November ballot. Both incumbents are Republican, and the actions of one may have just doomed the re-election chances of the other. From our AJC colleague Kristal Dixon:

Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes has asked federal prosecutors to launch an independent probe into inmate deaths at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center.

Holmes said Wednesday that she made her request to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and Attorney General Chris Carr to name an appointee or office to work with federal prosecutors on the investigation…

Holmes was asked last month by the family of Kevil Wingo, an inmate who died in September 2019, to launch a criminal investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death. Wingo, 36, died from complications of a perforated gastric ulcer, an autopsy concluded.

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Holmes declined to elaborate on her call for federal scrutiny, but prosecutors don’t generally ask outside assistance without cause.

The Cobb jail is run by Sheriff Neil Warren, a longtime fixture on the local Republican scene. But Warren has been dogged by protests over numerous deaths in a facility under his charge, and faces a tough re-election battle against Craig Owens, a ranking member of the Cobb County Police Department.

Holmes was named district attorney by Gov. Brian Kemp after the governor tapped her predecessor, Vic Reynolds, as head of the GBI. She’ll be on the ballot for the first time on Nov. 3, facing Democrat Flynn Broady Jr.

Complicating matters is the fact that Holmes is leading the prosecution of those charged in the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old Black man who was shot Feb. 23 while jogging in the Satilla Shores neighborhood near Brunswick. Three white men have been arrested: father and son, Greg and Travis McMichael, and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr.

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A first wave of absentee ballots is in the mail to 1.1 million Georgia voters who have already requested them in advance of the Nov. 3 presidential election, per our AJC colleague Mark Niesse.

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Already posted: Gov. Brian Kemp has vented at local authorities, claiming that they are failing to enforce the state’s coronavirus guidelines, encased in an order that stretches across 51 pages. But critics say his appearance at crowded campaign events shows that he’s flouting the restrictions, too.

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On a certain federal campus in east Atlanta, this New York Times article is likely to reach roughly 17,000 eyeballs – give or take a few:

President Trump on Wednesday rejected the professional scientific conclusions of his own government about the prospects for a widely available coronavirus vaccine and the effectiveness of masks in curbing the spread of the virus as the death toll in the United States from the disease neared 200,000.

In a remarkable display even for him, Mr. Trump publicly slapped down Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the president promised that a vaccine could be available in weeks and go “immediately” to the general public while diminishing the usefulness of masks despite evidence to the contrary.

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On a similar front, the Washington Post this morning takes a look at turmoil within the U.S. Postal Service as the pandemic reared its head, citing “nearly 10,000 pages of emails, memos and other private documents.” In one paragraph, a prominent Atlanta attorney is mentioned:

The documents, which mostly span March and April, depict an agency in distress, as its deteriorating finances collided with a public-health emergency and a looming election that would be heavily reliant on absentee ballots. During that period, the USPS occasionally relied on the legal counsel of well-connected Republicans, including Stefan C. Passantino, who once served as a top White House lawyer under President Trump. Passantino, whose role has not been previously reported, is also part of a new pro-Trump legal coalition preparing for the possibility of a contested election, a relationship that has raised new ethical flags among the administration’s critics.

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You don’t often see Stacey Abrams and a top aide to the state’s Republican secretary of state coming together this quickly, on a single issue:

Student groups, politicians and one of the state’s top elections officials urged the University of Georgia to reverse course Wednesday and allow early voting on campus, prompting the school to review its policy.

School spokesman Greg Trevor said late Wednesday that UGA is “more than willing” to consider Stegeman Coliseum or another site that’s approved by local elections officials and the Secretary of State’s office…

“COVID-19 must never be used as an excuse to limit voting access, including on college campuses,” said Abrams, adding that the school has “increased opportunity for participation among students in the past, and they should be safely given the same access this year.”

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And then there was this from Jordan Fuchs, deputy to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger:

“As an alumna, I have the utmost respect for the greatest institution this country has ever seen,” she said. “But UGA needs to evaluate the needs of the community it serves and open its doors to the taxpayers and voters that make their success possible.”

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Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will join Stacey Abrams on Oct. 6 for a virtual conversation over voting rights that will benefit the Georgia Democrat’s Fair Fight group. Tickets start at $50 and co-hosts are invited to a pre-event online reception with the two speakers for $2,500 a pop.

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Georgia Onward is a political action committee that was formed in August to funnel campaign cash to candidates in Republican-held state House districts, with the goal of flipping the chamber.

Co-founders are Doug Shipman, Karli Swift, and Lindy Miller, who was an unsuccessful 2018 candidate for the state Public Service Commission.

Democrats need a 16-seat shift in November to gain control. Georgia Onward has identified 20 possibilities. Many are metro Atlanta – in Cobb, north Fulton, Gwinnett and Henry counties. But a number are scattered across the state. Here’s the group’s list of selected Democratic challengers and the (GOP incumbents) they face:

-- Priscilla Smith, District 34 (Bert Reeves, Marietta)

-- Kyle Rinaudo, District 35 (Ed Setzler, Acworth)

-- Luisa Wakeman, District 43 (Sharon Cooper, Marietta)

-- Connie Di Cicco, District 44 (Don Parsons, Marietta)

-- Sara Ghazal, District 45 (Matt Dollar, Marietta)

-- Anthia Owens Carter, District 47 (Jan Jones, Milton)

-- Jason Hayes, District 49 (Chuck Martin, Alpharetta)

-- Shea Roberts, District 52 (Deborah Silcox, Sandy Springs)

-- Mary Blackmon Campbell, District 97 (Bonnie Rich, Suwanee)

-- Nakita Hemingway, District 104 (Chuck Efstration, Dacula)

-- Rebecca Mitchell, District 106 (Bret Harrell, Snellville)

-- Regina Lewis-Ward, District 109 (Dale Rutledge, McDonough)

-- Ebony Carter, District 110 (Andrew Welch, McDonough)

-- Mokah Jasmine Johnson, District 117 (Houston Gaines, Athens)

-- Jonathan Wallace, District 119 (Marcus Wiedower, Watkinsville)

-- Quentin Howell, District 145 (Rick Williams, Milledgeville)

-- Stephen Baughier , District 147 (Heath Clark, Warner Robins)

-- Joyce Barlow, District 151 (Gerald Greene, Cuthbert)

-- Marcus Thompson, District 164 (Ron Stephens, Savannah)

-- Booker Gainer, District 173 (Darlene Taylor, Thomasville)

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On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler appeared on Fox News to demand that anyone convicted of killing a law enforcement officer should receive the death penalty.

Her remarks come after President Donald Trump called for a “fast trial” with a potential for capital punishment after two sheriff’s deputies in Los Angeles were shot.

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As Georgia continues to lag far behind in completion of the U.S. census, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is blaming the Trump administration for wanting to end data collection early.

As of Monday, 85.6% of households inGeorgia had been counted, ranking 46 out of 50 states, the AJC’s Jeremy Redmon reported:

“Given that we are in the midst of a pandemic, given the natural disasters that we are facing, it really is inexplicable that we wouldn’t take as much time as we need to get these numbers,” Bottoms said Wednesday.

“This is a political play because it does speak to representation in Congress. And the higher the numbers are ― especially in urban communities ― the more representation that we have in Congress. And that is certainly not something the Trump administration, I’m sure, is supportive of.”

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A new poll describes support for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden among Black voters in Georgia as “unflinching.”

Morning Consult, which surveyed voters from Sept. 4-13, found that 88% of Black voters said they were locked in with Biden, and 8% reported they planned to vote for Trump. Trump had the support of 68% of the white voters from Georgia polled, compared to 26% for Biden.

Biden also performed better among white, college-educated voters in Georgia. Seventy-four percent of white voters with no college in their background expressed support for Trump, compared to 60% with college experience.

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Despite initial concerns, top Republicans in the U.S. House are beginning to embrace Marjorie Taylor Greene as their next colleague in Washington, CNN reports.

This includes an invitation to meet with House Republican Whip Steve Scalise, previously had been critical of Greene and endorsed her opponent in the runoff. From CNN:

“The people that know her say her real drives and passions are fighting for life and battling socialism,” said Scalise. “Those are things that a lot of people are very interested in fighting for.”

“You got to respect every district, and I think I owe it to her to have a real good candid conversation,” he added.

Despite Greene espousing views that many see as racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic, Republicans are working to bring her into the fold -- and are insisting they expect her to be a team player if she comes to Washington next year. Many are happy about comments Greene made last month backing away from promoting “Q,” an anonymous central character in a conspiracy theory that claims that President Donald Trump secretly fights to bring down a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. The FBI has warned such fringe conspiracy views amount to a domestic terror threat.

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The Georgia secretary of state’s office has repeatedly said it’s too late to replace Kevin Van Ausdal on the ballot in the 14th District congressional race against Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, but the Democratic Party of Georgia is still trying. Executive Director Scott Hogan’s statement from Wednesday evening:

"With Mr. Van Ausdal officially unqualified to hold this office, we are asking the Secretary of State to immediately disqualify the race and allow the DPG to name a replacement. The 700,000 Georgians who live in the 14th Congressional District deserve a choice in November, and the only thing that would stop them is if the Secretary of State refuses to disqualify an unqualified candidate.

The Democratic Party of Georgia stands ready to perform our responsibility under Georgia law and name a replacement candidate within one business day, as soon as the Secretary of State has acted. We remain committed to helping all Georgians exercise their right to vote this November."

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