The Jolt: What to expect at this weekend’s wild GOP convention

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Republicans stop to talk in front of a backlit image of President Trump during the opening day of the Georgia State GOP convention Friday, June 2, 2017 in Augusta, Ga. (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP)

Credit: Greg Bluestein

Credit: Greg Bluestein

Republicans stop to talk in front of a backlit image of President Trump during the opening day of the Georgia State GOP convention Friday, June 2, 2017 in Augusta, Ga. (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP)

We’ve heard this weekend’s Georgia GOP convention described multiple different ways from anxious Republican insiders: A reckoning. A wakeup call. A figurative bloodbath. More than anything, it’s likely to be a test of Donald Trump’s enduring influence in the party.

The meeting will gather hundreds of the party’s most devoted activists in Jekyll Island for speechifying, jockeying and voting that will help shape the GOP’s approach to the 2022.

And as we’ve reported before, the state Republican Party is not in the mood for soul-searching despite major defeats in November’s presidential contest and January’s Senate runoffs.

Since then, many of the state GOP’s grassroots movers-and-shakers have only embraced Trump’s lies about widespread election fraud in Georgia -- and echoed his attacks on party leaders who refused to overturn his defeat.

We expect resolutions to censure or reprimand Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who have both been outspoken in their criticism of the former president.

Neither is set to attend the convention. An aide to Raffensperger said he wasn’t invited to speak during the meeting, though he might not mind the snub. He was certain to be booed on stage.

The bigger question, in our minds, is the reception awaiting Gov. Brian Kemp, who will headline the event with a speech outlining his priorities through next year.

The state’s first lifelong Republican governor since Reconstruction is no favorite of the grassroots-activist types who attend these meetings, and has faced backlash from many who blame him for Trump’s loss.

More than a dozen county GOPs passed resolutions reprimanding Kemp earlier this year after refusing to overturn the state’s election results, and one district GOP adopted a similar sanction. But insiders don’t expect the state GOP to pass an anti-Kemp resolution, although they also didn’t rule it out.

Back in January, Kemp probably couldn’t imagine being in this position of relative strength. Trump was assailing him daily, Doug Collins was threatening to challenge him and his poll numbers were on the decline.

Since then, the governor’s poll numbers have steadied and though Trump continues to swipe at him, Kemp has yet to attract a significant GOP challenger in next year’s primary.

His biggest internal threat so far is Vernon Jones, a former Democratic lawmaker turned Trump supporter who not long ago was the bane of many metro Atlanta Republicans for his scandal-plagued stint leading DeKalb County.

Still, Jones poses a challenge simply by pulling the field further to the right.

Kemp has tried to placate the GOP base in recent weeks with a visit to the U.S. border with Mexico, signing new voting restrictions into law, and banning so-called “vaccine passports.”

But he faces demands from the far-right to go further, including Jones’ recent call for a Trump-friendly “forensic audit” of the 2020 election results meant to cast doubt on Joe Biden’s victory.


Along with the dynamics around Gov. Brian Kemp, here’s what else to watch for at the GOP convention, which starts Friday:

  • GOP chair David Shafer is expected to easily win another term, thanks to Trump’s endorsement. His chief opponent is former Cobb GOP chair Jason Shepherd, popular among suburban activists.
  • We’ll be closely watching not just Kemp’s speech, but the speechifying from possible Senate contenders Gary Black and Buddy Carter, along with Jody Hice, who is running for Secretary of State against Raffensperger.
  • We’re hearing buzz that Trump will offer a video message to the delegates, though party officials didn’t immediately comment.


American Governors don’t usually get involved in foreign policy, but Gov. Brian Kemp found a way Wednesday when he announced that he had authorized the Georgia state Treasurer to buy $10 million worth of Israeli bonds, nearly doubling the state’s investment there.

Kemp called the move “a safe investment” and added, “I am proud to join efforts across the country to support our friend & ally, Israel.”

If you too were asking yourself, “What the...?” We have the answer from the AJC’s resident money man, James Salzer, who naturally took a look at the state’s holdings.

Salzer reports that Israel is the only country that the state of Georgia held bonds in, as of the treasurer’s March 31 report.

In all, the “Georgia Fund 1 Plus,” one of the state’s investment funds, has about $7.8 billion in holdings. And while the report doesn’t include similar bonds from other countries, it does have even larger investments in banks and financial groups based in Canada, France, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, Belgium, Japan and Singapore.

In reality, Kemp’s move is about almost everything other than money, including reelection. In recent weeks, the governor has checked the box on every hot-button issue likely to animate GOP primary voters, from mask mandates to “critical race theory” to crime in Atlanta.

Vocal, muscular and very public support for Israel is a also must for any GOP politician, and Kemp is no exception, even as a governor.


Speaking of hot button issues, climate change is one of many that seem to have been politicized to the point of no return.

But Politico writes that’s not stopping U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff from leaning hard on the issue, even in Georgia where the votes of independents and a few moderate Republicans are still seen as crucial for Democrats to win statewide victories.

Ossoff’s approach is “a contrast to how lawmakers in some closely-divided states have sought to navigate the thorny issue of climate change,” Anthony Adragna writes.

Renewable sources currently account for about a tenth of the state's electricity, half of which is biomass. The state ranks as No, 13 nationally in solar power capacity, and it's expected to see that figure of 2.8 gigawatts rise by 80 percent in the next five years, according to the trade group Solar Energy Industries Association….

“We have to seize this moment to get it done because we may not get another shot," Ossoff said. “It truly is a question of whether we're going to assert American power and vision to ensure that human beings can prosper without destroying our habitat. Those are the stakes."

- Politico


Gov. Brian Kemp has suspended Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill after receiving a report from a panel that looked into his federal indictment. The AJC’s Leon Stafford reports that the three-person panel, which Kemp appointed, determined the allegations that Hill violated the civil rights of inmates at the county jail negatively impacts his ability to do his job.

It is unclear who will serve as Clayton sheriff in the interim. The panel consisted of state Attorney General Chris Carr, Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams and Cherokee County Sheriff Frank Reynolds.


We’ve told you that Atlanta’s crime wave has attracted the attention of state officials, from Gov. Brian Kemp to the Georgia General Assembly, as they also position themselves as public safety champions heading into 2022.

Today Attorney General Chris Carr will host a meeting of his “Anti-Gang Network,” with an emphasis on Atlanta. But unlike other events that take swipes at city and county officials from afar, Thursday’s meeting includes local law enforcement officials on the agenda.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant, and Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat will be on hand to update the task force on their own anti-gang efforts in Atlanta.


The biggest change new senators usually notice in their lives once they’re elected is that they don’t drive very often, since staffers typically take the wheel while their bosses read briefings and make calls from the passenger seat.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock changed that at the Kia plant in West Point yesterday, when he took a Kia Telluride out for a spin.

“Each year, workers at the @Kia factory in West Point produce 340,000 cars,” he wrote on Twitter. “And what a thrill to take a spin in one of those Georgia-made cars today!”


Early voting is underway for House District 34 and House District 156, which became vacant with the resignations of Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, and Rep. Greg Morris, R-Vidalia, respectively.

Reeves was Gov. Brian Kemp’s floor leader, but resigned to take a job with his alma mater, Georgia Tech. His former district includes parts of Cobb County, including Kennesaw and Marietta.

Running to replace him are Democrats Sam Hensley, Jr. and Priscilla Smith, along with Republicans David Blinkhorn and Devan Seabaugh, and Libertarian Chris Neill.

Morris vacated his House seat in his 11th term for an appointment to the powerful state Board of Transportation. Running to fill his seat are Republicans Leesa Hagan and Wally Sapp, and Democrat Wright Gres. House District 156 includes Montgomery and Toombs counties, as well as portions of Appling and Jeff David counties.

Early voting ends June 11th and Election Day is scheduled for June 15th.


There’s a judicial opening in Augusta, the Augusta Chronicle reports, but the job won’t last for long. Here’s why:

The Augusta Judicial Circuit is set to split July 1, barring court action to stop it. That means the Republican governor's appointee will have to run for re-election in predominately Democratic leaning Richmond and Burke counties. If the split goes through, heavily Republican Columbia County will be its own judicial circuit.

Whoever Kemp selects to serve on the bench will have to run for election next year if the appointment is made six months before the next general election in May 2022.

- The Augusta Chronicle


We have an update on that federal lawsuit filed in New York to reverse Major League Baseball’s decision to remove the All Star game from Metro Atlanta. A judge has scheduled a hearing on the case for June 10.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni’s order requires the defendants, which include the league, the players association and their respective leaders, to make the case about why the game currently being planned in Denver shouldn’t be immediately ordered back to Cobb County.

In case you were wondering, Caproni was appointed to the federal bench by former President Barack Obama.


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