The Jolt: What we know about Stacey Abrams in 2022

FILE -- Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat and former state House Minority Leader who has become synonymous with the party’s attempts to win statewide, speaks in Atlanta on June 6, 2019. Democrats won Georgia in this year’s presidential election for the first time since 1992. (Audra Melton/The New York Times)

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FILE -- Stacey Abrams, the Georgia Democrat and former state House Minority Leader who has become synonymous with the party’s attempts to win statewide, speaks in Atlanta on June 6, 2019. Democrats won Georgia in this year’s presidential election for the first time since 1992. (Audra Melton/The New York Times)

Most potential Georgia candidates for statewide office avoid diving into the thorns and thistles of divisive national issues. Stacey Abrams isn’t most potential candidates.

The former gubernatorial candidate is widely expected to run for governor next year, which is why there was applause from Democrats — and head-scratching from Republicans — on Sunday when her latest Washington Post op-ed ran.

The piece argued that American democracy faced a near-death experience after Donald Trump’s ceaseless lies about election fraud and the Jan. 6 insurrection he incited, she wrote. President Joe Biden won “despite, not thanks to, weakened electoral systems.”

Abrams then advocated that Democrats take advantage of their control of the White House and Congress through “aggressive action on voting rights, partisan gerrymandering and campaign finance.”

First, she said, Democrats should “overhaul” the Senate filibuster to deny Republicans the ability to block legislation “favored by most Americans.”

Senate Democrats should also “fast-track democracy reforms,” including the For The People Act targeting gerrymandering; the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to restore the civil rights-era legislation; and greenlighting statehood for Washington, D.C., and “binding self-determination” for Puerto Rico.

Her positions weren’t a surprise. Abrams has advocated for aggressive action on voting rights for years.

But they serve as a reminder that Abrams will run as an unapologetic progressive if (when) she seeks to challenge Gov. Brian Kemp.

Still, some Republicans were befuddled by her column. Some asked why she needed to prove her liberal credentials, or whether she sought to provide cover for newly elected Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

Austin Chambers, a key adviser to former Sen. David Perdue, posted to Twitter that she’s gunning for something else entirely, previewing an attack we’ll likely see throughout the 2022 campaign: “She’s running for President, not Governor of Georgia.”

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Under the Gold Dome:

  • The House gavels in at 1:00;
  • The Senate convenes at 10:00 am, with recess until 1:00 pm;
  • 2:00 pm - Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston make an announcement on broadband access.

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The House could take up HB 86 this week, Rep. Ron Stephens’ bill to authorize the Georgia Lottery to manage a sports betting program. In an interview with Adam Van Brimmer for the Savannah Morning News’ podcast, “The Commute,” Stephens (R-Savannah) explains why he sees the legislation as, “a pretty easy sale” since Georgians are betting on sports with offshore sites already.

“So it’s an easy argument to say, ‘Why don’t we keep that revenue here for the HOPE scholarship?’ if Georgians are sports wagering anyway, lets just make it another lottery game? The pro sports teams are behind it. They’ve all come together and said they need this for fan engagement. They get none of the tax revenue. So it’s a pretty easy sale.”

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Another much-analyzed piece of commentary dropped over the weekend, but this one was far more baffling. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce released a vague six-sentence statement about voting rights.

Democrats keyed in on this final line: “Simply put, we believe it should be easy to vote, hard to commit fraud and that Georgians should have faith and confidence in secure, accessible and fair elections.”

Stacey Abrams applauded the statement in a tweet:

“Republicans should not make voting harder for eligible Georgians to make winning easier for themselves. For months, GA leg leaders touted the integrity of the 2020 elections. They must stand with @GAChamber & reject conspiracy theories - protect Georgia’s mainstream voting laws.”

But the Georgia Chamber’s statement was just trading off a favorite talking point of state Republicans, like this Brian Kemp editorial during the 2018 campaign. The lede: “In Georgia, it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat.”

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Screenshot of C-SPAN feed as U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, speaks on the House floor during debate on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act on Thursday, June 25, 2020.

Screenshot of C-SPAN feed as U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, speaks on the House floor during debate on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act on Thursday, June 25, 2020.

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Screenshot of C-SPAN feed as U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, speaks on the House floor during debate on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act on Thursday, June 25, 2020.

U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk had more than a few things to get off his chest in a recent visit to the Bartow County Republican Party, including his complaint that an editorial by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution listed the congressman among those whose “whose irresponsible words helped nurture this insurrection” on the day Trump-supporting rioters attacked the U.S. Capitol.

From the Cartersville Daily Tribune News:

“Loudermilk said he was curious as to why the AJC didn’t publish similar screeds when Democratic officials objected to the electoral college results in 2005...Almost three months later, however, Loudermilk said he still believes Trump was the “true” winner of last fall’s election.”

For a bit of recent history, there was no insurrection in 2005 and no mob attack on the Capitol to prevent the certification of the Electoral College.

To the contrary, Democratic nominee John Kerry refused to join the objections to the electoral college in 2005. Instead, in his concession speech, Kerry said he had called and offered President and Mrs. Bush his congratulations.

“We talked about the danger of division in our country and the need, the desperate need, for unity for finding the common ground, coming together. Today I hope that we can begin the healing,” Kerry said.

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Not all Republicans are sticking with former president Donald Trump. In fact, Nick Pasternak, once a speechwriter for former Sen. David Perdue, says he’s leaving the GOP entirely after the events of the last five years.

In Business Insider, Pasternak writes:

“It’s not easy walking away from the party I have devoted myself to, but it’s clear that President Trump’s hold on the GOP isn’t going anywhere. I know a lot of good people who want to change the direction of their party, and I hope for America’s sake that they can. But they’ll have to do it without me.”

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U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde reminded us last week that Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Rome) isn’t the only new conservative lawmaker Georgia sent to Washington this year.

Clyde became one of two members to be fined for breaking a new rule that requires metal detector scans before going onto the U.S. House floor. Clyde told Fox News on Friday night that he plans to appeal the fine, which he says is unconstitutional, adding that he broke the rules on purpose to give himself legal standing for a court battle.

Readers will remember Clyde from the 2020 cycle, when he featured an AR-15 prominently on his campaign yard signs. The freshman lawmaker also owns two gun stores and a large government contracting business selling munitions to law enforcement agencies and the federal government.

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Democrat Charlie Bailey, who is aiming for a rematch against Republican Attorney General Chris Carr, raised about $273,000 in roughly three weeks since announcing his campaign.

Among his donors: Former gubernatorial contender Jason Carter, state Sens. Michelle Au and Emanuel Jones and the company founded by former Gov. Roy Barnes.

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Republican state Rep. Matt Gurtler speaks at the Georgia Capitol on March 7, 2019. Gurtler is the leading 2020 contender for Congress in Georgia’s 9th District. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

Republican state Rep. Matt Gurtler speaks at the Georgia Capitol on March 7, 2019. Gurtler is the leading 2020 contender for Congress in Georgia’s 9th District. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

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Republican state Rep. Matt Gurtler speaks at the Georgia Capitol on March 7, 2019. Gurtler is the leading 2020 contender for Congress in Georgia’s 9th District. (HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM)

Former state Rep. Matt Gurtler, who was defeated by Andrew Clyde in a GOP primary runoff last summer, has found a new job: Chief of staff to Republican U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky.

Known for his “no” votes on virtually every piece of legislation, Gurtler was a pariah to much of the Republican establishment in Georgia but a hero to some Tea Party types who saw him as a champion for limited government.

In a Facebook post, Gurtler said he met Massie several years ago and they became fast friends.

“In joining his team I will continue to fight for our American values and principles in the infested swamp we know as Washington D.C.!” he wrote. “But most assuredly know my heart will always be in Georgia.”

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Sunday’s dead-tree edition of the AJC featured a takeout on the battle for 2022 elections already brewing in Georgia. In that story, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said he’ll “absolutely” run for another term despite immense pressure not to.

Among his potential Republican challengers is former DeKalb CEO Vernon Jones, who recently switched to the GOP, and state Sen. Brandon Beach. We’re told Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen is weighing a bid as well.

Some lesser-known candidates are sure to join the fray. Manswell Peterson, an author and former college professor, sent us word over the weekend he’s running for the seat as a Democrat.

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The Brunswick News is running a two-part report with a deep-dive on sea level rise and its serious impact on the Georgia coast, including St. Simons, Sea Island, Brunswick and St. Marys. The News details efforts by local leaders to adapt to the flooding, erosion and tidal changes that could threaten the area.

“Climate change is real,” said U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, pledging to do what he can to better prepare Georgia’s coastline for Atlantic storms.”