The Jolt: Brian Kemp is in for 2022

Governor Brian P. Kemp speaks at a press conference at the state capital on Tuesday, November 8, 2020.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Governor Brian P. Kemp speaks at a press conference at the state capital on Tuesday, November 8, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Gov. Brian Kemp gave a wide-ranging interview to the AJC Monday, but the biggest news for political watchers is this: Kemp says he’s running for reelection in 2022.

Speculation about his plans had swirled following the tumultuous end to the 2020 elections, complete with multiple vows from President Donald Trump that he’ll push a 2022 primary against Kemp. But the governor says he’s ready for that and more:

“I plan on running in 2022. I’m not worried about any kind of primary fight. We’ll be victorious,” he said.

***

The 2021 legislative session is underway with the pandemic and security concerns weighing on the shoulders of lawmakers.

House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, compared the current environment to previous eras of American turmoil.

“We begin this session in another period of state and national upheaval,” the speaker said, citing the pandemic and last summer’s police shootings that served as “tragic and brutal reminders that the fight for equality and justice is not over.”

More Day 1 nuggets from the AJC’s Maya T. Prabhu and David Wickert:

-An increased law enforcement presence surrounded the Capitol, with heavily armed officers patrolling the streets and barricades around the property.

-Masks are required in the Senate and House chambers and committee rooms, and lawmakers and staff are being tested twice a week for the virus.

-At least four legislators missed the first day of session because they had contracted COVID-19 or been exposed to it.

***

We told you last week about the fundraising arm of a group led by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, which paid for robocalls telling supporters of President Donald Trump to march to the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to “stop the steal” following a “Save America” rally that preceded the deadly riot in Washington.

A spokeswoman for Carr said the attorney general had no knowledge or involvement in the robocall from the Rule of Law Defense Fund, but said that Carr was working to find out how it all happened.

Late yesterday, Carr and Alabama AG Steve Marshall announced that the RLDF’s executive director Adam Piper, has voluntarily resigned, but the statement also praised Piper’s “tenacity, work ethic and vision.”

Marshall, who chairs the RLDF, added that, “Every decision Adam made on behalf of RLDF was with the best of intentions and with the organization’s best interests in mind.”

The episode was quick fodder for Charlie Bailey, Carr’s Democratic opponent in 2018, who announced Monday that he’s running for AG again. Bailey also held a press conference across the street from the Capitol Tuesday morning announcing his run.

***

The Coca-Cola Co. is halting all political donations, according to the AJC’s Matt Kempner. The temporary stop to all PAC giving to both parties is a result of the mob attack on the Capitol, which the company called “an offense to democracy” last week.

Coke, along with UPS and PulteGroup, are among the 10 largest publicly traded companies in Georgia. All three have suspended political giving after donating to Republican candidates who supported unsubstantiated claims about widespread voter fraud and tried to discourage officials from accepting the 2020 election results.

Coke’s statement, in part notes that it has long given bi-partisan donations, but, “The current events will long be remembered and will factor into our future contribution decisions.”

The move has the potential to exert real pressure on lawmakers and candidates at all levels, including many in Georgia, looking to the company to support their campaigns - while also pushing President Donald Trump’s disproven claims that he won last election.

***

The elections may be over, but tensions in the state remain high. Look no further than a billboard in Forsyth county sent to us by a tipster, with large images of Gov. Brain Kemp and Sec. of State Brad Raffensperger, tagging them both as “Treasonist RINOs,” (Republicans In Name Only) A single message reads: “Lock them up.”

There’s no indication of who paid for the billboard.

***

Two Democratic members of Congress say they tested positive for the coronavirus after sheltering in place with GOP colleagues who refused to wear masks during last week’s riots.

New Jersey Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, 75, is experiencing mild symptoms. U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, of Washington, also announced she had a positive result.

During the Capitol insurrection, both lawmakers were in lockdown with a room with dozens of other members. Punchbowl News posted a video that showed several GOP members, including Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, maskless and refusing ones offered by Delaware Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester. In the video, Greene stands with her arms crossed and smiles at Rochester.

***

A voting registration group founded by Stacey Abrams was directed by a Gwinnett superior court judge to turn over bank records to state ethics investigators, the AJC’s James Salzer reports.

The ethics commission accuses the New Georgia Project, which Abrams no longer controls directly, of supporting her gubernatorial campaign in 2018 without registering as a campaign committee or filing disclosures showing how much it raised or spent.

***

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter is chatty when he wants to be. C-SPAN’s end-of-session statistics show that Carter, R-Pooler, gave more floor speeches than nearly every other member of the House over the last two years.

He ranked No. 4 out of the 435-member body, speaking at least 136 times. No other Georgia lawmakers made the top 10. Speaker Nancy Pelosi just barely scraped by at No. 10.

C-SPAN also noted that safety protocols for the coronavirus, like voting in small groups, have tripled the time it take House members to vote. And the House spent fewer days on the floor in 2020 and passed fewer bills compared to the previous year.

***

GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire owner of Las Vegas casinos, has died. Adelson was a longtime supporter of Republican candidates in Georgia. In the 2020 elections, he provided a third of the money used by Georgia Action Fund to attack Jon Ossoff in his race against former Sen. David Perdue, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That group also took out ads in Georgia against Joe Biden.

Adelson had eyed Georgia as a place where he wanted to expand his business, but state lawmakers’ hesitance to legalize gambling put a halt to that.

A piece from the AJC archives gave more color to why Georgia didn’t greenlight casinos under Gov. Nathan Deal:

“With his limousine parked outside the Capitol, near a spot usually reserved for Gov. Nathan Deal’s entourage, he spent a few hours meeting with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston.

“We talked about his experiences in the business world and specifically as it related to that industry,” said Ralston, who said he’s open to a debate on gambling next year. “And then, truthfully, we spent a good bit of time talking about the Iran nuclear arrangement. And he gets pretty animated about that. It was a wide-ranging visit.”

“Adelson’s appearance ruffled feathers in the governor’s office. Deal, who was on a European trade mission, said Adelson’s camp didn’t give him any notice. Deal has long opposed an expansion of gambling, and he said in an interview after the visit that he would actively urge lawmakers to vote against it.”

- AJC

In Other News