Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 7, 2020

7
Feb

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for February 7, 2020

President Donald Trump suggested he’s looking for a way to defuse the “jungle primary” for the Senate seat held by Sen. Kelly Loeffler, according to the AJC.

The president floated the idea that one of the two could leave the race during a speech at the White House celebrating the defeat of the Democratic-led attempt to remove him from office.

“I know, Kelly, that you’re going to end up liking him a lot,” Trump said of Collins, whom the president called an “unbelievable friend.”

He added: “Something’s going to happen that’s going to be very good. I don’t know; I haven’t figured it out yet.”

The president’s remarks triggered immediate talk in Georgia GOP circles that Collins could be in line for a judgeship or another appointment, or that Loeffler could be tapped for a premier position.

Both Republicans are scrambling to lock up Trump’s support, eager to tout every retweet and every supportive remark from the president as a sign he might be taking sides in their race.

So far, the president has stayed publicly neutral — although Trump privately lobbied Gov. Brian Kemp to tap Collins for the seat on three separate occasions before he appointed Loeffler to succeed retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

The Associated Press writes that tension between Governor Brian Kemp and Speaker David Ralston is a defining part of the 2020 Session.

The conflict between the Republican officials flared again Wednesday, with Ralston telling reporters that House members are still unhappy with the budget information they’re getting from the Kemp administration. Earlier, lawmakers were miffed when Kemp told agency heads not to appear before legislative committees last summer after he announced budget cuts.

“We started asking for this information as far back as last September and were assured that we would have it, and frankly, some of the information we still don’t have,” Ralston said after he pushed through a weeklong timeout from normal legislative business. He wants House members to focus intensely on Kemp’s proposed budget cuts amid a revenue slowdown — cuts that are getting clear pushback from many House Republicans.

Kemp’s spokeswoman fired back Wednesday, criticizing Ralston for attempting to change how Georgia holds special elections. The unsuccessful attempt would likely have boosted the U.S. Senate bid of Doug Collins, a Ralston friend, and undercut Kemp’s appointed choice, Kelly Loeffler.

Tension between a governor and legislators is nothing new — indeed it’s designed into the system. Gov. Sonny Perdue vetoed a 2007 budget when House Speaker Glenn Richardson was trying to force through property tax relief, and then vetoed 40 other bills, including 29 by members of the House Appropriations Committee. Lawmakers are also inclined to fight among themselves. When Zell Miller led the Senate as lieutenant governor and Tom Murphy was House speaker, their feuding was notorious.

Ralston himself has said news reporters have “inflated” the rift.

“You know we don’t agree all the time, nobody agrees with me all the time. I wish I could find somebody that did,” Ralston said last week after having breakfast with Kemp. “But no there’s no tension. I mean we do look at the budget differently on some items. I think that’s healthy.”

Georgia Democrats are criticizing some potential cuts in the state budget, according to the AJC.

The Democratic Party of Georgia on Thursday launched a “Don’t Cut Georgia’s Future” campaign that highlighted Kemp’s proposal to cut about $500 million from the state’s budget over two years.

The push includes a website Democrats will use to highlight cuts that slice into Georgia’s mental health programs and criminal justice initiatives.

Party officials say they’ll focus on the “human cost behind these cuts” through the 40-day session and into November. Scott Hogan, the party’s executive director, said it would help hold state leaders “accountable through Election Day.”

Former United States Attorney and state legislator Ed Tarver registered his campaign for the Senate seat held by Sen. Kelly Loeffler, according to the AJC.

Former U.S. attorney Ed Tarver of Augusta has filed statements with the Federal Election Commission registering his candidacy and a campaign committee for the Nov. 3 special U.S. Senate election.

Tarver, who said his public launch will be next week, is one of seven candidates and four Democrats seeking the senate seat held by Johnny Isakson, who retired before the end of his term.

Kim Jackson announced she will run for the State Senate seat currently held by Sen. Steve Henson, according to Decaturish.

According to a campaign announcement, Jackson launched her campaign last July. The announcement notes that Jackson is “an Episcopal priest from the rural South who made Georgia home more than 10 years ago.”

Jackson’s campaign is based on her advocacy for a number of issues, including food security, helping the homeless, finding alternatives to the death penalty, reducing stigma around both reproductive justice and HIV/AIDS and expanding access to quality early childhood education and health care.

“I am honored by the early endorsements, humbled by the team that supports me and excited about the trajectory of the campaign with Chism Strategies on board,” Jackson said in her announcement. “This campaign is about more than me as it is about advocating not only for the people of my district, but for all Georgian’s to have a cleaner, healthier and more just Georgia.”

Superior Court Judge and former State Rep. Mack Crawford will resign his seat on the Griffin Judicial Circuit bench, according to the Daily Report.

In the Pike County Courthouse where he presided as a judge for nearly a decade, suspended Superior Court Judge Robert “Mack” Crawford pleaded guilty through an Alford plea Thursday to theft by taking. A charge of violating his oath of office and a second theft charge were dismissed.

Superior Court Judge Maureen Gottlieb, on assignment from the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit in Columbus, sentenced Crawford to 12 months of unsupervised, fee exempt probation and granted him first offender status. Crawford’s plea will not be made part of the court record at this time and will be sealed along with the charges, once his probation is complete.

Crawford was charged with abusing his judicial authority to steal $15,675 that belonged to former clients from the Pike County court registry.

As part of a plea agreement with the state attorney general’s office, which did not include an admission of guilt, Crawford agreed to retire and submit his resignation to Gov. Brian Kemp by Friday. The 66-year-old judge, whose term expires in December, also promised he will not seek reelection or apply for, run or serve as a judge in any court while he remains on probation. Crawford has not heard any cases since the state judicial watchdog agency suspended him with pay after his indictment by a Pike County grand jury nearly 16 months ago.

Crawford said he entered the Alford plea and agreed to retire because he decided when he ran in 2012 that it would be his last campaign. He said he also feared his state pension might be jeopardized if a trial led to a felony conviction. “I think I would have prevailed, but I wasn’t going to take the chance,” he said.

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