Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 23, 2021

23
Mar

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for March 23, 2021

Patrick Henry addressed the Virginia Convention in Richmond on March 23, 1775, stating, “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

On March 23, 1861, the Georgia Secession Convention adopted a new state Constitution to be submitted to a referendum of the voters on the first Tuesday in July and then adjourned.

On March 23, 1972, in the case of Gooding v. Wilson, the United States Supreme Court held that a Georgia statute, OCGA § 26-6303, which provided: “Any person who shall, without provocation, use to or of another, and in his presence . . . opprobrious words or abusive language, tending to cause a breach of the peace . . . shall be guilty of a misdemeanor,” was unconstitutionally vague and violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

On March 23, 1983, President Ronald Reagan called for the development of an anti-missile system that would come to be known as the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Under the Gold Dome Today – Legislative Day 37

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETINGS

TBD Senate Rules upon Adjournment – 450 CAP
8:00 AM Senate Veterans, Military and Homeland Security – 450 CAP
8:00 AM Senate Ethics – 307 CLOB
8:00 AM HOUSE SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT – 506 CLOB
8:30 AM Senate Science and Technology – 310 CLOB
8:30 AM HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS – 406 CLOB
9:00 AM HOUSE RULES – 341 CAP
10:00 AM Senate Floor Session (LD 37) – Senate Chamber
10:00 AM HOUSE FLOOR SESSION (LD37) – House Chamber
1:00 PM Senate Higher Education – 450 CAP
1:00 PM Senate Insurance and Labor – Mezz 1
1:30 PM CANCELLED – HOUSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND TOURISM – 341 CAP
1:30 PM HOUSE REGULATED INDUSTRIES – 506 CLOB
1:30 PM HOUSE EDUCATION – 341 CAP
1:30 PM HOUSE AGRICULTURE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS – 403 CAP
2:00 PM HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON ELECTION INTEGRITY – 406 CLOB
2:00 PM HOUSE HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES – 606 CLOB
2:15 PM Senate Health and Human Services – 450 CAP
2:15 PM Senate Public Safety – Mezz 1
3:30 PM Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities – 450 CAP
4:45 PM Senate Finance – Mezz 1

SENATE RULES CALENDAR

SR 201 – SK Innovation; recognize (RULES-49th)

HB 81 – General appropriations; State Fiscal Year July 1, 2021 -June 30, 2022(Substitute)(APPROP-19th) Ralston-7th

HB 451 – Ad valorem tax; property; fair market value applicable to inventor; provisions (Substitute)(FIN-53rd) Lumsden-12th

SR 190 – Congress; allow individuals to retain the right to use their image and likeness and shield them from copyright infringement; urge (RULES-28th)

HB 395 – The Professional Counselors Licensure Compact Act; enact(H&HS-52nd) Belton-112th

HB 154 – Domestic relations; protection of children; strengthen, clarify, and update provisions (Substitute)(JUDY-50th) Reeves-34th

HB 168 – Penal institutions; certain information within inmate files of the Department of Corrections shall not be classified as confidential state secrets when requested by the district attorney; provide(PUB SAF-1st) Petrea-166th

HB 210 – Motor vehicles; recording of odometer readings upon certificates of title; exempt certain vehicles(TRANS-25th) Corbett-174th

HOUSE RULES CALENDAR

Modified Structured Rule

SB 33 – Torts; cause of action against perpetrators for victims of human trafficking; provide (Judy-Bonner-72nd) Dixon-45th

SB 86 – “Fair Business Practices Act of 1975”; requirements for solicitations of services for corporate filings required by the Secretary of State; provide (Substitute)(Judy-Efstration-104th) Walker III-20th

SB 119 – Permit Required for Burning Woods, Lands, and Marshes or Other Flammable Vegetation; except certain yard waste from permitting (NR&E-McDonald-26th) Harper-7th

SB 144 – HousingAuthorities; ability of city housing authorities to operate outside municipal boundaries without authorization; limit (GAff-Ehrhart-36th) Tippins-37th

SB 187 – HOPE Scholarship; procedure for students with disability as defined by the American with Disabilities Act to apply for a waiver; establish (HEd-Wiedower-119th) Tippins-37th

SB 238 – Code OfGeorgia; enactment of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated; revise provisions (Substitute)(CR-Efstration-104th) Strickland-17th

SR 134 – Public Officers; suspension of compensation; felony; provide -CA (Judy-Efstration-104th) Walker III-20th

Governor Brian Kemp yesterday signed several pieces of legislation, including an income tax cut, according to 11Alive.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a $140 million state income tax cut into law Monday, raising the standard deduction on state income tax returns.

House Bill 593 specifically raises the state’s standard deduction for individual filers by $800 to $5,400 and by couples filing jointly by $1,100 to $7,100.

Gov. Kemp also signed HB 114 on Monday, adding incentives for adoptions by increasing adoption-related tax credits. HB 114 has with overwhelming bipartisan support from Georgia lawmakers, passing unanimously in both the Georgia House and Senate.

“Proud to stand with members of the General Assembly to cut taxes for hardworking Georgians and increase incentives for families to adopt children from the foster care system,” Kemp tweeted.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune:

The governor, who has helmed the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic for a year now, called the two tax measures a boon for struggling Georgians and foster parents that looked financially “unthinkable” last March as the virus spread.

“As we return to normal here in the Peach State and look to fully restore our economy, it is critical that Georgians keep as much of their hard-earned money as possible to revive small businesses and industries still struggling under the weight of (COVID-19),” Kemp said at a bill-signing ceremony.

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, who has pushed to continue cutting taxes after Georgia lowered its income-tax rate from 6% to 5.75% in 2019, said Monday the latest cut aims to benefit primarily lower- to middle-income families across the state.

“Today marks another chapter in Georgia’s continuing commitment to provide sustainable, meaningful tax relief to Georgians to let them keep more of their hard-earned money,” Ralston said.

[State Rep. Bert] Reeves’ measure will boost the annual tax credit for new foster parents from $2,000 to $6,000 annually for the first five years after adoption, then drop back to $2,000 per year. The credit will end when the foster child turns 18.

Clearing hurdles for foster care in Georgia has been a legislative priority for many state leaders including Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who on Monday called the increased tax credit a “real and substantial” incentive for families to adopt some of the state’s most vulnerable children.

“It’s going to remove barriers and hurdles for families that are just sitting on the precipice of being able to make the decision to bring on those kids,” Duncan said.

Governor Kemp is expected to announce today the expansion of eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to all adults, according to WSB-TV.

The governor is scheduled to hold a news conference Tuesday afternoon, where it appears he will make the announcement official.

Kemp had previously said that he expected to be able to open vaccinations to all adult Georgians by some time in April.

As of Monday evening, more than 3.2 million doses of vaccine had been given statewide.

Mercedes-Benz Stadium will soon be a federal mass vaccination site, being able to give about 6,000 doses a day.

State Senator John Albers (R-Roswell) is the latest victim of the politically-correct mob. From the AJC:

The Fisher Phillips law firm told the AJC over the weekend that state Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, resigned as chief information officer after it was deemed “incompatible” with his role as a state lawmaker.

“We are grateful for John’s many accomplishments at the firm as an excellent professional and wish him well,” the firm said in a statement.

In a text to the AJC, Albers pinned the blame on The Lincoln Project, the prominent Never Trump group, which he said wrongly accused him of sponsoring a measure to suppress votes in a now-deleted tweet.

“This is clearly false, he said. “I am fully transparent and glad to share everything with anyone. This issue caused the firm undo angst even though it was not true.”

The Lincoln Project has come under fire for his own unsavory scandals recently. In a statement late Monday, the group panned Albers for claiming it targeted him with “economic terrorism.”

“Economic terrorism is denying voting rights to the taxpayers who pay their salaries. Economic terrorism is making it more difficult for every Georgian to participate in democracy,” said Nate Nesbitt, the organization’s director of strategic partnerships.

From the statement by Senator Albers:

“Last week, in a series of since-deleted Tweets, The Lincoln Project knowingly lied about me in a desperate attempt to remain relevant and distract the public from its own transgressions. Among other things, they falsely accused me of trying to “suppress voters” in several Tweets that also tagged my employer and several of its largest clients. These disgusting tactics are nothing new, but I will not allow this disgraced PAC to try to “cancel” me or deceive my constituents and the American public.”

“The truth is that I co-sponsored Georgia Senate Bill 62, which provides for ballots in the state of Georgia to have a watermark, seal and other security elements to include the precinct number—which are best practices. I did not sponsor or vote in favor of other recent bills in Georgia that sought to limit no excuse absentee balloting and reduce weekend voting. As a matter of fact, some groups attacked me for not supporting these other measures.”

“My record is crystal clear. I believe voting is a sacred right and should be available, transparent, and secure for all citizens. I am proud of my work in this area. And I will not allow myself to be cancelled, threatened, or intimidated based on lies about my record—particularly by a disgraced group facing well-publicized allegations of sexual harassment and financial impropriety (see the below articles).”

“Even though The Lincoln Project is a flailing organization plagued by scandal and hypocrisy, its “words matter” and have devastating consequences. Obviously, the strong-arm strategy of tagging my employer and some of its biggest clients in their false and defamatory Tweets about me was intended to destroy my career. And of course, regardless of the truth, I have already been falsely labeled, lost my job, and received threats against my entire family.”

“The truth matters. People who are willing to subvert the truth for their own political and personal agendas present an imminent threat to our democracy. I cannot allow radical groups like The Lincoln Project to continue using lies and deception to stoke division and destabilize our great country. I am taking a stand to defend the truth and hope all Americans will join me. Enough is enough.”

Major Media Outlet Coverage of the discredited group:

https://apnews.com/article/john-weaver-lincoln-project-crisis-b14be5f06588b8f1d78125d4141394cb

https://www.wsj.com/articles/join-the-lincoln-project-drive-off-with-a-lemon-11613407788

https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/18/politics/lincoln-project-john-weaver-steve-schmidt/index.html

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/lincon-project-scandal-timeline

https://www.huffpost.com/topic/the-lincoln-project

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/02/25/lincoln-project-trump-471557

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/08/us/politics/lincoln-project-weaver.html

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/31/us/politics/john-weaver-lincoln-project-harassment.html

https://thehill.com/opinion/campaign/538795-the-swift-death-of-the-media-darlings-known-as-the-lincoln-project

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/02/lincoln-projects-derailed-plan-for-media-empire

Will the politically-correct now come for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola?

Black Lives Matter activists protested state legislation outside a Coca-Cola bottler in Macon, according to the Macon Telegraph.

 Members of Black Voters Matter stood near the entrance of the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. on Rocky Creek Road in Macon on Friday holding signs and shouting “Kill the Bill.”

Danny Glover, a community activist, said the protesters’ goal was to bring awareness to voter suppression in Georgia that happened after the runoff election and encourage corporations, like Coca-Cola, to show their support.

“We saw laws change. We saw our electoral system pretty much made one of the most difficult places to vote in the entire country by the exact same people who said this was the safest system,” Glover said. “Our rights have been infringed upon every day by the Republicans and those conservatives that are in the Georgia House.”

Fenika Miller, the Georgia state coordinator for Black Voters Matter, said the group is running a corporate accountability campaign to garner support to squash House Bill 531, Senate Bill 241 and Senate Bill 202, which she said would restrict Georgian’s access to vote.

“They were going to stand on the side of racial equity and inclusion and help to move the needle to make sure that communities of color and Black communities in particular were protected, and so, all that we’re doing is asking them to make good on that pledge,” she said. “We’re asking them to be bold and to take a stand and to say that we do not believe that restricting access to the ballot will help democracy.”

Miller hopes people will reach out to the corporate headquarters of the companies who supported the protests in the summer to let them know they expect these companies to keep their promise, she said.

The Georgia Senate Appropriations Committee approved their version of the FY 2022 state budget, according to the Capitol Beat News Service via the Rome News Tribune.

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted unanimously to send the proposed budget to the floor for a voted expected on Tuesday.

The budget would restore $567.5 million in “austerity” cuts to Georgia public schools lawmakers imposed last year when the state’s economy was being hammered by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our state finances have out-performed what we expected them to be,” Sen. Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, the committee’s chairman, explained.

The Senate version of the budget would fund pay raises for a number of “critical positions” in state agencies , including the departments of Banking and Finance, Driver Services, Corrections and Juvenile Justice.

The Senate budget ups the ante on a controversial proposal to hire a “chief labor officer” to help the Georgia Department of Labor catch up with a backlog of unemployment claims arising from the pandemic.

The committee is recommending $198,916 for the position, up from $99,458 in the House budget.

Senate budget writers added a number of new spending items, including $1.5 million to pay for additional ballot security measures required in legislation the Senate passed two weeks ago.

From the Center Square:

The proposal for state spending from July 1 to June 30, 2022, reflects a 5.3% increase in expenditures over the current fiscal year’s original spending plan.

Two budgets are passed through the General Assembly every legislative session. Lawmakers must review and approve spending for the remainder of the current fiscal year, also known as the Amended Fiscal Year (AFY) budget, and approve the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Lawmakers and Gov. Brian Kemp approved last month a $26.5 billion amended spending plan for the remainder of the current fiscal year. This year’s initial state budget was $25.9 billion.

The fiscal year 2022 budget proposal in the Senate calls for spending 2.6% more on education, mental health, rural communities, internet access and state retirement, among other things.

The plan spends $66 million to increase state government’s share of the Teachers Retirement System from 19.06% to 19.81%. Lawmakers also added more funding for state colleges and universities, but the schools also will receive $1.2 billion through the American Rescue Plan, Tillery said.

The full Senate must approve the appropriations committee’s proposal. Both chambers of the General Assembly then must agree on a fiscal 2022 budget before the spending plan is sent to Kemp for final approval.

Senate Bill 202 by State Sen. Max Burns (R-Sylvania) passed the State House Special Committee on Election Integrity and heads to the floor, according to the AJC.

Voting rights advocates said the measure, Senate Bill 202, would limit voter access by curtailing ballot drop boxes, requiring voter ID for absentee ballots and disqualifying provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct.

But the bill’s backers say it would increase voting opportunities by requiring two Saturday early voting days and making two Sundays optional. A previous version of the bill would have reduced Sunday voting. Under current law, only one Saturday is mandatory during the state’s three-week early voting period, but some counties offered additional days.

“We have greatly increased voting access in Georgia,” said committee Chairman Barry Fleming, a Republican from Harlem. “There will now be more early voting hours across the state than there ever has been before.”

Absentee ballot drop boxes would only be allowed to be located inside early voting locations and under supervision, and they wouldn’t be open after early voting hours. Drop boxes wouldn’t be available in the last four days of an election, when it’s probably too late for them to arrive in time through the mail.

“People like the drop boxes. I don’t know why, if someone likes something, we need to get rid of it,” said state Rep. Rhonda Burnough, a Democrat from Riverdale. “And then we’ve got to have a guard sitting next to it — that’s a form of intimidation.”

The bill also would set a deadline to request an absentee ballot 11 days before election day, ban free food from being distributed to voters waiting in line, limit mailing of absentee ballot request forms and allow the State Election Board to take over underperforming county election boards.

From the Capitol Beat News Service via the Dalton Daily Citizen News:

[SB 202] would give counties the option to hold early voting on two different weekends ahead of an election, including mandatory open hours on Saturdays and optional hours on Sundays.

“Both Saturdays and both Sundays are possible … if locals want it,” said Fleming, who chairs the House Special Committee on Election Integrity.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Max Burns, R-Sylvania, could face tweaks in the coming days due to concerns from election officials in Georgia’s smaller counties who typically see few voters show up to cast ballots except on Election Day, citing unnecessary costs to hold sparsely attended weekend voting.

Neither of the bills by Fleming and Burns contains a proposal to roll back the ability of Georgia voters to cast mail-in ballots without having to give a reason. No-excuse absentee voting has been in effect since 2005 under then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The no-excuse rollback was pitched in a third omnibus election bill by Senate Majority Leader Mike Dugan, R-Carrollton, who has signaled he will drop the repeal amid opposition from top state Republicans including Gov. Brian Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge.

Dugan said Monday the repeal of no-excuse absentee voting was not added to Burns’ bill after it “seemed to cause consternation” among voters and advocacy groups.

“By providing for expanded weekend voting and enshrining drop boxes into law for the first time, we are making it easier to vote across our state,” [Speaker David] Ralston said in a statement.

State House Ethics Chairman Randy Nix (R-LaGrange) told his chamber that there will be zero tolerance for comments of a sexual nature, according to the AJC.

“There is no place for epithets, derogatory statements, slurs or sexually related comments or jokes, period,” said Nix, a Republican from LaGrange. “Such speech or acts are totally unacceptable, and going forward, there will be a zero tolerance for such.”

Nix addressed the House after 20 Democratic representatives filed a complaint last week over Carpenter’s remarks. Nix cited rules prohibiting conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive work environment.

“We must hold ourselves to a much higher standard of speech and conduct,” Nix said. “This is certainly not the image we need to project to our constituents and to the citizens of our state.”

Female legislators said Carpenter’s comments were an example of derogatory statements they’ve heard throughout this year’s legislative session, including off-color talk about sex in nursing homes and comments about women’s appearances.

U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Extreme Northwest Georgia) will host a forum in Chatsworth at 6 PM on Wednesday evening, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen News.

Greene’s office says seating is limited, and those who wish to attend must register in advance. The location of the forum has not been announced. The location will be emailed to those who register. Attendance is limited to 14th Congressional District residents, and those who attend will be required to present a valid government ID to enter. The 14th District includes Whitfield and Murray counties.

To register, go to https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/kcKejUq.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say a reporting issue is leading to bad numbers on Georgia’s vaccination program, according to the Ledger-Enquirer.

Health officials are unable to accurately track the number of vaccines administered in several states because of a reporting issue between pharmacies and state databases, CDC officials confirmed to McClatchy.

Georgia is one of the states affected by the error. A state health department data team discovered the state’s shots were undercounted because site locations were not entered in electronic health records after a vaccine dose was administered through the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program.

The shot would be incorrectly credited as a dose administered in the pharmacy company’s home state instead of the state where the shot was actually given, a state health department spokesperson told McClatchy.

Doses were undercounted in Georgia by at least 250,000, Gov. Brian Kemp and the state health department announced last week.

Savannah is hopeful their hotel/motel tax legislation is “only mostly dead.”

From the Savannah Morning News:

Council adopted the resolution seeking to increase Savannah’s hotel/motel tax from 6% to 8% last month. The increase had the support of a majority of Savannah’s largest hotel owners and of the leader of the Savannah-area legislative delegation, Rep. Ron Stephens.

But prior to city officials meeting with the delegation to finalize the bill last week, council members Estella Shabazz, Kesha Gibson Carter, Alicia Miller Blakely and Bernetta Lanier presented an addendum requesting $7.5 million in additional funds for a variety of projects, according to Savannah City Manager Michael Brown.

“Well, we hope that the legislature, our own delegation, will at least take one last look, There’s five more days until the end of the session, it’s not inconceivable,” he said.

The push for changes contributed to the legislative delegation officially rejecting the hotel/motel tax resolution on March 17. Stephens initially cited “poor timing” and concerns about tourism’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic but has since acknowledged the change in support made things more difficult at the state level.

Extra points for use of “Inconceivable!” in a press statement.

Clarke County schools will return to in-person classes after Spring Break, according to the Athens Banner Herald.

On Monday April 12, all CCSD schools will to move to an in-person schedule five days a week, following spring break, which begins on April 2. The 2020-2021 school year ends on May 20.

For those students and parents who wish to remain remote, full-time, virtual learning is still an option.

2022 Cycle

Yesterday morning, I received an email from “Save America PAC” with the subject line, “Endorsement of Jody Hice” and the following text:

Endorsement of Jody Hice

Wow, just heard the good news. One of our most outstanding Congressmen, Jody Hice, has announced he is running for Secretary of State in the Great State of Georgia. Jody has been a steadfast fighter for conservative Georgia values and is a staunch ally of the America First agenda. Unlike the current Georgia Secretary of State, Jody leads out front with integrity. I have 100% confidence in Jody to fight for Free, Fair, and Secure Elections in Georgia, in line with our beloved U.S. Constitution. Jody will stop the Fraud and get honesty into our Elections! Jody loves the people of Georgia, and has my Complete and Total Endorsement.

– President Donald J. Trump

“Save America” is apparently a Leadership PAC associated with former President Trump, but I also get email from “45 Office” on President Trump’s activities, which confused me. During the last campaign, there were so many different entities fundraising with President Trump’s name and image that I could never be sure if any given group was legitimate or where the money was actually going.

The second thing that made me wonder if it was true was that the email I received had no criticism of the incumbent SOS or of Georgia’s 2020 elections.

Now, the New York Times is reporting on it, so it must be true.

Mr. Trump’s endorsement of Mr. Hice is the most prominent effort the former president and his aides have made to try to punish elected officials who they believe crossed Mr. Trump. Mr. Raffensperger, a Republican, is among the top targets for Mr. Trump, along with the state’s governor, Brian Kemp.

In a statement issued shortly after Mr. Hice announced his candidacy, Mr. Trump praised him as “one of our most outstanding congressmen,” and alluded to his own baseless claims of voter fraud, which he has said deprived him of victory in the state. “Unlike the current Georgia Secretary of State, Jody leads out front with integrity,’’ Mr. Trump said, adding “Jody will stop the Fraud and get honesty into our Elections!’’

The NYT-printed statement has the criticism of the current Secretary of State that I had expected.

From the Valdosta Daily Times:

“Free and fair elections are the foundation of our country,” Hice said in a statement. “What Brad Raffensperger did was create cracks in the integrity of our elections, which I wholeheartedly believe individuals took advantage of in 2020.”

Hice said he is “encouraged” to see the General Assembly mount an effort to “address some of the glaring issues” with Georgia’s election system — GOP state lawmakers have pushed a flurry of restrictive voting bills in the wake of the 2020 election — although Raffensperger and state investigators have said continuously there were no signs of widespread fraud.

Hice’s announcement spotlights a divide in Georgia’s Republican Party between those who have remained steadfast in their support of former president Trump and those who have strayed away from his leadership. The next campaign cycle will likely be filled with a number of primary challengers to GOP incumbents.

Hice has represented the 10th Congressional District since 2015. His announcement also paves the way for a hotly contested race for that seat.

From AccessWDUN:

“We have all watched the absolute catastrophe that took place in this last election in right here in Georgia,” Hice told WDUN. “Our Secretary of State just destroyed election integrity in our state, opened wide the door for potential fraudulent activity and I believe many people walked through that door.”

From the Athens Flagpole‘s speculation on who might run for the 10th District seat currently held by Hice:

Hice’s announcement is likely to create a free-for-all among Republicans seeking his seat in the heavily conservative 10th District, which includes most of Athens and runs south through deep-red counties to the Milledgeville area.

One of them may be his predecessor, Paul Broun, who hinted in an endorsement of Hice that he might be looking to get his old seat back. He is “strongly considering” a run, he said in a news release.

Broun, who was first elected in 2007, left his seat to run for Senate in 2014 but lost to David Perdue. Since then, he’s run twice in the 9th District north of Athens, losing in the primary to former congressman Doug Collins and again to current Rep. Andrew Clyde.

Another likely candidate, according to the AJC‘s Greg Bluestein, is state Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens). If Gaines jumps in, that would open up his House District 117 seat, which Democrats briefly flipped in a 2017 special election.

Mike Collins, a trucking company executive and son of former Georgia congressman Mac Collins, has also been mentioned as a potential candidate. Collins was the runner-up to Hice in 2014.

Former DeKalb County CEO and State Representative Vernon Jones told Breitbart he’s looking at a run for Governor.

In a statement to Breitbart News, Jones said it is important for Georgians to have “conservative leaders with the courage to fight.”

“If it weren’t for Brian Kemp’s cowardice, Donald Trump would be President of the United States today,” Jones said. “Georgians deserve conservative leaders with the courage to fight. That’s how we take our state back.”

Jones also said “if elected” he will “fight the battles” Gov. Kemp has been “unwilling to fight for the past four years,” vowing to never apologize for his support for former President Donald Trump.

“If elected, I’ll fight the battles Brian Kemp has been unwilling to fight for the past four years,” Jones told Breitbart News. “And most importantly, I’ll never apologize for standing beside President Trump.”

“I’ll protect women’s sports, secure our elections, remove critical race theory from our schools, and fight to preserve our Georgia values,” Jones added.

 Latham Saddler, a banker with Synovus and former Navy SEAL, is considering a run for United States Senate against Sen. Raphael Warnock, according to the AJC.

Banking executive Latham Saddler, a veteran Navy SEAL and former White House fellow, is building a campaign team in advance of a possible challenge against U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock next year.

The Republican said his concerns about China’s growing influence drove his desire to explore a Senate bid, and that he was “engaging fellow Georgians” about a potential campaign.

“From my time executing US foreign policy on the ground as a special operations leader to my assignment overseeing our nation’s intelligence programs portfolio at the White House,” he said, “I know how our enemies seek to supplant us, and I will not let that happen.”

Saddler is one of several Republicans weighing a campaign against Warnock, who faces a 2022 election for a full six-year term. Other potential contenders include former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins and U.S. Reps. Buddy Carter and Drew Ferguson.

When I read a tweet about this the other day, I responded:

My first question to anyone considering challenging Sen. Warnock: “Where are you going to get the first $100 million dollars?”

Second question: “And you can’t figure out anything better to do with it?”

In all seriousness, the ante for a serious contender in 2022 for U.S. Senate from Georgia is $100 million dollars.

Luckily, I then regained my senses, stopped tweeting about politics, and got back to my photos of birds.

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