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State & Regional Govt & Politics
Capitol Recap: Abrams stays in spotlight while waiting to pick a race
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Capitol Recap: Abrams stays in spotlight while waiting to pick a race

Capitol Recap: Abrams stays in spotlight while waiting to pick a race
Democrat Stacey Abrams, riding on a wave of attention following her delivery of her party’s response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, has remained in the spotlight as she waits to announce what race she’ll run in next. Some are even suggesting the presidency, but a writer who analyzed that prospect says it would be a different terrain than the one she faced when she came close to winning Georgia’s race for governor. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Capitol Recap: Abrams stays in spotlight while waiting to pick a race

The state of Stacey Abrams’ calendar is busy.

Still riding high after giving the Democratic response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address, Abrams is still more than a month away from the deadline she set to decide what office to seek next.

It could be another run in 2022 against Gov. Brian Kemp, who beat her in the closest race for the state’s top job in more than 50 years. She could opt for something sooner, facing off against Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue next year.

Nathaniel Rakich of FiveThirtyEight examined her prospects for another job: president.

He found that some of the things that helped her come so close to reaching the Governor’s Mansion won’t be there if she makes a bid for the White House.

“(I)n a national campaign,” Rakich wrote, “Abrams could not necessarily bank on carrying African-Americans, who have been her base in Georgia, since voters may have a dozen candidates to choose from, including at least two other black candidates, one of whom is a woman.

“And despite her fame, Abrams has never won an election for any office higher than state representative; it would be unprecedented for a career politician to earn the party nomination with so little experience.

“Abrams’s most challenging obstacle may not even be specific to her. In such a crowded primary field, even a front-runner is more likely to lose than to win.”

Also on the presidential front, the consulting firm Bold Blue Campaigns included Abrams in a poll of potential Democratic candidates in 2020. Five percent of likely Democratic primary voters backed Abrams.

That put her behind former Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Beto O’Rourke, who — like Abrams — gained national attention as a Democrat mounting a serious but unsuccessful challenge in November in a conservative state, in his case a run against Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

She did, however, place ahead of others, including U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

Abrams has shown few signs that she’s seriously considering a run for president. She is, however, maintaining a high profile in Georgia.

Her “thank you” tour recently stopped in Gwinnett County. She used the opportunity to endorse the county’s MARTA referendum and also make a case for bipartisan voting rights legislation. She cited the example of Dan Gasaway, the incumbent in a May GOP primary race for a state House seat in North Georgia that still has not been settled nine months later. A second do-over election, following significant court time, has yet to be scheduled in Gasaway’s race against Chris Erwin, who was sworn in as a legislator and then removed from office by a judge.

“He had to fight his party and the state to get democracy in his election,” Abrams said of Gasaway. “This is not a partisan issue. This is a people issue. This is a democracy issue. This is our issue.”

A new tax problem for Abrams surfaced this past week, although it appears to have been solved. It was reported that a nonprofit Abrams had formed was hit by the state with three liens totaling about $3,500. A spokeswoman attributed them to an error made by a third-party contractor and then produced an email from the state Department of Labor noting that it is working to correct its records to show the liens have been paid.

Abrams, who touted full Medicaid expansion while on the campaign trail last year, also found some gratification in seeing Kemp back a push for “waivers” that could lead to a limited expansion of the state’s health care program for the poor and disabled. She called it a “pale facsimile” of what she had sought but also expressed happiness in seeing the state’s Republicans, many who have long resisted Medicaid expansion, at least take steps in that direction.

“I don’t care why they came to the party,” Abrams said. “I’m glad they finally showed up, and I hope they finally do the right thing now that they’re here.”

On his radar: Watching Abrams with the intensity of an air-traffic controller is state House Speaker David Ralston, who told Fannin County Republicans at a recent dinner that GOP conservatives need to think about their colleagues in metro Atlanta before pushing hard-right positions. Legislation on issues such as abortion, guns and “religious liberty” could put their suburban brethren — that is, those that are left after big Democratic gains in November for legislative seats on the outskirts of Atlanta — in a difficult spot come election time.

“Stacey Abrams is coming,” Ralston said. “I don’t know whether she’s running against Senator Perdue or Governor Kemp. But she is a serious opponent. They have other serious people out there.

“We have to approach this challenge as if our future depends on it,” he said. “Because it does.”

Kemp may feel the same way.

Since becoming governor, he has made no public push for legislation that would allow Georgians to carry concealed weapons without a permit, even though he made it a central subject during the early days of his campaign.

Asked by Chelsea Beimfohr of 13MAZ in Macon whether he would support such a bill, Kemp said:

“I’m not really commenting on that. There’s all kinds of pieces of legislation that are in. I’ve said and I’ll continue to be a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. I hunt and I shoot and I carry. I won’t just support, but I’ll advocate. We’ll see what the Legislature wants to roll out this year. My positions from the campaign have not changed.”

It doesn’t sound like the governor would object if legislators decide to keep such a bill in their holster.

A 7th District sweepstakes: The dominoes are beginning to fall now that U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, has chosen not to seek re-election in 2020.

Carolyn Bourdeaux, the Democrat who lost to Woodall in November by 433 votes once all the ballots were counted and recounted in the 7th Congressional District, is ready for another campaign.

Now that she’s gone through the process once already, Bourdeaux has a lot of things going for her. They include name recognition, money in the bank and endorsements from former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, and U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson and John Lewis.

Former state Rep. Buzz Brockway, another Lawrenceville Republican, is out.

Brockway said on Facebook that it “is not the right time for me to run for Congress.”

“There are a couple of good candidates considering running — friends whom I would be proud to support,” he wrote.

Whether that means Narender Reddy is anybody’s guess. Reddy, an Indian-American businessman and board member for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, says he’s thinking about running as a Republican to replace Woodall.

John Eaves’ plans are vague. But the former Fulton County Commission chairman, who also ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Atlanta, announced on Facebook that he is moving to Gwinnett County. That would put him in the 7th District. Eaves, however, has said nothing about whether this move to the suburbs includes making a run for Congress.

Plenty of other names are being thrown around as potential candidates for Woodall’s seat. On the Democratic side, there’s state Reps. Brenda LopezPete Marin and Sam Park, as well as Marquis Cole and Nabilah Islam. On the Republican side, there’s state Sens. P.K. Martin and Renee Unterman, state Rep. David Clark, former state Sen. David Shafer, former state Rep. Scott Hilton, as well as Rick Desai, Shane Hazel and Mike Royal.

A payday pop? State legislators would be in for an increase in salary if Senate Bill 81 wins passage. But this pay raise would come with a bonus: Additional bumps in compensation in the future could come without one of those votes that always appear inconvenient at election time.

Doug Richards of 11Alive brought attention to the legislation, which he says would raise the lawmakers’ $17,000-a-year salaries by 300 percent.

State Sen. Valencia Seay of Riverdale is the the sponsor. She’s a Democrat in a GOP-controlled chamber, so prospects for the bill and subsequent raises would seem dim.

That is until you look down the list of co-sponsors. The fourth signature is that of Senate Rules Committee Chairman Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, whose clout always makes him a good guy to have in your corner.

The bill is set up to tie salaries to the state’s median annual household income, so raises would go up automatically.

In 2017, the most recent year available, the U.S. Census Bureau listed Georgia’s median household income at $52,977. That’s some upward mobility.

Capitol Recap

Here’s a look at some of the political and government stories that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s staff broke online during the past week. To see more of them, go to https://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-government/.

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News

  • Two men are accused to stealing more than $70,000 worth of musical instruments from the University of Louisville’s School of Music, WLKY reported. >> Read more trending news  Alphonso Monrew, 22, and Anthony Abrams, 52, were arrested Thursday, according to Jefferson County Jail records. Each were charged with two counts of third degree burglary and two counts of theft by unlawful taking, the television station reported. According to police, on several occasions the two men stole instruments, including a $10,000 guitar, from the university’s music school, WLKY reported. The thefts occurred over several weeks, the television station reported. All of the instruments have been recovered and will be returned to students, police said.
  • A Texas woman got an early start to celebrating her 105th birthday, joining more than 150 family members for a party at a San Antonio church, KSAT reported. >> Read more trending news  Minnie McRae, who turns 105 on Tuesday, was the guest of honor at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church on Saturday, the television station reported. McRae’s nephew, Arturo Ayala, flew from Germany to attend the party for a woman who taught him how to dance by giving him lessons in her living room, KSAT reported.  Ayala said he believes he knows the secret to his aunt’s long life 'She's never shared it, but from my relationship with her, I see her always praying and ... always reading,' Ayala told the television station.  Ayala also said McRae was very spiritual and did work with Incarnate Word. 'She's a blessing and she's a miracle,' Ayala told KSAT.
  • There will be laughing, singing, and music swinging when singer Martha Reeves receives another honor in May. >> Read more trending news  Reeves, 77, the lead vocalist of 1960s group Martha and Vandellas, will be honored by the Alabama State Council on the Arts on May 22, AL.com reported. Reeves was the singer for the group’s hits, including “Dancing in the Streets,” “Heat Wave” and “Jimmy Mack.” Reeves, a native of Eufaula, will receive Alabama’s 2019 Distinguished Artist Award. The award recognizes “a professional artist who is considered a native or adopted Alabamian and who has earned significant national acclaim for their art over an extended period,' according to the council’s website. Other recipients of the award include Jim Nabors, Fannie Flagg and George Lindsey. Vandella moved to Detroit as a child and grew up singing in church, AL.com reported. Her gospel-influenced vocals were evident in the group’s pop and rhythm and blues songs, which gave the Vandellas a string of hits on the Motown label. Reeves was inducted with the group -- Rosalind Ashford-Holmes, Annette Sterling-Helton, Lois Reeves and Betty Kelly -- into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. “Martha and the Vandellas were the Supremes’ tougher, more grounded counterpart,” the Rock Hall website says. “With her cheeky, fervent vocals, Martha Reeves led the group in a string of dance anthems that are irresistible to this day.” Reeves was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995. 
  • A Florida deputy was arrested after an altercation at a Jacksonville nightclub, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reported. >> Read more trending news  According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Officer Rodney Bryant, a 5 1/2-year member of the department, was involved in a dispute Friday at Mascara's Gentlemen's Club with his girlfriend and her friend.  Bryant has been charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He has been terminated from his position in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. According to deputies, the group left the club but the dispute continued in a vehicle. This was when Bryant allegedly pulled over, opened the trunk of his vehicle and pulled out a firearm.  Bryant allegedly pointed the gun at the two women, making threats, according to the Sheriff’s Office.  They were all pulled over long enough for the girlfriend's friend to make contact with her sister, who later arrived at the scene, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The girl's sister observed Bryant with the firearm making threats and that he pointed the firearm at her, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
  • A Marine killed in action during the Vietnam War nearly 50 years ago was honored in a memorial service Saturday, and a headstone and plaque were erected at his gravesite at a South Florida cemetery, the Sun-Sentinel reported. >> Read more trending news  Private First Class Gregory Carter was killed in action Oct. 12, 1969, in the Quang Ngai province of South Vietnam, according to according to a Vietnam military casualties database on Ancestry.com. He was remembered in a service attended by nearly 200 people Saturday at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Fort Lauderdale, the Sun-Sentinel reported. “It’s like he woke up to the world again,” Carter’s brother, Anthony Owens, told the newspaper. “His life is meaningful. It means something.” “No, I did not (expect this many people). It raised our spirits, big time.” Carter laid in an unmarked grave until the Vietnam Veterans of America discovered him while searching for photographs of Vietnam veterans to place on the black granite Wall of Faces in Washington, D.C., the Sun-Sentinel reported. Carter was drafted into the Marines on July 4, 1969, when he was 19, according to the Ancestry.com database. He already had a young son and a daughter was on the way, but Carter would never know either of them, the newspaper reported. The Vietnam Veterans of America worked with the city of Fort Lauderdale and others to get Carter’s grave marker, the Sun-Sentinel reported. The organization also secured a photograph from a baseball team photograph in the Dillard High School yearbook, the newspaper reported. Gregory Carter now lies with his mother, grandparents, three siblings and other relatives at Sunset Memorial Gardens. “If you die you’re just lost until somebody thinks about you again,” Anthony Owens told the Sun-Sentinel. “So his spirit is probably all around us right now. It’s a good thing. He’s doing good.”
  • The wife of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was bitten by a rattlesnake at their Arizona home Friday, the Arizona Republic reported. >> Read more trending news  Ava Arpaio was working on her computer in her office around 10 a.m. when the snake bit her on the left foot, Joe Arpaio told the newspaper. 'She's tough. If she can put up with me for 60 years, then she can handle a snake bite,' Joe Arpaio told the Republic. Joe Arpaio, 86, said the large rattlesnake was removed by fire crews. 'Must've been a Democrat,' the longtime Republican joked to the Republic. Ava Arpaio likely will be in a hospital for 'two or three' days, her husband told the newspaper. Arpaio served as sheriff of Maricopa County for 24 years until losing re-election to Democrat Paul Penzone in 2016. The 86-year-old lawman made national news for his Tent City Jail where inmates were housed in Korean War era army tents, KSAZ reported. >> President Trump pardons Joe Arpaio Joe Arpaio was convicted of a criminal charge in July 2017 for refusing to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. He was pardoned a month later by President Donald Trump.