Leav­ing of­fice, but the Capi­tol re­mains home

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - METRO & STATE - By Jim Den­ery jden­[email protected]

Just be­cause some­body has left of­fice, there’s no need to say good­bye. Es­pe­cially in Ge­or­gia pol­i­tics.

Take the case of state Sen. Josh McKoon, who on Mon­day will be­come for­mer state Sen. Josh McKoon.

The Colum­bus Repub­li­can, whose cam­paign to be­come the next sec­re­tary of state met its end dur­ing the May GOP pri­mary, will re­main in the prox­im­ity of the Gold Dome be­cause he is join­ing the state’s Of­fice of In­surance and Safety Fire Com­mis­sioner.

The in­com­ing com­mis­sioner, Jim Beck, made McKoon his first hire.

McKoon may be best known as an ad­vo­cate for “re­li­gious lib­erty” leg­is­la­tion, but Beck — a long­time pres­i­dent of Ge­or­gia Chris­tian Coali­tion — an­nounced the hir­ing by cit­ing an­other prom­i­nent part of his new hand’s record.

“I am ex­cited to have a dy­namic leader who has been at the fore­front of ethics and trans­parency in state gov­ern­ment as part of my team,” Beck said.

As it hap­pens, Beck has had some prob­lems in the ar­eas of ethics and trans­parency. In May, a fed­eral grand jury sub­poe­naed Beck’s state work records fol­low­ing re­ports that he was hold­ing state and pri­vate-sec­tor jobs at the same time.

The new job is the sec­ond one that McKoon has taken since los­ing his last elec­tion. He had been set to be­come the di­rec­tor of the state chap­ter of the Faith and Free­dom Coali­tion, and he may still do that some­day.

Of course, he won’t be the only for­mer leg­is­la­tor work­ing the hall­ways of the state Capi­tol. For ex­am­ple, state Rep. Sam Teasley, R-Ma­ri­etta, has taken a job as ex­ter­nal af­fairs di­rec­tor for in­com­ing Sec­re­tary of State Brad Raf­fensperger — an­other for­mer leg­is­la­tor — and state Rep. Buzz Brock­way, R-Lawrenceville, will soon be car­ry­ing busi­ness cards iden­ti­fy­ing him as a vice pres­i­dent of the Ge­or­gia Cen­ter for Op­por­tu­nity, a non­par­ti­san ad­vo­cacy group.

What will Abrams do? For those look­ing ahead to Ge­or­gia’s U.S. Se­nate race in 2020, you can prob­a­bly take a few months off.

On the Repub­li­can side, it looks like a stone cold lock that U.S. Sen. David Per­due will seek re-elec­tion.

The vari­able is on the Demo­cratic side, where ev­ery­body seems to be wait­ing on Stacey Abrams to make a de­ci­sion.

State and na­tional Democrats have been call­ing on Abrams to en­ter the race ever since she ended her run for gover­nor against Brian Kemp in a de­fi­ant speech she re­fused to call a con­ces­sion. Since then, she has launched Fair Fight Ac­tion, a vot­ing rights group that seeks to change the state’s elec­toral poli­cies.

In an interview with WABE’s Rose Scott, Abrams said she’s given her­self a dead­line of the end of March. She also has es­tab­lished a frame­work for mak­ing the de­ci­sion.

“One, I need to run for of­fice be­cause I’m the best per­son for the job, not sim­ply be­cause there’s a job that’s open,” Abrams told Scott. “No. 2, I need to run be­cause I have ideas and the ca­pac­ity to win the elec­tion and do the job well.

“And No. 3, I need to make de­ci­sions not based on an­i­mus or bit­ter­ness or sad­ness, but re­ally based in a prag­ma­tism that says, ‘This is the right thing to do.’”

Her choice could de­pend a lot on the first step she listed. A Se­nate race may not ap­peal to her as much as the pos­si­bil­ity of run­ning once again against Kemp in 2022.

A de­ci­sion could break up a log­jam. A half-dozen prom­i­nent Democrats are ap­par­ently con­sid­er­ing a run against Per­due while wait­ing to see what Abrams will do.

Which Kemp? What’s “Jake’s” take on this?

There’s been great spec­u­la­tion about which Kemp will show up for his in­au­gu­ra­tion on Mon­day, Pri­mary Kemp or Gen­eral Elec­tion Kemp.

Signs ap­peared this past week that could clear that up when talk turned to a pro­posal to al­low Ge­or­gians to carry con­cealed firearms with­out a per­mit.

You may re­call that Pri­mary Kemp was a hard-core guy court­ing a hard-core elec­torate of con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans, and he made guns a big part of that push. The last­ing im­age of that phase of the cam­paign was a tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial show­ing Kemp clean­ing his shot­gun with the bar­rel point­ing in the gen­eral di­rec­tion of “Jake,” a fic­ti­tious suitor of one of Kemp’s daugh­ters.

The ad re­ally took aim at Lt. Gov. Casey Ca­gle, whose big­gest as­set in the cam­paign just may have been his en­dorse­ment by the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion.

For em­pha­sis, Kemp also gave full-throated sup­port for al­low­ing the car­ry­ing of firearms with­out a per­mit, which is now the heart of a leg­is­la­tion pro­posed in House Bill 2.

But once the Repub­li­can pri­mary and runoff were over, a new im­age of Kemp ap­peared for the gen­eral elec­tion, one in soft focus.

Gone were the gun ads, and in came calls for pro­pos­als such as a $5,000 pay raise for each of Ge­or­gia’s teach­ers.

This past week, Gen­eral Elec­tion Kemp seemed to be prep­ping to move into the Gover­nor’s Man­sion, es­pe­cially af­ter state House Speaker David Ral­ston said he would take a “very, very cau­tious view” of HB 2.

The gover­nor-elect’s re­sponse lacked the vig­or­ous sup­port that “Jake” wit­nessed.

“Pro­tect­ing the Sec­ond Amend­ment is al­ways a pri­or­ity of mine,” Kemp said. “But what that means and when it hap­pens — I wouldn’t be able to say that’s any kind of pri­or­ity right now.”

Of course, he may just be try­ing to keep his pow­der dry.

Sens­ing a “Su­per” op­por­tu­nity: Stages don’t come much big­ger than the Su­per Bowl, so many will likely try to use the game to ad­vance their causes.

That in­cludes a group of civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tions and Demo­cratic law­mak­ers seek­ing to end Ge­or­gia’s pro­tec­tion of Con­fed­er­ate mon­u­ments.

To pro­mote leg­is­la­tion that would over­turn a state law that blocks lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties from re­mov­ing the mon­u­ments, a rally has been sched­uled for Feb. 2 — the day be­fore the game in At­lanta — although a lo­ca­tion has not been iden­ti­fied.

Back­ing the new leg­is­la­tion are the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter, the state and At­lanta chap­ters of the NAACP, the South­ern Chris­tian Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence, the Ge­or­gia Al­liance for So­cial Jus­tice, the Moore’s Ford Move­ment and Con­cerned Black Clergy.

Lead­ing the way in the Leg­is­la­ture this year will be state Sen. Nikema Wil­liams, D-At­lanta, and state Rep. Renitta Shan­non, D-De­catur.

Pro­tect­ing the mon­u­ments was part of a com­pro­mise reached in 2001 un­der the over­sight of Demo­cratic Gov. Roy Barnes. In re­turn, the state re­placed its ’56 flag that was dom­i­nated by the Con­fed­er­ate bat­tle em­blem.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.