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Jim Galloway, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy

The subtext of Nathan Deal’s upcoming trip to Israel

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021214 snow main BG9

Gov. Nathan Deal will head to Israel this summer – a trip likely to get attention from Jewish voters in Georgia. Ben Gray, bgray@ajc.com

Gov. Nathan Deal only has one international trip on the schedule so far this election year. And it’s a big one.

The governor is planning on traveling to the Holy Land for a few days in June to tour Israeli businesses and try to drum up more investment for Georgia. The trip is intended to highlight the 40 Israeli companies that have operations in Georgia, but the political subtext is clear.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogDeal’s Democratic opponent, state Sen. Jason Carter, has sought to reassure Jewish constituents in his district that he is very different from his famous grandfather when it comes to Middle East policy.

The ex-president, who brokered the first Israeli-Arab peace treaty while in the White House, has had an often tense relationship with Jewish leaders since he left office. Critics contend the elder Carter unfairly compared Israeli treatment of Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza to the apartheid that once existed in South Africa, and Israeli politicians were furious when he met with leaders from Hamas, considered a terror group by Israel and its western allies.

Jewish voters, who historically have voted Democrat, only make up a tiny fraction of Georgia’s electorate. But the community makes up an important segment of political donors, and wealthy patrons including Home Depot co-founders Arthur Blank and Bernard Marcus have helped fund political causes and campaigns.

Jason Carter distanced himself from his grandfather’s comments on Israel before running for his Senate seat, and quietly helped broker the ex-president’s public apology to the Jewish community in 2010. He has a number of prominent Jewish leaders on his team, among them businessman Michael Coles, a former Senate candidate who is co-chairing his campaign. But with this visit Deal is sending the undeniable message that he, too, is making a play for Georgia’s Jewish vote.

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When you don’t show up for a party to which you’ve been expressly invited, it’s good to demonstrate that you weren’t washing your hair or working on your golf game.

Shortly before noon today, the National Federation of Independent Business will host a forum for U.S. Senate candidates at Turner Field in Atlanta. Five Republicans will be there – including Jack Kingston of Savannah, who’s expected to answer Paul Broun’s accusation that he’s a John Boehner liberal.

Only two Democrats were invited: Branko Radulovacki, the Vinings psychiatrist; and Michelle Nunn. “Dr. Rad” will be there.

Nunn made clear in an press release issued Monday that she will be at Fort Valley State University, talking agriculture with community leaders.

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Just ahead of that debate, Republican Karen Handel has released an economic plan that you can expect her to trumpet on the campaign trail.
It’s red meat for the GOP base, with calls to repeal Obamacare, cut spending, implement the Fair Tax and ease regulations.

Handel and the three sitting congressmen running are scrambling to prove they are the most conservative of the bunch. Meanwhile, businessman David Perdue is starting to stake out a more center-right position.

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State Rep. Mike Jacobs, R-Brookhaven, who chairs the Legislature’s MARTA oversight committee, says Snowjam ’14, the Jan. 28 event that paralyzed metro Atlanta’s interstate system, might have changed some important minds when it comes to rail. From an interview with Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM):

“I think it’s fair to look at transit, particularly the train, as part of how we move people around metro Atlanta, particularly in an emergency situation like the snowstorm we saw…almost three weeks ago.

“The reality is that the trains were running, and running fairly efficiently, and it’s important to recognize that. Particularly when the highway system was snarled at the time. MARTA was moving people around and getting them where they needed to go. I think it’s an important observation, and one that certainly plays into where we go in the future with regards to transit.”

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Members of the teachers group TRAGIC are at the state Capitol today, to protest changes to the state health insurance plan. They’re distributing apples with a Band-Aid to lawmakers.

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This afternoon, state House and Senate ethics committees will gather to figure out the implications of the bill they passed last year that capped lobbyist contributions.

William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, will offer his thoughts. If they read anything like this morning’s press release, things could get a little tense:

“This is governing in the dark at its finest,” said Perry.  “When a bill is passed in the midnight hour of the last night of the session, after being hammered out by a conference committee of only a few legislators behind closed doors in the wee hours of the prior morning and then given no time to be vetted with a hearing or any form of public comment, it can be described as nothing better than purposefully deceptive governing.  They wanted to pass something that appears to be strong ethics legislation when in fact, it is so fraught with ill-conceived loopholes, no one knows what it means.”

The hastily written legislation, which was presented to members of the legislature with barely an hour to review during the time where bills are voted on at a lightening pace, has led to considerable confusion by lobbyist, legislators and members of the public. To make matters worse, the agency in charge of enforcing the law is too understaffed and underfunded to even begin addressing questions about the law which can best be described as a legislative quagmire.

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These days, Democrats are obsessed with Hillary Clinton and her 2016 ambitions. But we’ve picked up word that Susana Martinez, the Republican governor of New Mexico, has had people in Atlanta over the last few days, scouting out the terrain for a White House bid of her own.

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This state’s oldest environmental group, the Georgia Conservancy, is looking for a new leader. George Mori, chairman of the Conservancy board, announced to members on Monday that former lieutenant governor Pierre Howard will be stepping down as president on June 30:

“We are thrilled that Pierre will remain active with the Conservancy, though, as a senior advisor and member of our Advisory Board, with particular focus on helping to develop the Conservancy’s 2015-2019 Strategic Plan, continuing to expand its Land Conservation Initiative and easing the transition to a new president.

The Board of Trustees has already taken the first steps necessary to identify our next president and will engage a national search firm to help us in this process.”

Howard took the helm of the organization in 2009.

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Former DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones on Thursday will make it official: He’s got a Decatur press conference scheduled to announce his candidacy for sheriff. Incumbent Thomas Brown is leaving the post to make a run at Hank Johnson’s congressional seat.

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GOP congressional candidate Rick Allen of Augusta picked up a key endorsement Monday from south Georgia conservative activist Pat Tippett. In an increasingly crowded 12th District primary, she’s an important voice.

The Augusta businessman lost a GOP primary runoff to Lee Anderson in 2012 because of Anderson’s rural strength. This time Allen is facing former congressional staffer John Stone and state Rep. Delvis Dutton, who just announced a late entry into the race. The winner gets to face U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta, in the fall.

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Over at Politico, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was sketching out what a future Republican party might look like:

Sporting a gray suit, red tie and cowboy boots, Paul said ideas that fall into the “libertarian-slash-Republican” camp “are a bit different from what we’ve done in the past” and could expand the GOP tent. Those proposals go beyond his well-known problems with National Security Agency surveillance, which led him to file a class-action lawsuit against the agency last week. Drug policy reforms, Paul said, would particularly resonate in minority communities that have largely shut out Republicans.

And opposing indefinite detention of detainees, he said, would strike a chord with groups that historically have been persecuted.

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