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Jim Galloway, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy

Friday’s verdict just the beginning of trial trouble for Nathan Deal

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Over the weekend, it became more than obvious that one of Gov. Nathan Deal’s most daunting tasks this year is the drumbeat of ethics-related trials he’ll have to cope with in the run-up to the May primary and November general election.

Fallout from the verdict in the Stacey Kalberman trial will be challenging enough for the Deal camp.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogWe’ve already seen the governor distance himself from Friday’s verdict and deny even monitoring the Kalberman case from afar. We also expect Democrat Jason Carter to use some of the $1.6 million in his campaign piggy bank to launch constant reminders of the trial – and whatever comes next – the governor’s way.

But two other lawsuits are in the offing, from former ethics commission staffers Sherilyn Streicker and John Hair, with claims strikingly similar to Kalberman’s. If emboldened by Kalberman’s victory, at least one other former employee could soon seek a court date.

Suddenly, the cases seem a lot more winnable. Jurors we talked to after the Kalberman case called the testimony remarkably cut-and-dry — and not much time was required to reach a unanimous verdict. A few openly questioned why it was even brought to trial in the first place.

This sets up an interesting dilemma for Attorney General Sam Olens, a Republican often mentioned as a candidate for governor in 2018. Olens will now face the question of whether to settle the other cases (and blunt some of the negative media attention for Deal) or bring them to court in the hopes of pulling out a victory.

That’s if the jilted ex-staffers even want to settle.

The situation makes it somewhat ironic that on Saturday, the day after the Kalberman verdict, the Deal campaign issued email invitations to a May 17 event — the fourth annual “Grilling with the Governor” at Lake Lanier.

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U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey, a GOP candidate for Senate who hasn’t figured at the top of the polls lately, is letting his hand show. The Marietta congressman apparently will be counting on a metro Atlanta base of support to win him a berth in a July runoff. We’re told that, beginning next week through the May 20 primary, Gingrey plans to drop nearly $725,000 on TV ads in the Atlanta market.

Right now, many of you are doing the calculations – and figuring out that this isn’t a huge amount when spaced over five weeks. That’s true. Gingrey could pony up more if things start to move his way, clearly. And remember that the certainty of a runoff requires an optimistic candidate to hold back rather than go all in.

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Former state GOP chair Sue Everhart has put her name to a Karen Handel fundraising email this morning that focuses on David Perdue’s highlighting of his rival’s lack of formal education. It includes these lines:

When David Perdue called Karen Handel the “high school graduate,” he demeaned every Georgian who did not have the opportunity to go to college and showed just how out-of-touch he is with the people and values of our great state….

Like no other candidate in this race, Karen understands the needs of hardworking Georgians. She has walked in our shoes. She knows what it’s like to make your way in the world with the odds stacked against you. She knows that determination, hard work, and commonsense are the real keys to success – not a life of privilege.

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Michelle Nunn opened the Macon field office for her Democratic run for U.S. Senate on Sunday. She’s to be working the Marietta Square today.

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This week, U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, has a budget bill on the floor that is a bit wonky but could be important to how Congress’ nonpartisan budget referee goes about its business. One of our number explains:

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The Dalton Daily quotes former mayor David Pennington, one of Gov. Nathan Deal’s two Republican challengers, as saying that production begins this week on his first TV ads – which should start running the last week of April or the first week of May.

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We were at the Atlanta offices of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson recently. The senator had already walked us to the elevator when he remembered something that required a witness. Isakson walked us to the office next door to his, and flung open the door. It was his 2016 campaign office, up and running with real people inside. Just in case anyone doubted his intentions.

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The Right Rev. Rob Wright, the Episcopal bishop of Atlanta, asked roughly 600 congregants attending a confirmation service on Sunday to take out their smart phones and consider signing a petition that calls on Gov. Nathan Deal to veto HB 990, the measure that would put Medicaid expansion in the hands of the Legislature.

Wright plans to be part of a group that will attempt to deliver those petitions to Deal at the Governor’s Mansion this afternoon.

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On Saturday, Kerwin Swint, the Kennesaw State University political scientist, moderated the 11th District congressional debate sponsored by Cobb County’s Young Republican chapter. Here’s the assessment he gave Jon Gillooly of the Marietta Daily Journal:

“If you were looking for thoughtful answers, stuff that’s not just canned in a box, I thought Barry Loudermilk did a good job of answering the questions in a thoughtful way, putting forth ideas that aren’t focus-grouped and ballot-tested and all that,” Swint said. “I thought Tricia Pridemore did a good job, too, of answering the questions in a thoughtful way. If you were looking for red meat, it was Bob Barr. And Ed Lindsey did a little bit of both. He had some red meat in there, but I think he had some interesting things to say, too.”

As for whom Swint believes won the evening: “If I was an unattached voter and just was coming in trying to learn, I would probably go with Loudermilk, but that’s just an off-the-cuff reaction,” he said.

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Consider these paragraphs from a piece a few days ago by Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times, on the declining influence of the Christian right:

The shifts in public sentiment have led Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention to draw an arresting conclusion: Contrary to what an earlier generation believed, there’s no “moral majority” in America today, and never was. “There was a Bible Belt illusion of a Christian America that never existed,” Moore told journalists at a conference sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center last week. “The illusion of a moral majority is no longer sustainable.”

…Moore is no liberal; he believes in the literal truth of the Bible, and he abhors abortion and gay marriage. But he’s a realist. “We need to recognize where the country is,” he said.

For example, he said, attempts to put marriage amendments in state constitutions would be “a politically ridiculous thing to do right now.” Instead, evangelicals should focus on issues of religious liberty, such as whether Christian-owned businesses can be required to offer their services for gay weddings.

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The Camp David accord between Egypt and Israel, mediated by then-President Jimmy Carter, has become a stage play in D.C. Richard “John-boy” Thomas plays Carter:

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