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Michelle Nunn targeted on Voting Rights Act comments

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U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn with her husband Ron Martin (left) leave after they voted early for the 2014 Primary at Adamsville Recreation Center in Atlanta on last week. Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn with her husband Ron Martin (left) leave after they voted early for the 2014 Primary at Adamsville Recreation Center in Atlanta on last week. Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

The only Democratic debate of U.S. Senate candidates to feature Michelle Nunn, an Atlanta Press Club affair, will air at 7 p.m. Monday on Georgia Public Broadcasting.

One of her three rivals, Branko “Dr. Rad” Radulovacki, has already scoped out a topic for discussion.

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogOn the table but not moving in Congress is a bipartisan proposal backed by U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, and others that would once again require Georgia and three other states with histories of discrimination to submit all voting laws to the federal government for “pre-clearance” — rewriting a Voting Rights Act formula the U.S. Supreme Court found unconstitutional last year.

In an email to supporters this morning, Radulovacki pointed to Nunn’s response in the AJC’s Voter Guide, which he interpreted as putting her at odds with Lewis’ effort. Said Nunn:

“I firmly believe that all states must be held to the same standards. Georgia should not be singled out for special treatment. The Supreme Court’s decision has put the onus on Congress, and I think it should work to protect the right to vote. It is fundamental to our democracy. I applaud the bipartisan work currently underway to create a nationwide standard for all states, and I look forward to working with those leaders in the Senate.”

Dr. Rad called Nunn’s statement “naive and dangerous,” pointing to the 13 times the U.S. Justice Department has blocked changes to election laws in Georgia over the last 13 years.

But we have heard from a spokesman for the Nunn campaign, who says Nunn is indeed on board with Lewis’ VRA fix.

It’s a question of semantics. Lewis’ legislation would free from U.S. Justice Department oversight any state that has fewer than five voting rights violations within the last 15 years. Which means Georgia would again be subject to pre-clearance.

Nunn spokesman Nathan Click said the confusion was caused when the Georgia League of Women Voters, which compiled the voter guide for the AJC,  rejected Nunn’s attempt to use this more specific line in her answer:

“I applaud Rep. Lewis’ bipartisan work to create a nationwide standard for all states, and I look forward to working with him in the Senate.”

Click produced an April 23 rejection note from the LWV that included this:

Our guidelines do not allow direct references to your opposition, other individuals or the naming of other candidates on the ballot.

***

Speaking of  U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta: He’s decided to go silent on state Court of Appeals Judge Michael Boggs and other Georgians nominated to the federal bench by the Obama administration. From the AJC’s Bill Rankin and Dan Malloy:

Lewis joined fellow civil rights leaders and Georgia Democrats at Ebenezer Baptist Church in December to denounce the then-slate of six nominees negotiated among White House officials and Georgia’s Republican U.S. senators.

But in a brief interview Wednesday, Lewis said he is no longer trying to throw a wrench into the confirmation process as he speaks with senators about it — a key shift from the influential figure.

“(I have) not necessarily changed my mind,” Lewis said. “I’m just letting the process take place.”

***

Meanwhile, with pre-primary fundraising reports due today, Michelle Nunn’s campaign tells us she raised $840,000 in April for her U.S. Senate bid. That would be slightly ahead of her $2.4 million pace from the first quarter — and money tends to rush in at the end of quarters.

In all, she has raised $6.6 million since entering the race in August. No word yet on how much Nunn spent in April, when she launched TV ads for the first time, and how much she has left.

***

wonderbreadThe New York Times has identified “the most Republican-leaning company in the country.” And it’s not owned by one of the Koch brothers. It’s the Georgia maker of Wonder Bread:

The political action committee of Flowers Foods, a Georgia company that produces the pillowy sandwich bread, Tastykakes and Nature’s Own baked goods, has given more than 99 percent of its political contributions since 1979 to Republicans. Only three Democratic congressional candidates have gotten money from its PAC since 1984, and not one in the past 20 years.

***

Jack Kingston now has his very own Super PAC. The above positive ad, we’re told, is on the air in Albany and Macon.

Kingston’s longtime buddy Eric Johnson — former state legislator and 2010 gubernatorial hopeful — is behind the effort. Johnson described the effort thusly:

“The Southern Conservatives Fund, Inc. is a group of Georgia-based business owners who support Jack Kingston and are tired of seeing outside special interests try to smear his name and reputation. While other groups have decided to attack fellow Republicans, we are more interested in telling the truth about Jack’s conservative record. Our initial buy is to supplement Jack’s support in critical parts of the state that other candidates have chosen to ignore.”

***

A Rosetta Stone horse-race poll (automated, MOE +/-3.6%) funded by the U.S. Senate campaign of Karen Handel, released Wednesday, puts businessman David Perdue in the lead with 23 percent, Handel within the margin of error at 21 percent, and Jack Kingston, dropping to 15 percent.

Not everyone is buying into it. The Washington Post this morning points to Kingston as post-North Carolina proof that the tea party’s grip on the GOP is losing out to electability:

Kingston, 59, has not run from his experience or his time in Washington. Instead, he has trumpeted them and has tried to make the warfare inside the GOP an issue. At the candidate forum in this northern exurb of Atlanta, Kingston asked the crowd of about 300: “How many of you think the conservative family is divided? And how many of you know divided we fall?” Most people raised their hands. He spent the next two minutes outlining his career in the House, distancing himself from the loudest voices on the right.

“We have got to win the Senate back, and we can’t do it with rhetoric. We have got to do it with a plan,” he said.

***

In that same vein, the Gallup organization is out with this measurement today:

About four in 10 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents classify themselves as supporters of the Tea Party, while 11% are opponents and 48% are neither. This continues to be a significant drop from the Tea Party’s high-water mark in November 2010, when 61% of Republicans were supporters of the Tea Party.

***

Phil Gingrey’s new TV ad provides a rebuttal to David Perdue’s memorable and effective TV spot portraying his opponents as crying babies. Gingrey calls Perdue’s ad “clever, but you deserve better than politics as usual.”

But notice the only two babies that make an appearance: One is named Jack, and the other wears pearls.

***

The Tea Party Express is backing John Stone in the Republican side of the 12th District congressional race. From the California-based group’s executive director Taylor Budowich:

“John was a chief of staff for conservative Congressman John Carter. He also served as president of free market non-profit, U.S. Freedom Foundation. He has been a conservative leader throughout his life and we are confident he will bring that same leadership to Washington, D.C.”

Tea Party Express is also backing Barry Loudermilk in the 11th District and Karen Handel in the U.S. Senate race.

***

The man John Stone hopes to face, U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta, continues to break with his party on key votes.

On Wednesday Barrow was one of just six Democrats to vote to hold IRS official Lois Lerner in contempt for not cooperating with the House investigation into IRS targeting of political nonprofit groups for extra scrutiny.

***

Former Republican congressman John Linder of Gwinnett County, the House’s biggest proponent of scrapping the Internal Revenue Service for a national sales tax, has endorsed Jack Kingston for U.S. Senate. Earlier this week, Linder endorsed state Rep. Donna Sheldon of Dacula in the GOP race for the 10th District U.S. House seat.

***

The Washington Post today resurrects a chapter in Georgia’s political history with a look at casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s creation of a state-by-state political network to oppose Internet gambling:

[Adelson’s] coalition now includes about a dozen state chapters of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a national alliance of Christian conservatives headed by Ralph Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition.

Adelson has hired two former Faith and Freedom officials, including Gary Marx, a former executive director of the organization. Marx helped build support for legislation that would outlaw Internet gambling.

Reed gained notice for his earlier work on gambling matters during the scandal around disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. At the time, documents showed that Reed worked with Abramoff to block a proposed ban on Internet gambling, receiving funds indirectly from eLottery, a firm marketing online lottery ticket sales.

Reed declined to comment. Adelson advisers and a spokesman for Reed’s group said Reed was not personally involved in signing up his state affiliates.

***

National Journal magazine takes a deep look at Georgia’s pre-K program as a national model:

Georgia Pre-K has been around for so long, it’s not seen as political anymore, if it ever was. “I never looked at this as a partisan issue, honestly,” says Sen. John Albers, a Republican in the Georgia Legislature who represents a district north of Atlanta. He sent both of his children to Georgia Pre-K. “If I had to do it all over again I’d do it two times.”

But the universal nature of Georgia’s program is another key to its success—and that could be a surprising lesson for other states looking to build support for early-education programs. “You’re not going to see Republicans go down to an income-based thing,” says Sen. Fran Millar, another Republican who is a member of the Georgia Senate’s Educaiton and Youth Committee. “It would get political in about six months. It would be about class warfare.”

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