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Tamar Hallerman
Greg BluesteinJim Galloway

When women, youth and minorities are a bad thing in a GOP contest

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A straw-hatted delegate at last Saturday’s Georgia GOP convention in Augusta. Todd Bennett/The Augusta Chronicle via AP

A straw-hatted delegate at last Saturday’s Georgia GOP convention in Augusta. Todd Bennett/The Augusta Chronicle via AP

It took a while to track the flyer down, but track it down we did.

One of the hottest races at last weekend’s state GOP convention in Augusta was the contest for the Republican National Committee seat being vacated by a term-limited Linda Herren.logo-all

The three candidates: Ginger Howard, president of Buckhead Republicans; Linda Umberger, former chairman of the Dawson County GOP; and Maria Strollo Zack, a longtime state Capitol operative with Ted Cruz connections.

Howard was the ultimate victor. But in the aftermath of the Augusta connection, we heard tell of a bit of campaign literature handed out at the door attributed to the “Conservative Leadership Coalition.”

The flyer was a three-column comparison of the RNC candidates. Given the bent of the material, one assumes that it originated with someone in the Zack camp. Umberger was the primary target.

Umberger had the support of Allen Fox, who heads up the gay-friendly Republicans for the Future, which encouraged Gov. Nathan Deal’s veto of HB 757, the “religious liberty” bill. This was the flyer’s description of the three women’s positions under the category of “Pro-Life/Traditional Marriage:”

Howard: “Unknown.”

Umberger: “Supports homosexual marriage. Opposes Religious Freedom bill. Questionable life position.”

Zack: “Endorsed by GA Right to Life for State Senate race. Supports marriage between one man and one woman. Supports and designed strategy for RFRA battle.”

The above is what outraged many supporters of Umberger, the mother of four. But when we read it, that’s not what caught our eye. The next category was “View of the RNC.” I.e., the Republican National Committee.rncelectflyer

The breakdown (emphasis ours):

Howard: “Unknown – currently supported by some GOP staff. Will try to learn from others.”

Umberger: “Endorsed by Reince Priebus’ co-chair, GOP establishment, and our current moderate national committeewoman. Wants to recruit women and youth and minority.”

Zack: “Will immediately promote solution-based reforms to implement our platform and legislative commitment to the Constitution. Ensure integrity of the voting process, continue to stop [National Popular Vote], out those taking dirty money or taking our party liberal. Build mechanism to help our conservative elected officials.”

If you’re a run-of-the-mill Republican, you might find it troubling that, within a significant fraction of the Georgia GOP, “wants to recruit women and youth and minority” is something to oppose. Long-term, it doesn’t bode well.

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We have another sign of Georgia GOP dalliance with Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. From Michell Eloy and WABE (90.1FM):

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford. AJC file/Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford. AJC file/Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

State Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) didn’t endorse the idea of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Rather, she thinks the state should look at negotiating a federal waiver, as other Republican-majority states have done, to tailor how any potential Medicaid expansion would work.

“We have to open that box and look just a little bit and see what’s available,” Unterman said. “Hopefully, if you draw down federal dollars, you can free up some of those state dollars. Right now, we’re just pumping out state dollars to stay in the midst of the crisis.”

The “crisis” Unterman is referring to is the struggle many Georgia hospitals are facing to keep their doors open. At least four rural hospitals have closed in Georgia since 2013.

She’s not the first Republican lawmaker to reframe her opposition to Medicaid expansion, which Gov. Nathan Deal and other GOP politicians have said is too costly in the long run. State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler of Rome has long argued that an expansion is overdue. And Deal flirted with a Medicaid ‘experiment’ to request more federal funding for struggling rural hospitals.

But Unterman’s comments could herald a willingness by state lawmakers to explore the type of expansion that GOP leaders in Arkansas and elsewhere achieved.

***

Monday’s post about Gerald Harris and his Christian Index column wondering whether Islam deserved First Amendment protection has prompted a good deal of response.

John Pierce, executive editor of Nurturing Faith Journal, sent us a link to his take, which includes this:

Harris’ sand-built case falls apart on his basic claim that Islam is more political than religious in nature.

This comes from one of the Georgia Baptist leaders who spent enormous time and energy seeking state legislation recently that would have legally permitted discrimination against gay and lesbian persons. Fortunately, a wise Baptist governor vetoed the selectively vindictive bill.

If political activity disqualifies a particular religious perspective from its guaranteed rights then Christian fundamentalism should be the first to go.

Some thoughts posted by Lawton Sack, a member of the clergy and former chairman of the 12th Congressional District GOP, over at GeorgiaPol.com:

… I am a Southern Baptist/Georgia Baptist minister. I have worked in several churches in Southeast Georgia and I can tell you we have a lot bigger problems than Islam.

I hope they understand at the rate of decline that Christians will eventually be a minority in this country (if it is not already) and someone else will be making these type of decisions that will impact us. You cannot ask for protection for yourself and not others, as that is not how country works. We went through this in the past of deciding who can do certain things and who cannot and we don’t need to do that ever again. The Constitution protects all Americans, not just certain people.”

***

We’re picking up word that Donald Trump’s fundraiser with Sen. David Perdue and Gov. Nathan Deal will be at a Buckhead home at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

***

Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee, who finished a distant second in a re-election bid and now is in a runoff with retired military man Mike Boyce, is pushing back against an AJC story that claims nabbing the new Braves stadium has left the county’s park funds depleted.

“The ballpark is already generating significant revenues for the county. We’ve invested smartly and those investments are paying off,” Lee said in a statement. “That’s why this year we’ll be able to purchase and preserve green space throughout Cobb County without any new taxes and without any cuts to critical services our residents need.

Lee has also hired reinforcements in his July runoff. Brian Robinson, a former aide to Gov. Nathan Deal, has joined his camp.

***

We received a fundraising solicitation on Tuesday from state Rep. Stacey Abrams of Atlanta, indicating that Democratic forces are strongly contemplating an independent challenge to Republican incumbent Gerald Greene of Cuthbert.

James Williams, a retired law enforcement officer, had signed up as a Democratic challenger, but was ruled ineligible by Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Kemp declared that Williams did not live in the district, although local officials had said he did.

Writes Abrams, the House Democratic leader:

“The voters in HD 151 deserve a choice – and a chance to have their voices heard. Using partisan tricks to disqualify a man who protected his neighbors for decades isn’t the way voting rights should operate in Georgia. It isn’t right or fair.”

***

It’s not 2018, but already we have a candidate declaring his candidacy for the House seat now held by Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs. That would be Gabriel Sterling, currently a member of the Sandy Springs City Council.

Willard, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, announced last week that he would retire after finishing out his next term. He has no 2016 opposition.

***

Former U.S. Rep. Paul Broun’s bid to return to Congress fell flat last month, but the ethics cloud that’s long surrounded his former office continues to swirl.

The Office of Congressional Ethics, the independent, nonpartisan entity tasked with reviewing misconduct against members of Congress and their staffs, released what is essentially an orphan report regarding David Bowser, Broun’s former chief of staff.

The report recommends that the House Ethics Committee further review allegations that Bowser made false statements to ethics investigators and attempted to obstruct their review in conjunction with the alleged misuse of taxpayer funds to pay a communications consultant for two of Broun’s campaigns.

The referral is essentially moot at this point since Bowser is no longer a congressional staffer. (He resigned three weeks after this report was dated, hours after he was  indicted on eight federal charges, and congressional ethics investigators generally only have jurisdiction over current members and staff.)

The case, however, is still important since it marks the first time people have allegedly lied to congressional ethics investigators since the office was created in 2008.

Bowser’s arraignment and initial appearance related to his federal indictment have yet to be scheduled. Check out more background, including how much Broun may or may not have known, here.