A new role for Sam Olens in next year’s ‘religious liberty’ fight?

Attorney General Sam Olens. Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com
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Attorney General Sam Olens. Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

Jeff Graham is executive director of Georgia Equality, the gay-rights organization that has coordinated opposition to “religious liberty” legislation over the last three sessions of the Legislature.

Graham doesn’t often misspeak, so these paragraphs from a Project Q piece on Georgia Equality’s preparations for the 2017 session are worth noting:logo-all

Georgia Equality is also looking to turn to Sam Olens, the former state Attorney General who became president of Kennesaw State University in November. Olens, a top Republican in the state, could bring clout to a discussion over civil rights legislation.

 

Graham said Olen’s new role as KSU president provides an opportunity for him to learn more about LGBT experiences and laws and policies that can protect LGBT people.

 

“I think that [Olens] could be an influential voice of reason, as he learns more about the need for these policies and the need for him as university president to protect them and frankly as one of the leaders of the Republican party here in Georgia,” Graham said.

You’ll recall that Graham helped tamp down campus objections to Olens’ appointment. We’ve got a call into the president of KSU.

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Tucked into this Jamie Dupree post about departing members of Congress is a surprising tidbit about U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Coweta County, who’s retiring from Capitol Hill at the end of this month:

I checked the voting records, and was somewhat surprised to see that Westmoreland had missed every single vote since the November elections, even though I knew he had been in D.C.

 

“As crazy as this may sound, I don’t believe in lame duck sessions,” Westmoreland told me in an email, as he said he did all of his hearings and other work, but skipped the November and December floor votes in the House.

 

“I know it’s crazy, but it’s something I’ve always said and I guess when it actually happened to me I had to either truly believe it or not,” Westmoreland explained.

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Alex Johnson has run twice for chairman of the Georgia GOP on promises to shake up the status quo. Now that a certain president-elect promises to do that in Washington, the DeKalb attorney is reshaping his pitch to lead the state party along Trumpian lines:

Trump has it right, and it is a simple formula for us to copy here in Georgia.  By putting Republicans first, we will naturally win elections, retain our conservative principles, and keep Georgia red for decades to come.

But there was more to his pitch than that. Johnson included this link to the party’s financial reports, as well as one to the Facebook page of Nathaniel Darnell, a state GOP committee member, who registers a detailed complaint about the party’s economic situation that includes this:

[A]lthough the state party started out with a $2 million surplus in 2009, we have been on the average taking in $55k per month and spending $64k per month.

 

They also incurred over $225k in lawyers fees for a discrimination lawsuit because they didn’t have employment liability insurance—for crying out loud!

 

They are operating $139k over budget for the year. They received $992,470 from the RNC this year. They spent $1.024 million of that.

So that’s why that discrimination suit has been hanging around so long.

Ryan Mahoney, the party’s spokesman, had this to say in response:

“This year, the Georgia Republican Party helped to secure 16 electoral votes for Donald J. Trump, re-elect U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, and support our nominees up and down the ballot.

 

“Clearly, we have the infrastructure, grassroots support, and yes, finances, to grow the Party, promote conservative principles, win elections, and protect our Red State status for years to come.”

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Politico reports that Cobb County native Nick Ayers is one of two finalists to lead the Republican National Committee.

The site says top Donald Trump aides are divided between Ayers, who cut his political teeth on Sonny Perdue’s gubernatorial campaigns, and Michigan GOP chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel. Also being considered are RNC official Matt Pinnell and Bush alumna Mercedes Schlapp.

The race has become a proxy debate over control of the party between its more establishment and populist wings:

McDaniel is the preferred candidate of incoming White House chief of staff and current RNC chairman Reince Priebus, who wants to hand over the reins to a fellow committee member. He is at odds with Pence, Trump senior strategist Steve Bannon and GOP megadonor Rebekah Mercer, who are pushing to put the RNC, which will become the political vehicle of the Trump White House, under the control of an institutional outsider like Ayers or Schlapp.

The D.C. news site said a decision is expected by Saturday.

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John Glenn, the U.S. senator and astronaut who died Thursday at age 95, didn’t do so well in his 1984 run for president. He lost the primary contest to former vice president Walter Mondale, and eventually was deprived of many of the delegates that he did win. From an old UPI piece:

Norman Fletcher, the only John Glenn delegate elected in Georgia, decided to support Mondale after a telephone call Tuesday evening.

Five years later, Fletcher would be appointed to the Georgia Supreme Court by Gov. Joe Frank Harris.

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Consider this a mea culpa of sorts by a Democratic candidate for Congress. Some Democratic insiders were upset that attorney Joshua McLaurin announced his bid to replace U.S. Rep. Tom Price without informing them first. McLaurin sends this explanation for his decision:

“I’m excited for this opportunity to bring energy to Democrats in the 6th District who are dismayed by the state of our national politics. I have reached out to the party, and we haven’t connected yet, but I understand they are very busy with post-election duties and closing out the year. I look forward to cooperating closely with party leaders and learning from their experience and wisdom.”

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Less than a month after he clinched a lower-level position on the House GOP leadership team, Doug Collins is making a play for a more powerful slot.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, and House colleague Cathy McMorris Rodgers during a congressional visit to Atlanta in 2015.

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, and House colleague Cathy McMorris Rodgers during a congressional visit to Atlanta in 2015.

The Gainesville Republican is one of a handful of lawmakers angling for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ No. 4 position as GOP conference chair, according to Politico, as rumors fly that she could be named Donald Trump’s secretary of the interior. Collins confirmed his interest in a statement:

“At this point, Cathy McMorris Rodgers is our Conference Chair. Should she be appointed Interior Secretary, I am confident that her ability and talent would be a great addition to the cabinet. 

While I would consider the opportunity that comes with an open seat, I remain humbled by my recent and resounding election to Vice Chair of Conference and look forward to working with Republican leadership to serve every American.”

Collins has partnered with Rodgers on criminal justice reform. Collins’ Republican colleagues elected him conference vice chairman, the GOP’s No. 5 leadership slot, last month.


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