Karen Handel gets last-day support from Donald Trump’s Georgia chair

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The scene at a Sixth District debate in Marietta last month. Henry Taylor, henry.taylor@ajc.com

If a candidate has a last-minute surprise in hand, the Monday morning before a Tuesday election is the last news cycle in which to spring it.

And so: In the Sixth District contest, Karen Handel has entered the “who-would-Donald-Trump-support” sweepstakes with an endorsement from Rayna Casey, who chaired Trump’s presidential campaign in Georgia. From the press release:

“During the 2016 election, I supported President Donald Trump and his promise to shake up Washington and get things done.

 

“This is the same reason I now endorse Karen Handel, an independent-minded leader with a proven record of getting results. She has a track record of taking on the status quo and the experience needed to deliver for the people of the 6th District.”

President Trump has not endorsed in the Sixth District contest, but weighed in this morning with a condemnation of Democrat Jon Ossoff:

Endorsements aren’t always helpful. But Casey’s could, for several reasons. First, the gender thing. Handel saw two prominent Republican women – House Speaker pro tem Jan Jones of Johns Creek and Fulton County Commissioner Liz Hausmann — endorse former state senator Dan Moody last week.

 



 

Then there’s the money thing. Handel has always been an indifferent fund-raiser. Casey isn’t. (Casey raised money in Georgia for Trump’s inauguration.)

Finally, there’s the Trump vote. Harnessed behind one candidate in the race for the GOP berth in a June 20 runoff, it could make the difference tomorrow.

But with Casey’s endorsement, you can consider the Trump machine in Georgia to be divided at least four ways. To one degree or another, Moody, former Johns Creek councilman Bob Gray, and former Trump surrogate Bruce LeVell have all sought to portray themselves as Trump’s champion in the Sixth District.

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We have a relatively late entrant in the war over Georgia’s 6th District: A pro-Trump super PAC that slams Republican Bob Gray.

The 45 Committee has targeted Gray, who is running as a Donald Trump loyalist, for accepting the endorsement of yet another bankrolling operation, the conservative Club for Growth.

The 45 Committee calls CFG a “D.C. special interest group.” (Insert kettle/black joke here) Moreover, the 45s accuse the CFG, which is allied with the Freedom Caucus in the U.S. House, of propping up Gray’s campaign.

“If Bob Gray stands with the Club for Growth,” the narrator in the 45 ad intones, “how can we trust him to fight for us?”

Club for Growth opposed Trump in the GOP primary and fought the doomed health care repeal bill that president supported. Since endorsing Gray in Georgia’s special election, Club for Growth has been lobbing attack ads at Republican Karen Handel and unnerving national Republicans worried about Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign.

The 45 Committee is backed by influential GOP donors Sheldon Adelson and Todd Ricketts, and spent some $18 million opposing Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential contest.  It doesn’t endorse any candidate, but it sure doesn’t hurt Handel or any other leading Republican contenders. And it’s worth noting that Adelson, the Las Vegas billionaire, has a good friend in former U.S. House speaker Newt Gingrich, who is backing former state senator Judson Hill in the contest.

Watch 45 Committee ad here:

 

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Speaking of Judson Hill: The GOP state senator sent out robocalls this weekend with an endorsement of his Sixth District candidacy by former House speaker Newt Gingrich. But Hill’s closer will apparently be U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who calls Hill “the only trusted conservative” in the contest. The Sixth went for Rubio in last year’s presidential primary.

Listen to the call here:

 

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Over at the polling blog FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver has this to say about the 6th District special election:

“…You’ll conclude that Tuesday night’s first round won’t actually resolve that much — unless Ossoff hits 50 percent of the vote and averts the runoff entirely. (That’s an unlikely but hardly impossible scenario given the fairly high error margins of polls under these circumstances.) Even if Ossoff finishes in the low 40s, it will be hard to rule him out in the second round provided that he still finishes in first place by a comfortable margin.

 

“But even if Ossoff finishes just a point or two shy of 50 percent, and Democrats finish with more votes than Republicans overall, he won’t have any guarantees in the runoff given that it’s a Republican-leaning district and that the GOP will have a chance to regroup. With the runoff not scheduled until June 20, there will be lots of time for speculation about what the first round meant — and a lot of it will be hot air.”

Read Silver’s full post here.

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The Atlantic has put together a short documentary on the Georgia special election, with a cameo by one of your Insiders.

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If the Sixth District weren’t bubbling, the plight of Georgia Power’s two unfinished nuclear reactors would likely be dominating the statewide headlines. Last Friday, Tim Echols, a member of the state Public Service Commission, was interviewed by Tim Bryant of WGAU (1340AM) in Athens.

Now that the original builder of the Plant Vogtle reactors, Westinghouse Electric, has gone bankrupt, all eyes are now on the financial stability of its parent company, Japanese giant Toshiba, Echols said. Listen to the entire exchange here:

 

What’s important is that Echols provides evidence of shifting ground within the PSC. Said the commissioner:

“We’re guessing that Toshiba is too big to fail. That’s not a for-sure thing. If they do fail, all of the back-stops that we have, the protections that the lawyers have negotiated – all of that goes away.

 

“That is the worst-case scenario, where the parent company bankrupts and eliminates the backstop. Then we’re left on our own to finish this, and in my opinion, my fellow commissioners will not have the stomach to move forward. And I don’t know that I will have the stomach to move forward on some sort of time-and-material-type of contract where, at every turn along the way – it’s been longer than we thought, and more money than we thought.

 

“…Because we have a parental guarantee from [Toshiba], and the media has reported it to be $3 billion and $4 billion dollars – what we will be able to do is to take this parental guarantee money and shore up the overruns. But if we don’t have that protection, that bucket of cash from them — in my opinion, if Toshiba bankrupts, these reactors will not be built.”

 


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