Georgia 2018: Fixin’ to get ready to run for governor

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Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (left) confers with state Sen. Bill Heath (right) and other senators during the winter session of the Legislature. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

They’re fixin’ to get ready to run. Over at GaPundit.com, Todd Rehm walks us through Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s roll-out of his Republican campaign for governor:

— A free event in Gwinnett County on Sunday; (more details from last week here.)

— Then a tour of the state, including a stop at Nonami Plantation in Albany;

— And the next Saturday keynote at Georgia Southern University’s spring graduation ceremony in Statesboro.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Michael Williams is ramping up his own preparations for the same office.

The Cumming Republican has unveiled a new website (“Williams for Georgia 2018”) that includes an attack on “career politicians pushing us further down the road to less freedom and more government!” Not that he has Cagle in mind.

Williams, a businessman who once owned a chain of Sport Clips barber shops, has hinted repeatedly he would run for governor in 2018 after Donald Trump’s victory.

His strategist, Seth Weathers, said Williams has been encouraged by people “looking for a viable candidate for governor other than the same career politicians.”

“As the first Republican elected official in Georgia to endorse Trump, a lot of that core Trump base is looking to Williams as someone who can carry that mantle at the state level,” said Weathers. “He’s leaving all options open.”

Mike Williams’ website for his campaign for governor. AJC file

Secretary of State Brian Kemp beat both Cagle and Williams to the punch with his announcement of his gubernatorial intentions immediately after the close of this year’s legislative sesssion. But others remain on the sidelines.

And with all this mentioning, it’s sometimes essential for a candidate who hasn’t yet pulled the trigger to let potential supporters know they shouldn’t plight their troth elsewhere – yet. Here’s the quote from former Georgia congressman Jack Kingston, via Zpolitics:

“I’m still involved, of course, but I do miss every day serving the people of Georgia in a public official role, which is why running for Governor could be a logical next step. I’ve been very encouraged by those who have reached out and asked me to the run the last few months, which is why I’m giving it careful consideration.”

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Our AJC colleague Jennifer Brett has a closer look at what the National Rifle Association’s convention in Atlanta this weekend will bring. Read her story here. But here’s a thought: If Gov. Nathan Deal were going to sign the campus-carry bill that now sits on his desk, wouldn’t an NRA convention be a perfect backdrop? So far, no such ceremony has been scheduled.

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Internet reaction can be orchestrated, so it’s smart to be somewhat skeptical. Nonetheless, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reports that the Georgia Chamber is getting hammered on its own Facebook page for this week’s endorsement of Republican Karen Handel in the June 20 runoff for the Sixth District congressional seat.

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Tom Price, whose promotion to the Trump cabinet created the vacancy in the Sixth Congressional District, was in Ohio on Wednesday. Given that metro Atlanta has more than its fair share of airline pilots, this report from the Dayton Daily News is worth noting:

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price may explore adding fentanyl to federal drug testing guidelines following the suspected overdose death of a Spirit Airlines pilot, he said Wednesday.

 

The change would add fentanyl — heroin’s much stronger cousin — to the drug screen for federal personnel and thousands of transportation industry employees, including pilots and truck drivers.

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The race to replace Stacey Abrams in the Georgia House has already kicked off.

With Abrams widely expected to run for governor, attorney Sachin Varghese said Thursday he’ll run for her Atlanta-based House district. Varghese is an attorney at Bondurant Mixson & Ellmore – the same firm where Jason Carter works – and is a former student body president at the University of Georgia.

“Should she run for higher office, I believe that the constituents of our district deserve continued strong and capable representation, and I offer myself for the district as an attorney committed to building greater opportunity for each and every Georgian,” Varghese said in a statement.

He’ll have the support of state Rep. Scott Holcomb, an Atlanta Democrat and a powerbroker in DeKalb. Holcomb said “he’s smart, has common sense, and works really hard.”

It could be a crowded field. Among the other names we’ve heard for the seat is Bee Nguyen, a Democratic strategist who helped engineer state Rep. Sam Park’s upset victory in a conservative-leaning Gwinnett district.

Then there’s the potential race to replace Abrams as leader of the Democratic caucus in the House. More on that later.

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U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson will be with President Donald Trump this afternoon as he signs a new executive order creating a new office of whistleblower protection at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The new office is intended to make it easier to root out and fire problem employees and protect those who report them. Government Executive has more on that here.

Isakson, the chairman of the Senate VA Committee, proposed a similar idea in legislation last year, but he was criticized by some of his Republican colleagues for not going far enough. In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Isakson said he was pleased the Trump administration, and specifically VA Secretary David Shulkin, was moving forward with the initiative.

“You’re going to see a lot of the things that people had wanted to see change at the VA change, and that’s important,” Isakson said. “A lot of that comes from Secretary Shulkin, but the fact that the president wants to come to the VA to highlight that in his first 100 days shows how important this is to the president.”


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