In any Donald Trump effort to roll back Cuba ties, watch Sonny Perdue

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Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue testifies before a House agriculture committee earlier this month, in support of increased trade with Cuba. AP/Alex Brandon

At the tail end of the long Memorial Day weekend, news broke that President Donald Trump is preparing to roll back U.S. efforts to rebuild its relationship with Cuba. From The Hill newspaper in D.C.:

The U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a non-partisan group, said the Trump administration is preparing to announce the changes to Obama-era policies in a June speech in Miami, according to the Daily Caller.

 

The report cites two unnamed sources who said a bipartisan trio of lawmakers — Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) — pushed for the reversal.

If this is so, keep an eye on Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a longtime advocate for increased trade with the island nation. When the Georgia governor was first nominated, his local supporters specifically noted the role he could play in opening agricultural markets in Cuba. For poultry, especially.

Earlier this month, testifying before the House agriculture committee, Perdue endorsed HR 535, a House Republican measure that would remove prohibitions on private financing for the sale of agricultural commodities to Cuba.

“If our folks grow it, I want to sell it. They eat in Cuba as well,” Perdue told U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Ark. Crawford, noting Trump changes to Cuba policy in the offing, said he expected Perdue to have agriculture’s back.

In June 2010, Perdue led a trade delegation to Cuba – a rare move for a Republican governor. From the Associated Press report that resulted:

Perdue said he preferred not to publicly disclose his personal views on the embargo,  but added,  “I will say that there are better opportunities for better jobs and prosperity in the U.S. as a result of trade with Cuba.”

 

He was the first state governor to come to Cuba since New Mexico Democrat Bill Richardson in August. Among Republican governors, the last visit was by Nebraska’s Dave Heineman and Idaho’s C.L. “Butch” Otter in 2007.

 

Perdue said that his trip to the communist-run island drew almost no criticism back home and that most in his state feel international trade is a key way to promote peace and understanding.

 

“I’m a business guy who happen(s) to be governor,  and I’m going to be a business guy after I’m governor, ” said Perdue,  who will leave office at the end of the year and was once an agricultural and transportation small-business owner. “I think business cures a lot of ills.”

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Early voting begins today in Georgia’s Sixth District race, per our colleague Kristina Torres. It runs through June 16. Read Torres’ primer here.

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Vice President Mike Pence is expected to campaign for Karen Handel before the June 20 runoff in the Sixth District. Here’s how Politico.com is characterizing the move:

Pence is mapping out a schedule that will take him through several Midwestern battlegrounds and to traditionally conservative southern states like Georgia, where an unexpectedly competitive June special election runoff is alarming party strategists. The vice president will also attend a series of Republican Party events that will draw major donors and power-brokers, where talk about 2018 is certain to be front-and-center…

 

“He has an appetite to fight so he’s going to get out there and fight on the president’s behalf,” said Nick Ayers, a longtime Pence strategist.

 

At the same time, the vice president’s increased electoral activity has stoked speculation that Pence is positioning himself for a post-Trump future in the party, something his advisers strenuously deny.

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A New York Times piece on President Donald Trump and his impact on Karen Handel in Georgia’s Sixth District race includes this line from Ralph Reed:

As for Mr. Trump, Mr. Reed added: “I don’t think you really look to broadcast him. You narrowcast him.”

 

The Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “narrowcast” comes in the form of about 30,000 one-page leaflets that volunteers will slip into church bulletins across the district ahead of the election. They list a series of issues that are resonant with conservatives and at the top of Mr. Trump’s agenda — like Planned Parenthood funding, “abortion on demand,” freedom of speech for churches and “amnesty for illegal immigrants” — and offer a side-by-side comparison of Ms. Handel’s and Mr. Ossoff’s stands.

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As the weekend broke, our AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin reported that a GOP challenger to state Sen. David Shafer of Duluth had emerged in the race for lieutenant governor:

It’s been whispered about for a while now, but state Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough, has filed paperwork to run for lieutenant governor.

 

Jeffares, first elected in 2010, is chairman of the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee and a member of the budget-writing Appropriations Committee. A small business owner, he is a former Locust Grove city manager and Henry County commissioner.

There are two ways to look at this, and both may be correct. On one hand, one could say that a rival within the chamber that he currently leads as Senate president pro tem points to Shafer’s vulnerability.

But it’s also worth noting that Jeffares hails from Henry County, which is rapidly shifting from Republican to Democratic. Jeffares won by nearly 10 points last November. But if 2018 brings an anti-Trump backlash, he could still be vulnerable.

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The Newnan Times-Herald spoke with former congressman Lynn Westmoreland about his decision not to run for governor. Here’s what the famously blunt Republican had to say:

“Why would I want to run for governor other than some type of ego trip?”

 

…“I’ve never really considered myself to have a big ego, though I think everybody that is in politics has got to have some type of ego,” he said. “I thought, maybe this is your ego wanting you to do it rather than you really wanting to do it.”

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The New York Post reports that a letter former President Jimmy Carter penned to a Georgia socialite in 1984 failed to receive any bids at a Los Angeles auction over the weekend. Per the tabloid:

The correspondence was billed as a “long-lost love letter” to Betty “Jinx” Poindexter Drake, a Georgia socialite, who worked on Carter’s presidential campaigns.

 

In it, Carter pines: “I never was at my best with you in a crowd, & I’ve also felt frustrated that we haven’t had any chance to continue our old intimacy the past few times we’ve seen each other. Just wait until the next time! Best wishes for a wonderful 1984. I hope to see you often. Love, Jimmy.”

A spokeswoman for Carter has denied that any lust was attached to the note — and that it was a typical note to a longtime friend. Auctioneers had been seeking at least $500,000.


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