Delta’s NRA move could put airline tax break in Georgia at risk

Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

By Greg Bluestein

Some conservatives say the airline’s decision should ground a lucrative sales tax exemption on jet fuel

21h ago, February 24, 2018
Delta’s decision to sever marketing ties with the National Rifle Association on Saturday sparked outrage from Georgia conservatives who urged state lawmakers to defy the Atlanta-based airline’s push for a multimillion dollar fuel tax break.

Several conservative groups seized on the airline’s decision to end a discount for NRA membersto rally members against the measure. And former state Sen. Rick Jeffares, a candidate for lieutenant governor, urged his Republican colleagues to reject it.

“If Delta is so flush that they don’t need NRA members hard-earned travel dollars,” said Jeffares, “it can certainly do without the $40 million tax break they are asking Georgia taxpayers for.”

The airline’s decision came as several blue-chip companies broke ties with the gun rights group amid debate over firearms restrictions in the wake of the mass shooting at a Florida high school this month.

The NRA called the corporate retreat a “shameful display of political and civic cowardice” and said it wouldn’t distract the group from its mission.

It’s difficult timing for Delta in its home state, where the airline is on a mission to restore a lucrative sales tax exemption on jet fuel that was first adopted in the mid-2000s when the company was in financial distress.

Critics called it a special-interest tax giveaway after the company recovered to post record-breaking profits. It was done away with in 2015 when Delta officials got on the wrong side of lawmakers looking for extra cash for infrastructure improvements.

The tax break came roaring back this year after the airline hired David Werner, Gov. Nathan Deal’s former executive counsel, as its top state lobbyist.

This year, it has been pitched to lawmakers as an “airline tax break” rather than one that would exclusively help Delta. The jet fuel provision would save airlines and cargo firms more than $50 million, but the biggest beneficiary would be Delta.

Advocates say it would help Atlanta compete for flights with other hub airports where jet fuel taxes aren’t charged. And it quickly gained traction in the statehouse.

The governor praised it at a press conference and included the provision in a broader measure to slash the state income tax. That proposal easily passed the House last week and is pending in the Senate.

As word of Delta’s decision reverberated among Georgia Republicans, some conservatives ratcheted up pressure on the Senate to block the proposal.

Jason Shepherd, the Cobb GOP chair, questioned why lawmakers are considering a tax break if “Delta does not respect the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” The Atlanta Tea Party sent members a plea to “stand up for the Second Amendment” and call Deal’s office.

And state Sen. Michael Williams, a Republican candidate for governor who has long opposed the Delta tax break, called it proof that lawmakers “do the bidding of lobbyists.”

“Delta isn’t even worried about insulting a huge portion of voters who belong to the NRA,” said Williams, who on Friday tried to strip the jet fuel provision from the broader tax-cut bill. “They have their backroom deal in place & know the politicians can’t survive without their donations.”

Delta quickly took to the defensive. Werner tweeted that the company’s announcement “was not a political statement” and that the airline “merely confirmed its neutral status on a politically and emotionally charged debate by removing its name from the debate.”

Deal’s administration, meanwhile, signaled it continued to support the airline tax break.

Chris Riley, the governor’s top aide, said he and Deal “are assuming this decision was made by Delta to end their contract with all political groups in order to remain neutral.”

“Otherwise,” he added, “members may not trust our word moving forward!”

2018 Candidate Qualifying Information

Overview: For those seeking inclusion on the Republican primary ballot for the elections on May 22, 2018, the Cobb County Republican Party is holding Candidate Qualifying for partisan county offices at the headquarters located at 799 Roswell Street, Marietta, Georgia, 30060.
Dates/Hours: The following dates and hours are recognized for qualifying:
+ Monday, March 5 from 9 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
+ Tuesday, March 6 from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
+ Wednesday, March 7 from 9 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
+ Thursday, March 8 from 9 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

+ Friday, March 9 from 9 a.m. – Noon sharp

Partisan County Offices: These partisan county offices must qualify locally:

+ Solicitor General – Qualifying Fee  $5,743.30

+ County Commissioner (Districts 1 & 3) – Qualifying Fee $1,395.93

+ County School Board (Districts 2, 4, & 6) – Qualifying Fee: $570.00
Qualifying Information: Packets will be available for the candidates at the Cobb GOP Headquarters. For the general details, click HERE. The packets may be taken, completed, and returned; or filled in at the Cobb GOP Headquarters during the hours listed above.
Additional information for candidate qualifying requirements and documentation are available at the Georgia Secretary of State – Elections Division website HERE.
Qualifying Day: Here is what you’ll need to do the day of qualifying:
+ Present a picture ID
+ Provide proof of Voting Precinct
Deliver a Money Order or Cashier’s Check for the corresponding amount listed above and made out to the “Cobb County Republican Party.” NO PERSONAL CHECKS ACCEPTED.
+ Sign the documentation in front of the notary. A notary will be at the Cobb GOP Headquarters during the hours listed above.
General Primary, Nonpartisan General Election and Special Election Date
+ Election Date: May 22, 2018, with Voter Registration Deadline of April 24, 2018
+ Advanced Voting: April 30 through May 18.
+ Runoff Date: July 24, 2018, with Voter Registration Deadline of April 24, 2018
General Primary Runoff Date for Federal Races
+ Election Date: July 24, 2018, with Voter Registration Deadline of June 25, 2018
Questions: Contact the Cobb GOP office at 770-272-0458.

Republican Candidates Qualify for Senate District 6 Special Election

The following Republicans have qualified for the Nov. 7 special election for State Senate District 6:

PO BOX 725148
QUALIFIED DATE: 09/14/2017
QUALIFIED DATE: 09/13/2017
QUALIFIED DATE: 09/13/2017
PHONE NUMBER: (678) 215-5283
QUALIFIED DATE: 09/15/2017
PO BOX 15221
PHONE NUMBER: (770) 422-2300
QUALIFIED DATE: 09/13/2017



Cobb GOP to Serve Community Through ‘Republican Hands’

Marietta, GA (August 4, 2017) –  Saturday at the Cobb County Republican Party Monthly Breakfast, Chairman Jason Shepherd will kick-off a new initiative focused on the needs in our Cobb County community. The program called “Republican Hands” will support the core Republican principle that government should be smaller not larger, and it is up to the individuals to care for individual needs of our neighbors and not the governments. The goal is to foster a new spirit of volunteerism in the Cobb GOP between election cycles while taking care of community needs. The Table On Delk is the first organization to be highlighted by Republican Hands.
 Cobb GOP Chairman, Jason Shepherd states, “If Republicans are going to talk about government doing less, then we need to show that, as individuals, we will step up to do more.”
Cobb County Republican Party and the volunteers with The Table On Delk will partner to focus on the huge issue of human trafficking sexual exploitation in the Cobb community taking place in the Delk Road area.
The Table On Delk provides a safe place for those individuals being exploited to come rest and have a warm meal. The Cobb Republican Party volunteers will have the opportunity to work alongside other community volunteers serving meals and going into the community to invite and encourage these men and women, boys and girls, to come and have meaningful interaction with those concerned about the growing numbers of sexual exploitation in the Metro Atlanta region.
“Many people do not know this is happening right here in our own community, on Delk Road, and I believe the Cobb County Republican Party can help make a difference,” said Shepherd. “We will have a day where we will encourage our members to come out and help, or, if they cannot make it, donate to help support the organization’s efforts.”
Helping transform individuals from the vicious cycle of being sexually exploited is huge, yet the Cobb County Republican Party is not shying away from tackling this issue head on. According to an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) in January 2017, Georgia voters understood the enormous problem of sexual exploitation in the state and 83% of the voters agreed to a Constitutional Amendment requiring strip clubs and other adult businesses to contribute $5000 annually to a fund for exploited children. The Cobb County Republican party is making this personal by going face-to-face and one-in-one, reaching out, leading the charge to show that change begins at home, at our own front door, by our local Cobb Republican family.
“Each month we will highlight a charity or other community service organization in our Cobb community that can use a few extra helping hands to make an impact in our county,” said Shepherd. “This our way of giving those who may be struggling in Cobb a hand-up.”
For more information on, or to become a volunteer with Republican Hands, visit or phone Jason Shepherd at: 770-265-5268. To find out more about The Table On Delk, visit:

Donna Rowe to Host May 3 Reception for Kay Kirkpatrick

You are cordially invited to a

Meet & Greet

Wine and Cheese Reception



Republican Candidate – State Senate District 32

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

6:00 – 8:00

at the home of

Donna Rowe

45 Stonington Place

Marietta, GA 30068

RSVP to 678-631-1414

Political parties spend big in Georgia’s special congressional election

By Johnny Kauffman
April 13, 2017 | 12:00 PM

The November election was only five months ago, but already Republicans and Democrats are raising and spending big bucks in special congressional elections, like those in Kansas and Georgia this month.

The outside money is really pouring into Georgia, where a special election is set for Tuesday in the Atlanta suburbs.

Both Republicans and Democrats are testing the limits of how far outside money can take them in the race to replace Tom Price, the new secretary of Health and Human Services. Republicans have controlled Georgia’s Sixth District for decades, but Democrats think they can win it.

There are 11 Republican candidates in the race and five Democrats. If one gets more than 50 percent of the vote, they’ll win outright. Otherwise, there will be a runoff in the summer between the top two contenders.

The leading Democrat in the race is Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old former congressional staffer who’s become a national hero for many opposed to Trump.

Like a lot of Democratic voters, David Levinson had a tough morning after the presidential election.

“I actually cried. I’ve never cried at the loss of an election,” Levinson said.

Levinson lives in Brooklyn, New York, but he read about Ossoff on Facebook. He’s donated about $60 to Ossoff’s campaign so far and plans to keep giving right up to the election.

If Ossoff wins, it will send a message to Republicans and Trump that Democrats are going to fight, Levinson said.

“They need a good trouncing. They need to be put back in their place. The cork needs to go back into the bottle,” he said.

According to the latest federal filings, Ossoff has raised more than $8 million, one of the biggest hauls for any House candidate in U.S. history, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political donations.

Much of Ossoff’s funds have come from out-of-state donors like Levinson.

That bothers Republicans in the 6th District like Steve Covert, a retired businessman.

Steve Covert, a longtime Republican, says all the outside money going to Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign will inspire his neighbors to vote.

“You know being supported by the money from California and New York and God knows where else. He’s not just a Democratic, I think he’s pretty extremely on the left, and you know, that offends a lot of our sensibilities around here, too,” Covert said.

Republicans have had Georgia’s 6th District seat since the 1980s, but last year Trump barely won it. Democrats see that as an opening. Covert said the outside money coming in is inspiring him and his Republican neighbors.

“We’re motivated. Hopefully we can motivate some that aren’t quite so motivated between now and next Tuesday,” he said.

National GOP groups have sent in at least $4 million of their own to oppose Ossoff.

Ironically, they’re using that outside money to highlight all the out-of-state donors supporting Ossoff’s campaign.

One ad from the Republican-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund ties the Democrat to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“The truth is Nancy Pelosi’s friends are bankrolling Ossoff’s campaign, because Ossoff will rubber stamp her liberal agenda,” the ad says.

Out-of-state volunteers

Money isn’t the only thing that’s coming to Ossoff from outside the district. Volunteers like Chris Machonis, a student in Virginia, have traveled to the Atlanta suburbs from around the country. Ossoff’s campaign paid for Machonis’ hotel and bus ride.

“Spent what felt like forever on that bus. Was probably about a 12- or 13-hour ride,” Machonis said, looking tired while taking a break from canvassing for the Ossoff campaign.

The bus arrived at Machonis’ hotel around 4:30 a.m., he said, but it was all worth it. For Machonis, an Ossoff win would be a sign to Republicans in Congress they need to be worried about Democrats stepping up.

“There’s a wave of activism and energy that’s about to hit them in midterms and all the elections to come,” Machonis said.

In the Atlanta suburbs, local volunteers are out knocking on doors for Republicans, too, but area GOP leader Jason Shepherd is worried the party isn’t as energized as Democrats like Machonis. Republicans need to act like they’re the underdogs, even if they’re not, Shepherd said.

“You know, if you run like your 10 points behind, you’re probably going to be 10 points ahead at the end of the day,” Shepherd said.

The money shows both Republicans and Democrats think this race is competitive.

Rattled Republicans turn their eyes to Georgia

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — Republicans are white-knuckling their way through their party’s first major political tests under the Trump administration.

After the surprising close call in Kansas on Tuesday night, Republicans are now obsessing over a House special election in a slice of suburban Atlanta that has never been competitive before, where the GOP has spent millions to keep Democrats from capturing the district in an upset next week.

It’s no sure bet for Republicans. An angry, energized Democratic base looking to send a message to Donald Trump has turned Jon Ossoff, a previously unknown former congressional aide, into one of the best-funded House candidates ever ahead of an all-party primary next Tuesday.

The money — more than $8.3 million in the first three months of 2017 — has allowed Ossoff to blanket the airwaves with TV ads and carpet the streets of the district with door-knockers turning out friendly voters, trying to win the district outright with a majority in the special primary. Meanwhile, a bevy of Republican candidates have fought amongst themselves.

To add to those jangling nerves, Georgia Republicans watched their colleagues in Kansas survive a 20-point swing toward Democrats in another special election Tuesday night. Kansas state Treasurer Ron Estes won his race by less than 7 percentage points in a district Trump carried by 27 in November.

Republicans don’t have that kind of room in Georgia: While past presidential nominees and state candidates have typically won Georgia’s 6th District by wide margins, Trump carried it by less than 2 points against Hillary Clinton.

“I’d be an idiot if those results in Kansas didn’t cause me and Republicans concern” in Georgia, said Justin Tomczak, a Republican political adviser and activist in the state. “It’s a wakeup call.”

But unlike in Kansas, Republicans in Georgia sounded the alarm several weeks ago, prompting $2 million in spending from the NRCC to help boost Republican turnout and counter Democrats’ energy. The Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with House leadership, also dumped in more than $2 million of its own money and dispatched on-the-ground staffers to the district.

Looming over everything is Trump. While the Washington-based outside groups are trying to stop Ossoff, local Republican campaigns are wondering how pro-Trump they need to be to win GOP voters at the moment. And Democrats are testing just how far backlash to the president can carry them. “Does it give a candidate superpowers?” said Todd Rehm, a Republican consultant in the state.
“The contrast with what’s happening in Washington is clear, it’s not necessary to invoke it at every campaign stop,” Ossoff said.

That’s because the Trump factor already looms large, especially among approximately 3,500 volunteers working for Ossoff to turn out like-minded voters.

“I think there are a lot of people who are disappointed with the president,” said Elaine Bradley, a 65-year-old woman who rallied with other volunteers outside of Dunwoody Library during early voting this week. “Trump’s the reason I’m here.”

Georgia’s special election rules are unusual: All candidates run in the same primary regardless of party. If no one reaches a majority, the top two finishers will meet head-to-head in a June runoff. But Ossoff is aiming to win outright on April 18 by getting at least 50 percent. To do so, he’ll need to dramatically boost turnout among Democrats, young people and women in this affluent, well-educated suburb. He’ll also need to cut into Independents.

And in an off-year, mid-spring special election, turnout is a wild card. Ossoff’s campaign, anchored by four field offices, said it has knocked on over 100,000 doors and made more than 100,000 phone calls. The DCCC also sent down nine staffers to aid field efforts.

The top four Republican campaigns — former Secretary of State Karen Handel, former state Sen. Dan Moody, Johns Creek City Councilman Bob Gray and state Sen. Judson Hill — have collectively knocked on a combined 80,000 doors and counting, according to totals shared with POLITICO.

Still, some Republicans believe the natural conservative lean of the district will show through by Tuesday.

“By Democrats pumping in money here, they’ve awakened the sleeping giant that is the Republican base in the district,” said Jason Shepherd, chairman of the Cobb County Republican Party. “There are not enough Democrats here to win, unless the Republican base doesn’t turn out, but now the base knows that they need to turn out.”

Others still remain concerned.

“If [Ossoff] is spending half of that $8 million on turnout, then that might be the ballgame. It’s going to be close, but jeez, if we lose that …” said one Republican operative who’s worked on the race. “You can’t just have an air war and have TV ads, you have to have a ground war and that will swing the race. If you can swing three points in a non-special general with ground game, you can swing it 15 points in a special election.”

Republican candidates, meanwhile, are battling amongst themselves with help from outside groups that were big spenders in GOP primary wars of past years.

The anti-tax Club for Growth, which endorsed Gray, has spent nearly half a million dollars targeting Handel — a well-known former statewide officeholder — and Moody, a big-spending self-funder who has gained traction in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, Ending Spending, a group founded by the megadonor Ricketts family, is answering the Club’s attacks in a $1.3 million ad campaign boosting Handel. And Hill, who has trailed in some public polling but whose constituents make up a good chunk of the congressional district, put out his own ad this week that attacked all three of his top opponents.
“The more and more that this thing goes negative, the more it depresses Republican turnout,” said Jim Kingston, a Republican operative and son of former Rep. Jack Kingston. “And this is going to come down to who turns out their voters.”

Republicans on the ground, including the candidates, insist that Democrats are “living in fantasy land” if they think they’re going to flip a district that once put former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and current Sen. Johnny Isakson to the national stage, said Moody.

But that hasn’t slowed the enthusiasm of Ossoff’s army of canvassers, who are busily seeking out potential supporters like Adrienne LoRay, an African-American woman who lives in Chamblee, a dogwood-lined suburb north of Atlanta.

“Oh, good! You’re finally here,” LoRay shouted as she met Ossoff canvassers at her door on Saturday afternoon.

“I’ve never put a sign out before,” LoRay said, adding that she doesn’t affiliate with either party and likes to vote for candidates from both sides. “But I’ve been trying to get a yard sign for two weeks.”

LoRay took two signs for her corner yard and sent a picture to her family, reminding them to vote.

Democrat leads Georgia congressional race

By Jill Nolin | CNHI State Reporter Apr 7, 2017 Updated Apr 7, 2017

ATLANTA – Republicans are fighting to keep former Congressman Tom Price’s seat in what some see as an early glimpse of the nation’s mood going into the 2018 midterm elections.

President Donald Trump tapped the Georgia congressman to be his secretary of Health and Human Services, creating a void in a traditionally red district nestled in the north Atlanta suburbs and setting up the first electoral test of his nascent presidency.

A surprising lead contender has emerged to replace Price: the Democrat Jon Ossoff, who launched his campaign with an enticement to “Make Trump Furious.”

The 30-year-old documentary filmmaker and former staffer of Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson is leading in the polls. He reported this week that he has raised a jaw-dropping $8.3 million, mostly from individual donors outside of Georgia.

A special election typically draws a low voter turnout, which has left Democrats optimistic of their chances of an upset in the same district that elected Newt Gingrich decades ago but showed only lukewarm enthusiasm for Trump in November.

Michael Owens, who chairs the Cobb County Democratic Party, said Democrats are also hoping to capitalize on what he called an “awakening of people getting involved in the civic and electoral process.”

“In the sixth, it never stopped,” said Owens, who is leading a three-county effort to boost Democratic turnout at the polls this month.

“Literally, we went from the election to the unfortunate results of the election and then almost immediately to another opportunity to finish the job that we couldn’t complete in November,” he added.

But his counterpart on the Republican side says Democrats aren’t the only ones who are energized.

Cobb County, which is part of the 6th Congressional District, flipped last year when voters picked Democrat Hillary Clinton. It was the first time the county had gone for a Democrat since 1976 when a Georgia peanut farmer — Jimmy Carter — was elected president.

“November was a good wake-up call,” said Jason Shepherd, who chairs the Cobb County Republican Party. Shepherd recently won the local post by campaigning to “Make Cobb Red Again.”

The national attention, he said, has kept local Republicans from becoming complacent again.

“We realize that democrats winning even a special election is a long shot, but we’re taking the race extremely seriously,” Shepherd said.

Trump ended up winning in the 6th Congressional District, which is affluent and mostly white, but he did so by only 1.5 percentage points.

Trey Hood, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, cautioned against reading much into Trump’s performance last year.

“I think that may have been more Trump than shifting partisan tides within the district,” he said.

Hood said he believes there were likely conservatives who couldn’t bring themselves to support Trump but who voted Republican down ballot. He pointed to Price’s easy ride to another term with 62 percent of the vote.

Kenneth Ellinger, a political science professor at Dalton State College, said it’s possible that some Republican voters have “buyer’s remorse” over Trump and may not be inclined “to send another perceived lackey to Washington to do his bidding.”

To those voters, a Republican with strong name recognition – such as former Secretary of State Karen Handel – who campaigns on not being “a rubberstamp for Trump” might hold some appeal, he said.

Ellinger said it is likely Republicans will keep the seat once supporters rally behind a single candidate. There are 18 candidates in the race right now, including 11 Republicans.

The support on the right appears to be split among a handful of Republican candidates, including Handel, former Johns Creek city councilman Bob Gray and former state senator Dan Moody.

A poll released Wednesday, paid for by Atlanta-based 11Alive News and conducted by SurveyUSA, showed Handel and Gray with 15 percent and 14 percent of voter support, respectively. About 7 percent of participants said they support Moody.

Ossoff led in that poll with 43 percent support. A candidate would need to snag 50 percent of the vote in the April 18 election to avoid a runoff

Jill Nolin covers the Georgia Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach her at