NYT: After a Primary on the Fringe, Georgia Republican Tacks Toward the Center

By Richard Fausset

Sept. 2, 2018

ATLANTA — Brian Kemp, the Republican running for Georgia governor, won his party’s nomination with the help of a TV ad that explicitly arguedthat he is not a moderate guy. Titled “So Conservative,” it portrayed Mr. Kemp as a gun-toting, “politically incorrect conservative” who would personally round up “criminal illegals” in his pickup truck.

But that was then. In his latest TV ad, playing now in the Atlanta Metro market for the November general election, Mr. Kemp, in a check-print, button-down shirt, speaks to the camera in a kindly, drawly baritone about “growing jobs, not government,” investing in education (of the locally controlled variety), and “rewarding legal — not illegal — behavior.”

In many Republican primaries, it seemed impossible to be too far right as long as the candidate succeeded in getting President Trump’s endorsement, as Mr. Kemp did. But now, locked in a competitive general election race against the Democrat Stacey Abrams, Mr. Kemp has been trying to gravitate to the center, attempting at least one strategy for surfing the volatile, polarizing energy that permeates the 2018 election season.

So ConservativeCreditCreditVideo by Kemp for Governor

That energy was on display last week in neighboring Florida, where Republican voters chose their own “so conservative” nominee for governor (the Trump acolyte Ron DeSantis), while Democrats opted for a “so liberal” choice (the Bernie Sanders-endorsed Andrew Gillum). It is too early to know, in that race, how, or whether, those candidates might seek to pivot to the center.

Mr. Kemp’s pivot has been both stylistic and substantive, and it comes as Ms. Abrams, 44, a Yale Law School graduate and former state house minority leader, has been campaigning around Georgia arguing, with wonkish delight, that her progressive policy ideas — including robust investment in public education, gun control and the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare — amount to mainstream common sense. Her campaign calls it an “opportunity” agenda, and believes it will resonate more widely than the hot-button conservative agenda that Mr. Kemp is still known for that focuses on issues like illegal immigration and the Second Amendment.

Ms. Abrams is also hoping to appeal to moderate voters, placing decidedly more emphasis on her plans to create jobs and invest in education than her criticism of some Confederate memorials, which she has modulated recently.

On policy, Mr. Kemp, 54, Georgia’s secretary of state, recently made a small but important tweak to his longstanding promise to sign a state version of a federal religious freedom law, a possibility that frightens many in the Atlanta business community who fear that it could prompt harmful boycotts and backlash from liberals who believe such a law would be used to discriminate against the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender community.

Various iterations of a similar state law have been promoted by Georgia conservatives in recent years as a way to protect people of faith from being forced to engage in practices they deem contrary to their beliefs. In 2016, Nathan Deal, the current governor and a Republican, vetoed a religious freedom bill that did not exactly mirror the federal law, pleasing some of Georgia’s most powerful corporations.

Mr. Kemp ran as a far-right conservative during the Republican runoff and was endorsed by President Trump.CreditJessica McGowan/Getty Images

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mr. Kemp told a hospitality industry group Tuesday that he would veto any religious freedom bill that went beyond the federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law in 1993 by then-President Bill Clinton, a Democrat.

It was an example of how Mr. Kemp must simultaneously placate the social conservatives and rural Georgians who responded to his primary messages, as well as white suburbanites and the powerful Atlanta corporate community, whose sensitivities have been heightened by the fact that metro Atlanta is among those cities trying to attract a second Amazon headquarters.

Such sensitivities are well known to Ms. Abrams, who opposes such legislation not only on moral terms but on economic ones, arguing that it sends a message that could scare off investment and potentially harm Georgia’s burgeoning film and television industry.

Mr. Kemp will have to walk a fine line from here on out, said Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia.

“If Kemp moves too far to the center he risks alienating some of his strong supporters from the primary,” he said. “They may feel they’ve been betrayed, or lied to, once again.”

But others say Mr. Kemp’s excesses in the primary were more in terms of atmospherics than positions he might have to walk back, and that he faces few risks of losing rural white conservatives in a race against an African-American liberal woman from Atlanta.


Chairman’s Corner: A bit of political potpourri – Randolph County, National Debt, and Socialist Democrat Economics.

Chairman’s Corner
by Jason Shepherd
A bit of political potpourri.
First off, there has been a development in Randolph County.
Apparently the weeks of lobbying by the Democratic Party of Georgia, Stacey Abrams’s campaign, and a whole host of left-leaning groups has paid off…dare I say…BIGLY! The Democratic controlled Randolph County Board of Elections has voted NOT to consolidate their precincts.
I would like to congratulate GA Democrats for winning their crusade against the Randolph County Democrats who were trying to close the few Republican precincts in Randolph County…OH WAIT, that’s right, the precincts destined for the chopping block were precincts the GOP typically won.
From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU Democrats…because of your efforts, the minority of Republican voters in Randolph County will continue to have easier access to the polls to vote on election day.
Secondly, I want to take a moment to talk about the debt and the deficit…yeah, I know, I’ve now lost all but about three people on our email list, but hopefully you’re one of those three and are sticking with me!
I’m sure you’ve heard the Democrats state that we need to repeal the Trump tax cuts because they are blowing a TRILLION DOLLAR hole in the deficit and will add trillions more to the national debt.
According to the Democrats, even if Stacey Abrams PAID all of her back taxes to the IRS instead of giving it to her own campaign for governor, it would do nothing to fix the new deficit created by the Trump Tax Cut.
Time to raise taxes again (of course Democrats don’t care if taxes go up, they don’t pay them anyway…right Stacey?)!
However, actual numbers (things that scare the naysayers on the left) tell a completely different story.
YTD June 2017, the federal government had collected $1,199,238,000,000 in individual income taxes and had a total tax collection of $2,507,820,000,000.
YTD June 2018, after the massive Trump Tax Cut, the federal government has collected $1,305,490,000,000 in individual income taxes and had a total tax collection or $2,540,804,000,000, an increase of $32.984 billion.
That means the federal government brought in $1,045.70 MORE every second of every hour of every day than they did last year.
Still, somehow, all we hear is how the debt is increasing because of the Trump tax cuts.

Investors Business Daily hit th at issue in April, ” The CBO claims that the  economy  will experience only 1.9% annual growth for the next decade. (This is up a smidgeon from its 1.8% prediction at the start of the Trump presidency.) To be fair, CBO’s growth estimate is in line with most of the blue-chip forecasters’ estimates.  But that prediction makes no sense. GDP growth averaged 1.95 % annually under Obama – and nearly everything he did on the economy was anti-growth.”

But with the wealth of economic prowess that can be found in today’s Democratic Congressional leadership, including their new rising star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (did you know she has a bachelor’s degree in economics? If not, wait, she will remind you), it’s no wonder that they would on one hand call the Trump Tax Cut “crumbs” and then accuse these very same “crumbs” of threatening the entire financial health of the United States.
Some more of that economic prowess can be found in the video below.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Economic Genius
Finally, we are excited to announce that the 2018 Cobb Republican Victory Center will be open starting next Saturday, September 1 at Cobb GOP Headquarters!
We will have staff on hand so you can come make phone calls for all of our GOP Candidate, get door-to-door materials, yard signs, and more!
Stay tuned to your email and the Cobb GOP Facebook page for more information, including about specific days and times to volunteer for specific candidates.
Yours always in freedom,
Jason Shepherd
Chairman, Cobb County Republican Party

Chairman’s Corner: Rascally Republicans

Chairman’s Corner
by Jason Shepherd
You may have heard us rascally Republicans are at it again, this time in Randolph County where we Republicans, and especially our nominee for Governor, Brian Kemp, are eliminating voting locations.
Voting rights activists are descending on Randolph County demanding answers, Democratic candidate for Governor Stacey Abrams and Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman Dubose Porter are releasing statements attacking Kemp and the GOP for this outrage.
However, even the Democrats have to admit the decision was made by the Randolph County Board of Elections. In Randolph County, the Board of Election members are all appointed by the County Commission.
Obviously, the Republican Board of Commissioners and their minions on the Board of Elections are behind this outrage and are working under the direction of Brian Kemp.
So let’s meet the Randolph County Board of Commissioners:
Of course there is Republican Jimmy Bradley and Republican Lamar White. Then there is Republican Wesley Williams…oh wait, he’s a Democrat. So are Commissioners  Stephen Jackson and  Jimmy Allen.
I may only be a lawyer, but doesn’t three Democrats to two Republicans means the Board of Commissioners is Democratic controlled?
Why isn’t this fact not in the news?
Well, maybe it’s just a fluke the Democrats control the County Commission, except that in Randolph County, in addition to the Board of Commissioners, the Tax Commissioner, Sheriff, and Clerk of the Superior Court are all Democrats!
The Democrats and their allies in the press seem to be forgetting this tiny fact. What’s more, the best tie they can make between the decision of the DEMOCRAT BOARD OF ELECTIONS appointed by the DEMOCRAT CONTROLLED Board of Commissioners is that a consultant who made a contribution to Brian Kemp’s campaign made a recommendation that Randolph County certainly didn’t have to take.
Even the AJC is reporting Brian Kemp has said he has no role in the decision and has not recommended to the DEMOCRAT CONTROLLED Randolph County that they eliminate half of their voting locations.
When Democrats and the press attack Republicans for decisions made by Democrats and hide the fact that the decision was solely in the hands of Democrats, that’s what is truly OUTRAGEOUS! 
Yours in freedom,
Jason Shepherd
Chairman, Cobb County Republican Party

AROUND TOWN: Cobb GOP to County Government: keep taxes low

THE COBB GOP on Tuesday passed a resolution prompted by Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce’s plan to increase the county’s tax rate that not only encourages the commission to keep taxes low, but to lower them further.

The resolution points out that the majority of commissioners identify as Republican, “a party whose platform endorses fiscal restraint and free market competition in the marketplace, and discourages increasing taxes.”

It also notes “there have been several examples identified of waste in Cobb County Government spending, and no operational audit of the county government has been performed, nor have any reductions in spending been proposed at the town hall meetings hosted by the Chairman, but many increases in spending have been proposed, including new spending on a ‘tent city’ concept, and a tax increase would be an undue burden on the community.”


AROUND TOWN: Cobb Sheriff to Congress: stand up to ICE criticism; GOP float flap

FLOAT FLAP: A few years ago, Cobb GOP Chair Jason Shepherd came across the Liberty Square area at Disney World, sporting an attractive red brick wall with tea chests. He thought it would make a good design for this year’s Fourth of July float, and the Cobb GOP modeled their float in the Marietta Fourth of July parade after it.

To prevent children from falling off, he grabbed a couple of black iron sectional fences from his garage that he uses during his Halloween yard display and attached them to the float. The float was topped off with patriotic bunting and a liberty bell for the 1776 theme.

Left wingers are less than pleased. For instance, the anti-Trump activist group Indivisible GA-11, posting a cropped picture of the float on its Facebook page, wrote: “Truly deplorable! The Cobb County Republican Party put their own children in cages on their float on July 4th to try to rationalize their so-called President.”

Shepherd said the border wall or immigration debate never occurred to him while designing the float.

“I don’t think a reasonable person would think of it like that,” he said. “It was a decorative fence not some kind of cage. They intentionally went up to the float and zoomed in so you couldn’t see the whole float.”

If you want to find double meanings in things, the same can be said of the Cobb Democratic Party’s blizzard-themed float, he said.

“What does a blizzard do to the city of Atlanta? It shuts it down completely. Is that the Democrat policy that we’re going to shut Atlanta and Georgia to a grinding halt? Elect us and the city will never move again. Come on. If you want to start finding offense and second meanings in everything, two can play at that game. Blizzards in Georgia are deadly. People die. Why do the Democrats want to kill people in a blizzard? No, that’s silly,” Shepherd said.

Certainly the parade judges didn’t have a problem with the GOP float, awarding it first prize in the parade.

“Cropping a picture of my son and saying he is in a cage is beyond even normal Democrat lows. I guess they would rather he fall off the float,” Shepherd said.


Chairman’s Corner – Code Red (Hen)

  • This week, according to the owner of the Red Hen Restaurant, in Lexington, VA, she refused to serve White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders and her family on “moral grounds.” Co-owner Stephanie Wilkinson cited the fact a number of her employees were gay and did not approve of Trump’s desire to bar transgender people from the military. To her, that was morally repugnant. Former George W. Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer opined as to whether we are moving toward Democrats and Republicans only restaurants.
  • Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was forced to apologize just for eating at Chick-fil-a as June is “Pride Month.” One Tweet back to the Twitter head admonished him stating, “You must love the taste of bigotry!”
  • Speaking of Twitter, actor Peter Fonda, brother of “Hanoi” Jane Fonda, Tweeted, “WE SHOULD RIP BARRON TRUMP FROM HIS MOTHER’S ARMS AND PUT HIM IN A CAGE WITH PEDOPHILES…” To his credit, after a couple of days of backlash and the Secret Service launching an investigation, Fonda apologized.
  • The Republican Attorney General of Florida, Pam Bondi, was heckled and yelled at while leaving a documentary about the late Fred Rogers. That seems especially ironic as Fred Rogers’s whole work was about teaching respect and kindness. To him, we were all neighbors. Not to the progressive left though. Bondi said three men stood an inch from her screaming in her face…one even spit on her head.
  • The Secretary of  Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, was also heckled and shouted down as she tried to enjoy a meal at a DC restaurant and now protesters are showing up outside their home. The group proudly claiming responsibility is the Metro D.C. Democratic Socialists of America.
  • It’s been barely a year since a gunman, a 66 year old left-winged activist and Bernie Sanders supporter, who posted on his Facebook page in the weeks before the attack, “Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”, fired more than 70 rounds at the GOP practice for the annual Congressional baseball game. Majority Whip Steve Scalise was hit in the hip and underwent months in the hospital and numerous surgeries. Our own Georgia Congressman Barry Loudermilk was also on the field, but escaped injury.
  • This past March, the Cobb GOP received numerous threats, including a Facebook message and voicemail I received suggesting someone should shoot up our HQ.
  • Rather than trying to calm the rhetoric, Democratic leaders are fanning the flames. In a speech to supporters, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) poured more fuel on the fire when she told the crowd, “They’re not going to be able to go to a restaurant, they’re not going to be able to stop at a gas station, they’re not going to be able to shop at a department store. The people are going to turn on them, they’re going to protest, they’re going to absolutely harass them.”
It seems like the nation has gone crazy. The left and their accomplices in the media find a new outrage daily for the progressive mobs to use to justify to block streets, harass people at their homes, confront and intimidate anyone they decide to target.
It’s probably to keep the damning IG Report, detailing corruption and political bias in the FBI, off the the front pages.
Yesterday, it was announced that a division of the American Library Association was dropping Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from an award. The award was first presented to the “Little House on the Prairie” author in 1954, but now, according to the America Library Association, as  her works “includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values” and  her “legacy is complex” and “not universally embraced,” her accomplishments must be erased from history. Maybe so people will be less inclined to read her books and the honest, self-reliant, American values they promote.
As we prepare to celebrate the 242nd year of our republic’s independence, the cause of freedom is under threat from within, not from without, more than any time in the past century.
At the turn of the 20th Century, our nation was filled with civil unrest and violence from the same left-winged socialist/Marxist groups like the one which confronted Secretary Nielsen.
History seems to forget the left-winged socialists who blew up the headquarters of the Los Angeles Times in 1910. 21 were killed and 100 others were injured. Following WWI, in 1919, left-winged anarchists mailed 36 dynamite bombs to politicians and other leaders. Luckily, no one was killed, but the maid of Georgia U.S. Senator Thomas Hardwick had her hand blown off and Hardwick’s wife was seriously injured. They also detonated bombs in eight cities which did kill.
While we are thankfully not yet at that point, with political leaders like Waters and celebrities like Robert DeNiro and Peter Fonda (among others) fanning the flames, there is cause for concern.
For those of us who believe in the words of the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” we must be on guard against those who will actively work to deny conservatives and anyone who challenges their progressive dogma, not only their rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but, like the gunman in D.C., deprive them of their very lives.
We have gone from a nation where people would say, “I respectfully disagree,” to the progressives using words like “evil” to describe those who refuse to think like they do.
Google the phrase “Trump is evil” and you get 205,000 hits. “Trump is Hitler” gets fewer results, but still nearly 69,000 hits, almost 9,000 more hits than the entire population of Marietta.
When I was a kid, my parents told me to never start a fight, but to always stand up to bullies. We are a nation that stands up to bullies, and we need to stand up to the ones who would intimidate and use fear to silence their opponents.
Trump is not a bully. He is the one finally standing up to those who have bullied the majority of Americans for far too long…the deplorables who don’t think like or agree with the media and intelligentsia in New York, Washington, or Los Angeles .
So the question you may ask is what can you do?
First, renew your commitment to the Cobb County Republican Party (or your local Republican organization). We have to work together to elect candidates who will also stand-up to those who would use fear and intimidation to silence conservatives. You can do that by:
This is a CODE RED situation, but like with most bullies, if we stand up to the progressives and win in November, then we will see how chicken they really are. We just can’t be afraid to stand up for what we believe. The men who started this nation certainly were not.
They will call us “evil,” and “racist” and “Nazis” and all manner of tired words that they have rendered meaningless because it is all they can say in the face of any opposition as their arguments are based on nothing else but hot air and failed dogma. Conservative policies work nearly every time. Socialism and left-winged ideas fail every time they are tried.
Why should we have any fear of that?
They may choose fear and intimidation.
As for us, we CHOOSE FREEDOM.
Rather than saying there is a CODE RED situation in America, maybe in honor of the  Red Hen Restaurant where the cowardly act of kicking out Sarah Sanders occurred(note how they seem to target women), maybe we should call it “CODE RED HEN.”

Left-winged Conspiracies and Skulduggery Targets Cobb GOP

Kevin Foley in his March 16 op-ed is correct when he says, “Conspiracy theorists see skulduggery under every bed and black government helicopters overhead.”  

 Given the conspiracy theory he pushed in that op-ed, “Cobb GOP official pushes ‘fake shooting’ conspiracy”, he’s probably searching under beds and looking up in the sky a lot more than anyone at the Cobb County Republican Party.

 Anyone peddling the idea that the leadership of the Cobb GOP thinks Parkland (or any other school shooting for that matter) is fake, deserves an award as the conspiracy “Kook of the Year.” If you don’t believe that, you have to look no further than the pages of the Marietta Daily Journal.

Multiple times I have talked to this paper about ways our Cobb students can honor the victims of Parkland without disrupting class, just like the students at Walton High School did. The Cobb GOP has also honored the Parkland victims with memorials to the victims in moments of silence and in prayer at Party functions.

Sure, Mr. Foley may get his news from left-winged blogs like DailyKos which push insane theories suggesting 9-11 was an “inside job,” the Russians actually stole the 2016 election (not just meddled), and the Cobb GOP doesn’t believe school shootings happen, but one would think he wouldn’t actually repeat such rubbish. Would he? Sadly, the same person who wrote in the MDJ that the GOP tax cuts, which have provided much needed tax relief to millions of Americans, are “the biggest tax scam in history” (Nov. 30, 2017) has chosen to do just that and, in the process, defame an officer of the Cobb GOP by falsely stating he was pushing a vile and repugnant conspiracy theory. The only thing more unbelievable was that it was actually printed.

Republicans believe America needs sensible solutions, actions, and reforms that will actually keep our children safe, not knee-jerked, emotional overreactions like Mr. Foley and his ilk push which will not work and will only further endanger our children. The Columbine massacre happened when federal law prohibited the sale of so-called “assault weapons.” And if bans do not work to keep illegal drugs out of our schools, what makes them think that a ban will somehow keep illegal guns out of our schools?

 As said in the MDJ on March 12 (“Student walkouts planned Wednesday”), we should see HIPAA laws reformed so would-be gun owners with mental health issues are flagged, and also doing away with sealing juveniles’ criminal records when it comes to the FBI background checks so teens with histories of violence as juveniles aren’t able to purchase weapons as soon as they turn 18. Rather than debating these and other sensible solutions, leftists like Mr. Foley weave fantastic tales of conspiracy theories then launch them against anyone who can speak common sense to their nonsense in order to achieve their true goal; repealing the 2nd Amendment and de-arming law-abiding Americans.

 They say you only get flak when you’re over the target. Apparently, the Cobb GOP and the voice we are giving to tens of thousands of Cobb voters who cherish their Constitutional rights hits a little too close to home for leftists like Mr. Foley. Otherwise, why else would he shoot flak while raising a “false flag” against his political opponents? Must just be his brand of skulduggery. 

 Jason Shepherd

Chairman, Cobb County Republican Party

Student walkouts planned Wednesday

Marietta Daily Journal

by Shaddi Abusaid, Mar 12, 2018

Thousands of students from across the county are planning to walk out of class Wednesday on the one month anniversary of the mass shooting that left 17 people dead at a Parkland, Florida high school.

While Marietta City Schools will permit its students to leave class, the Cobb County School District says anyone who walks out will be subject to disciplinary repercussions laid out in the student code of conduct.

But 17-year-old Hannah Andress, who is organizing the walkout at Lassiter High to commemorate those killed and call for stricter gun laws, said her class will be on the right side of history. She said her classmates believe the planned protest is far too important to let a few hours of detention silence their voices.

Andress, who will study Arabic and international affairs at Washington, D.C.’s American University in the fall, said when first period ends at 9:56 a.m., students participating in the walkouts will head down to Lassiter’s football field.

“As far as punishment goes, the most our principal said he’ll give us is four hours of time — whether that be Saturday school or community service,” Andress said, adding Lassiter students who participate will not be suspended.


Natalie Carlomagno, a 15-year-old sophomore at Walton High, said Cobb’s stance has actually inspired more students to sign up.

“When the county posted its statement, we were just under 1,000 signatures,” she said. As of Friday, the number of participants had grown to 2,400.

“We’re doing this because we need stronger gun legislation in this country,” she said. “We’re not saying ban all guns, but there needs to be a point where people stop calling this a mental health issue because it’s not. This is a gun issue.”

But some say Marietta Superintendent Grant Rivera’s decision to allow students to leave class opens a can of worms for any future group who wishes to protest.

Cobb GOP Chairman Jason Shepherd said the decision could pose an Equal Protection issue for other students who want to follow suit.

“If the school system allows a protest on one issue, it now has no ability to deny that right to others,” he said. “It could really become a disruption.”

Shepherd said conservative Marietta students looking to host pro-life rallies at school or march in support of the Second Amendment, now have solid ground to stand on.

Rivera said he will cross that bridge when he gets there.

“Every situation is different. I’m certainly willing to work with the student body, as the principal will be, and as situations come up in the future we will handle them on a case-by-case basis,” Rivera said. “This is the first time in my experience that we have a national school walkout.”


Marietta students organized quickly after last month’s shooting, reaching classmates via texting apps and creating posters to encourage other students to join in.

The superintendent said the district wanted to “honor and respect” the voice of its student body.

For them, Rivera said, this is about school safety.

Mary Eldridge, an 18-year-old Marietta senior, said students will tie balloons to 17 empty seats set up at the school’s practice fields, one for each of the Parkland shooting victims.

On each chair will be written the name of one person killed in last month’s attack. Each minute, Eldridge said, students will say the name and age of a victim before cutting the balloon loose.

“I think this really hit home for Marietta students because one of the alumna’s daughters was injured in the shooting,” said Eldridge, the student body’s co-president. “We’re not walking out for political reasons, we’re doing it to honor the victims and to support school safety … I would like to see schools become safer so people don’t have to be afraid when they walk into their buildings.”

But Shepherd said whether or not students will walk out of class has already become a divisive political issue among Cobb’s students, referencing a friend who said her daughter has been bullied because she will not participate Wednesday morning.

He suggested that school districts across the country look at other ways to honor the victims of the Florida school shooting, such as moments of silence or after school vigils. Such events have been planned, and a group of Walton students will meet up before school Wednesday morning to pay tribute to those killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.

Across the nation, however, students are planning to simultaneously leave class when the clock strikes 10.

Atlanta Public Schools, DeKalb and Fulton’s school districts will allow the walkouts, while Cobb, Gwinnett, and Decatur’s districts have said students who leave class could be disciplined.

State Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-west Cobb, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said while students have First Amendment rights, schools need to abide by their attendance and disciplinary policies.

“The way I see it if you waive those policies for one issue, any time a student group wants to have a walkout about anything you have set a precedent,” he said. “I don’t know of anyone who isn’t upset about the incident that happened in Florida, but I think the precedent this sets is a bad (one).”

Tippins, a self-described gun rights advocate, said he believes if someone is “mentally unbalanced and bent on mayhem,” they could find other means of harming people.

Shepherd said he believes if 18-year-olds can sign up for the military and die for their country, they should be able to purchase weapons.

In the case of last month’s shooting, he said safeguards in place aimed at keeping people with ill-intent from purchasing firearms failed.

One possible solution, Shepherd said, is to reform laws aimed at safeguarding medical information so would-be gun owners with mental health issues are flagged. Shepherd also suggested doing away with sealing juveniles’ criminal records so teens with histories of violence aren’t able to purchase weapons as soon as they turn 18.

But Andress said students should never have to worry about getting shot on campus.

“We need sensible gun laws,” she said. “In six months, when I turn 18, I should not be able to go out and buy a military-grade weapon.”

The walkouts will begin at 10 a.m. and last for 17 minutes, one minute for each person killed in the Florida shooting.

District officials say no visitors will be allowed on Cobb’s campuses Wednesday with the exception of those who are picking up or dropping off students.


AJC: With qualifying set to begin, Georgia can expect more contested races

By Greg Bluestein – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The room of chattering Democrats quieted when Valerie Habif strode to the podium with an announcement. After ticking off the names of politicians and political contenders in the room, she had an admonition for the crowd.

“Let me tell you who’s not here tonight: a Democratic candidate for this House seat,” said Habif, a psychologist deeply involved in Democratic causes. “This is keeping me up at night. Those days need to end.”

The hunt for a Democratic candidate for Habif’s Sandy Springs-based district was something of an anomaly. While Democrats won’t recruit challengers for every legislative seat during this week’s qualifying period, they are poised to contest a slew of now competitive seats that went ignored in the past.

That’s an improvement from 2016, when many Republicans in the Legislature faced little – or no – opposition. That meant potentially vulnerable incumbents, including a Dunwoody Republican who pleaded guilty to charges of drunken driving in the middle of the day, easily coasted to another term.

Now, a wave of retirements — particularly in the suburbs — is set to reshape the Legislature. About a dozen Republicans are leaving the Legislature, some who would have faced potentially tight races, others seeking higher office. More seats could become vacant as politicians have until noon Friday to decide whether to run for office.

At the top of the ticket, changes to state government are already assured. Crowded fields of candidates have already formed to run in open races for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state and insurance commissioner.

Democrats are hoping to capitalize on outrage over President Donald Trump and upset victories in last year’s special elections to chip away at GOP control of the state Legislature and every statewide office.

The GOP is fast trying to fortify vulnerable seats — Vice President Mike Pence is raising cash for the state party this month in Atlanta — though even party stalwarts concede that won’t come easy.

“When you win a race like you did in Alabama, it makes candidate recruitment really easy for Democrats,” said Chip Lake, a Republican strategist, referring to Doug Jones’ U.S. Senate victory last year. “When you have momentum and you feel like you can benefit from a wave, a lot more people are going to run.”

He added: “They’re going to make us earn everything we get this election.”

Suburban battlegrounds

Democrats don’t have to look far for signs of encouragement. The party put up candidates in all nine legislative districts up for grabs during special elections in November — including several that had rarely drawn Democratic challengers — and flipped three of them.

Republicans have their own reason to be confident. Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff last year in the most expensive U.S. House contest ever, and the GOP held a competitive Stockbridge-based state House seat in a special election in January.

Still, the map is daunting for Republicans — particularly in suburban areas where conservatives have long thrived.

In Cobb County, which Hillary Clinton carried in 2016, Democrats are targeting diverse districts around Smyrna and Marietta. One of the highest-profile contests pits Democrat Lucy McBath, a gun control activist whose son was shot to death in 2012, against state Rep. Sam Teasley, a Republican with an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association.

Across town in Gwinnett County, which like Cobb also flipped blue in the presidential race for the first time in decades, at least five Republican-held legislative seats will be open this year.

Retiring incumbents include state Rep. Joyce Chandler of Grayson, who narrowly kept her seat in 2016, and state Rep. David Casas of Lilburn, the state’s first Republican Hispanic legislator. State Sen. David Shafer’s bid for lieutenant governor leaves Democrats another pickup opportunity for a Duluth-based seat.

“Gwinnett may be a battleground,” said Gabe Okoye, the county’s Democratic chairman, “and we are ready for it.”

Republicans plan to go on the offensive, too, starting with the three legislative seats they lost last year.

Houston Gaines, a few months removed from his stint as the University of Georgia’s student body president, was defeated by Democrat Deborah Gonzalez in a conservative-leaning Athens-based House district in 2017. He’s making another bid this year, hoping that heavier turnout will help.

“Special elections are — as evidenced by their name — unique,” Gaines said. “The dynamics in 2018 will be inherently different, as will our campaign.”

And Democratic state Sen. Jen Jordan, who won a 2017 race to represent an Atlanta-based swing district, will have to fend off a challenge by Republican Leah Aldridge, who was the top GOP vote-getter in that special election.

“The more I hear the Democrats who are challenging our Republican incumbents talk and spout rhetoric that is extremely far to the left of most Cobb County voters,” said Jason Shepherd, the county’s GOP chairman, “the more confident I am that we will easily be able to defend those seats.”

A rush to qualify

The parade of candidates qualifying for office this week at the Georgia Capitol will be headlined by the seven leading candidates for governor.

The Republican race was jolted last week by the state GOP’s feud with Delta Air Lines after the air carrier ended its marketing ties with the National Rifle Association. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the GOP front-runner, catapulted into the national spotlight after he maneuvered to strip a lucrative exemption on sales taxes for jet fuel from a measure to cut the state’s top income tax rate.

Each of his GOP opponents — former state Sen. Hunter Hill, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, businessman Clay Tippins and state Sen. Michael Williams — has a seven-figure war chest and is racing for what could be a second spot in a potential July runoff.

A pair of Democrats — former state legislators Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans — aim to retake party control of the governor’s office for the first time since 2002, and the Democrats are also fielding viable contenders for every statewide post down the rest of the ballot.

There are already crowded competitions from both sides of the aisle for many of those posts. At least six candidates are in the race for lieutenant governor, seven are running for insurance commissioner and nine have filed paperwork to run for secretary of state. Some could drop out, and more could rush in: The week of qualifying always holds potential for surprises.

As for the Sandy Springs district without a Democratic candidate, it appears Habif got her wish.

A few days after she pleaded for a contender to stand up, attorney Shea Roberts filed paperwork to challenge the incumbent Republican.

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Chairman Shepherd’s Letter to the Editor Regarding March 24 School Walk-outs

[LETTERS] Chairman Jason Shepherd has submitted the following Letter to the Editor of the Marietta Daily Journal:

Dear Editor:

Regarding your Feb 28 article, “Cobb schools to curb student protests”, I was surprised to see the Superintendent of Marietta City Schools, Dr. Grant Rivera, give a hall pass to the students who plan a walk-out and protest against the 2nd Amendment on March 14. As he has set a precedent, I assume that he also plans to give the same right to students who want to stage a walk-out in support of the 2nd Amendment. Or next month, maybe a walk-out in remembrance of the millions of unborn children who have died in our nation’s abortion facilities. I suppose then the pro-abortion students will get their chance. As enterprising as high school students are, I’m sure they can find a way to have a walk-out nearly daily. After all, now that Dr. Rivera has set the precedent and opened the door to school-system sanctioned protest on controversial issues, how can he deny any group the same right without running the risk of Marietta City Schools ending up in court on Section 1983 violations of the Civil Rights Act for denying Equal Protection and the students’ right to freedom of speech?

Jason Shepherd
Chairman, Cobb County Republican Party
Licensed attorney