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Local
Deluge of funding flows into the 14th District for 2022 Congressional race

An unprecedented amount of money is flowing to candidates for Northwest Georgia’s 14th District Congressional race in 2022 — a majority of which is going to current U.S. Rep. Marjorie Greene.

The Rome Republican has raised over $3 million, according the most recent campaign finance report filed with the Federal Elections Commission. She’s raised over $5.9 million since elected in November 2020 — an unprecedented sum for a freshman lawmaker.

A vast majority of her fundraising has come from out of state donors.

Just over 90% of the donors giving more than $200 — the amount at which the donation must be itemized — were from outside of Georgia. Of the $650,000 in itemized donations listed on the FEC site, approximately 39% came from Texas, Florida and California.

That’s a shift from her 2020 congressional campaign, which was largely self-funded.

The fact that many of her donations came from across the country added to the period when donations spiked shows the effect of a national audience on Greene’s fundraising.

Using lax social media rules alongside inflammatory rhetoric has repeatedly brought in money to her re-election campaign.

A graphic prepared by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows large spikes in donations occuring when the national media focused on Greene.

The four largest spikes took place on Jan. 21, when Greene called for the impeachment of President Joe Biden on his inauguration; on Feb. 4, after Greene was stripped of her committee assignments; in mid-March, when her Twitter account was suspended for a short time; and in early April, when she likened the idea of vaccine passports to “Biden’s mark of the beast.”

The tactic doesn’t appear likely to change.

This past Friday, when a document from hard-right House Republicans discussing forming an America First Caucus surfaced, Greene’s name was one of the first lawmakers mentioned.

The goals of the proposed caucus championed “Anglo-Saxon political traditions” and warned that mass immigration was putting the “unique identity” of the U.S. at risk, according to the Associated Press.

The wording of the document was very reminiscent of racist and xenophobic wording from extremist groups.

Greene characterized the information as an attack aimed in the same week that her father died.

“On Thursday, I buried my father and held my mother’s hand as we said goodbye,” read a post on her Twitter account. “On Friday, sick and evil POS in the media attacked me with phrases I never said or wrote. They released a staff level draft proposal from an outside group that I hadn’t read.”

However, despite criticisms from her own party leadership, she defended what appeared to be the idea of the caucus.

“The scum and liars in the media are calling me a racist by taking something out of context. I believe in America First with all my heart and that means every American, of every race, creed and color...” the Twitter post reads. “There are tens of millions of Americans who agree...I have plans to drive President Trump’s America First agenda with my Congressional colleagues but we won’t let the media or anyone else push the narrative. America First policies will save this country for all of us, our children and ultimately the world.”

Several other Twitter posts to Greene’s page continued in that same fashion over the weekend.

Money flowing to Democratic contenders

Another point of interest is the money going to her Democratic challengers.

Marcus Flowers, a Bremen veteran, has raised nearly half a million dollars since announcing his campaign earlier this year. Flowers has also found support from within the party, garnering an endorsement by former U.S. Senator Max Cleland last week.

Holly McCormack, of Paulding County, has raised over $84,000 and even the short-lived campaign of Brittany Trambauer-Smith raised over $30,000 before she dropped out. Another Dallas Democrat, Lateefah Conner, has raised over $20,000.

The last Democratic Party candidate to run in the race, Kevin Van Ausdal, raised upwards of $150,000 — the vast majority of which came in after online statements from Greene concerning QAnon and other conspiracy theories were exposed. The number of out-of-state contributions also picked up dramatically at that time.

At this point no competitors from the Republican Party side have announced they will challenge Greene in the primary.


Local
AP
Republicans talk unity in Georgia but censure Kemp, others

ALPHARETTA — Kelly Loeffler had a warning.

The former U.S. senator from Georgia, defeated in a January runoff amid Republican infighting, told her hometown GOP committee Saturday that only a unified party can avoid a repeat in the 2022 midterms.

“What I saw in my campaign is that we need to do better. We just need to get to work doing it,” Loeffler told Fulton County Republicans at their annual convention.

Yet Republicans can’t seem to get past 2020.

In the hours after Loeffler’s plea, at least 10 local party committees voted to condemn Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger or both for not helping overturn President Donald Trump’s November defeat. Two counties already had done so.

Additionally, Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer eagerly noted in his rounds to local conventions that he’s sued “a Republican secretary of state.” And in Fulton County, the state’s most populous, a flood of new delegates ousted several incumbent officers despite their pledged fealty to Trump.

The tension reflects the former president’s ever-tightening grip on the Republican Party and suggests that even unabashed conservatives like Kemp are at the mercy of continued finger-pointing and competition to be the loudest echoes for Trump’s false assertion of a rigged 2020 election.

Kemp and Raffensperger were both the targets of Trump’s ire after they certified Democrat Joe Biden’s narrow win in Georgia. Some counties added demands that Raffensperger resign.

A Kemp aide focused on how few counties out of 159 have formally condemned the governor, saying he’s “grateful” for grassroots support and looks forward to a primary campaign where he can tout his “successful record.” A Raffensperger aide did not respond to a request for comment.

Indeed, the pair staved off some condemnations. Gwinnett County, part of the metro Atlanta core, voted down the measures. A handful of other counties, including Fulton, censured Raffensperger but had no floor vote at all on Kemp. Other counties avoided votes altogether when they adjourned because too few delegates remained to conduct business after long days.

‘Divided grassroots’

The trend nonetheless shows Kemp has work to do to shore up his right flank ahead of 2022.

“I’m disappointed in Kemp, and I’d absolutely consider someone else,” said Ruth Anne Tatum, a retired Alpharetta schoolteacher who was among the scores of first-time delegates to attend the Fulton County convention.

Tatum said she traveled to Washington for the Jan. 6 rally in which Trump addressed supporters before some of them stormed the U.S. Capitol as Congress tallied Biden’s Electoral College victory. She said she was not among the insurrectionists but argued that the event has been unfairly pinned on Trump.

“I’m so tired of all the lies and the corruption and the cheating,” Tatum said, pointing at Democrats and Republicans alike. “All of them,” she said.

Debbie Dooley, an activist who helped organize the resolutions, said the votes are enough to show Kemp faces a “divided grassroots” that should make establishment Republicans nervous.

Indeed, Kemp’s 2022 prospects aren’t just about whether he can win nomination for a second term. He remains a solid favorite. His only opponent thus far, Vernon Jones, is a former Democrat best known as an outspoken Black supporter of Trump. And Kemp boosted his standing by signing the recent Georgia election law overhaul and defending it against criticism from liberals and corporate leaders.

Yet Trump’s loss — followed by Loeffler’s and Sen. David Perdue’s losses in January — show how perilous a Trump-branded party is in Georgia.

Distancing yourself from Trump costs votes within the GOP core, while hugging Trump too tightly juices the left and costs votes in the middle, especially among moderates in metro Atlanta.

“I don’t know what it’s going to take to get past it,” said Trey Kelly after he lost his bid for another term as Fulton GOP chair. Earlier, he’d stood behind a sign dubbing Georgia “Trump country” and declared loudly to 330 delegates — a local record for an open convention, according to party officials — that “the 2020 election was stolen.”

He even called Fulton, long a Democratic bastion, “the U.S. capital of voter fraud.”

His opponent, Susan Opraseuth, likewise panned “an unconstitutional election,” but she threw in her outsider, anti-establishment status that Kelly couldn’t counter. “Our current trajectory demands change,” she said, following the roadmap Trump used in 2016 and that Kemp followed in 2018.

The chair’s election required two rounds of voting after Opraseuth delegates disputed results that showed Kelly prevailing. She then won a second tally. Along the way came shouts of “cheating” by Opraseuth delegates, while Kelly’s establishment supporters huddled in frustration.

Shafer, the state chairman, said local wrangles shouldn’t obscure what he says is a strong position for Kemp.

The chairman differentiated the governor from Raffensperger, whose mention was booed repeatedly Saturday.

“The governor fulfilled a ministerial role only,” Shafer said, referring to state law requiring that Kemp ratify Biden’s Electoral College slate once Raffensperger certified the Democrat’s victory. Raffensperger, alternately, used his post before the election to expand absentee ballot access in ways Trump, Shafer and others insist opened the outcome to fraud.

If there’s anything that could stitch the internal GOP fissures, it could be Democrats nominating voting rights advocate Stacey Abrams for a rematch of 2018. At the Fulton convention, Abrams name flowed from the stage perhaps more than any Republican.

“We have to take on the Abrams machine,” Loeffler declared in her opening remarks. “If we let up, they’re gonna win.”

But the former senator wasn’t around for the tense work of choosing her local GOP officers or deciding whether to condemn her fellow Republicans. Soon after speaking, she left the building.


Kalleigh Schuler, a student at Model Elementary School


Severo Avila


Local
Rome to kick off Earth Week with tree planting at Etowah Park on Tuesday

Rome will kick off several days of Earth Week events beginning Tuesday with a tree planting celebration at Etowah Park at 2:30 p.m.

Earth Day was first observed on April 22, 1970, when Wisconsin Sen. Gaylord Nelson decided to take proactive measures to combat deteriorating environmental conditions across the United States.

The Rome observances will commence with a National Arbor Day celebration at the park at 1325 Kingston Road. International Paper has donated 17 trees to replace the trees in Ridge Ferry Park that were lost to the new natural gas pipeline that will service the IP mill in Coosa.

Mary Hardin Thornton, special services manager for the Rome Floyd Parks and Recreation Department, said Etowah Park was chosen to bring attention to some of the community’s smaller parks.

“Etowah Park is known for golf, tennis, skating, walking trails and especially our senior community,” Thornton said. “These 17 trees will be a great addition to this park for years to come.”

Kevin Walls, the new IP plant manager, is expected to make some remarks as will Floyd County Commissioner Scotty Hancock.

“COVID has been a hard time for everybody, so any investment in our parks is a good reason to celebrate,” Thornton said.

Parking for the event Tuesday will be in the lot on the Wilshire Road side of Etowah Park.

Wednesday, a special event will be held at the Nature Center in the Lock & Dam Park Trading Post off Black’s Bluff Road.

Brian Roberts, environmental compliance manager in the Building Inspection Office, and his assistant Brady Underwood will discuss the significance of the entire Coosa watershed.

People are encouraged to bring a bag lunch with them for the noon program. Sarah Visser, director of the Keep Georgia beautiful program, is also expected to be on hand.

“Not only will you learn about the Coosa River Basin and its sub watersheds, information about floodplain management information, but the history of the Lock and Dam will also be discussed,” Thornton said. “Wear your hiking shoes if you want to explore the trails after lunch.”

Other scheduled events are free recycling audits at the Rome-Floyd Recycling Center on Thursday; special Earth Day materials at the ECO Center in Ridge Ferry Park; and a nature walk on the GE Trails at Garrard Park on Saturday.


Education
Floyd County school board adds $1,000 bonuses to April payroll; will revisit mask policy in May

The Floyd County Board of Education approved Gov. Brian Kemp’s $1,000 supplements for teachers and school faculty on Monday — and covered any employees that weren’t included.

After Kemp expanded his original order to include other employees, the school system only had to cover executive cabinet staff and any employee hired after the October state report, Superintendent Glenn White said.

The only employees that won’t get the bonus are White and the elected board members.

In total, it will cost the school system around $20,000, which will be covered by Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds. The supplements will be included in the April payroll.

In other actions Monday, board members decided to table the vote on a contract with Southern Company Gas for a $128,378 gas line extension to the new Pepperell Middle School.

White and the board said they felt like they should look into other options before going ahead with the contract. They’ll take a vote at their upcoming May 5 work session and board meeting.

Board member Chip Hood recommended they have a discussion on their mask policy at the same upcoming meeting.

“Going into May, it’s going to get a lot hotter and I know that there are several people who have contacted me about masks,” Hood said. “And if you’re at a sporting event, you have to wear one to get in, but we don’t really see one on anyone in there ... I just want to have a discussion on where we need to go with the masks.”

White agreed to the discussion, saying he will be meeting with principals soon and will bring the topic up with them to see how they might feel.

At the end of the meeting, the board went into closed session to discuss property matters.


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